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Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow is a literary feet. To say that it’s a comprehensive recounting of this man’s life would be the understatement of the year. Chernow covers everything – from the man’s grandparents to virtually every person Hamilton ever encountered – with exhaustive detail. Which is why I’ve broken the review into two parts. I’m roughly 20 hours into the 35 hour audiobook, and while I want to take a brief break from it, I still want to write a review while it’s fresh, so here goes:
Hamilton’s life was absolutely fascinating, and I can’t blame Chernow for not leaving anything out, simply because it seems like everything that this man did was either interesting, important or both, in every stage of his life. The man, an immigrant to the states before they were united, was an aid to Washington during the war, saw battle during the Revolution, helped in the formation of the Constitution, and was one of three members of President Washington’s first cabinet. He did a lot. What’s more, he wrote (seemingly) everything down. Between the exhaustive notes that he left behind, and the writings of others, we’re able to see a level of detail of this man’s life, and how he experienced these turbulent and exciting times, that’s rare in people who lived so long ago.
I think parts of this book will be both exciting and boring to anyone who reads it because it goes into so much detail about so many things. For example, I was very interested in the beginnings of the Revolutionary War, but not so much in the financial theory behind our current financial system. I couldn’t get enough information about the writing of the Federalist papers, but tended to tune out about something or another at the Constitutional Convention. Whatever US-related historical event from the late 18th century you might be interested in, there’s likely a phase of Hamilton’s life that touches it.
Hamilton was a fascinating man, who lived a fascinating life. Chernow takes his strengths and flaws into account, and portrays them fairly (though it’s clear that Chernow favors Hamilton over Jefferson). Chernow’s writing is clear and matter-of-fact throughout the incredibly long biography, though it can be a bit dry on occasion.
The Part II review is likely coming in a couple months. My reward for powering through the whole thing? I’m going to try to get my hands on the soundtrack (and maybe see the musical someday). So you know that I’ll finish it. Just have to return it to the library and get back on the waiting list.
Would I Recommend It?
Yes to anyone looking for a comprehensive recounting of the birth of the United States.
No to anyone looking for the Cliff Notes version.
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