I finished Chernow's Hamilton biography. At a little over 700 pages, it took me 58 days. That's about twelve pages a day, which is terrible. In my brief defense, I also finished Big Little Lies during this time and a few Stephen King short stories (reading during breaks on my phone... Hamilton is too big to lug around in the purse). I also moved across the world and had holiday stuff going on.
And therein ends my defense of how long it took me.
I want to read so many things now! Sarah Vowell's Lafayette biography. A bio on Jefferson or Burr. Side note - Jefferson comes off as a very interesting, and probably morally bankrupt, dude in the book and I would like to know more about him. There wasn't as much Burr as I expected, probably due to comparisons with the musical, but he was certainly wily and would make an interesting book. I also preordered the Hamilton Revolution book on the musical. I spent an obscene amount of delivery, especially since I will be going back to Illinois not long after for my sister's graduation, but worth it.
On to the book. I'm glad that I waited until I was very familiar with the musical before reading the book so that I knew the signposts of his life and what to look for. Otherwise, the material may have seemed a little dense, just based on all the events that are covered. The book itself is well-written. I was never bored by it. Chernow is verbose and has an extensive vocabulary - there were several words I had to look up. But sentences after busting out an SAT-worthy term, he switches to layman, using phrases like 'bulabaloo.' I very much felt like a friend of the author's, him sharing Hamilton stories as he discovered them, not unlike the musical itself. He uses whatever words at his disposal. The writing never feels false or forced.
As for the material, again like the musical, the founding fathers become real, complex, and imperfect specimens. In the song "Non-Stop," Hamilton's new form of government is mentioned. What is not mentioned - his new form of government is some hybrid monarchy, which he spends six hours defending at the Constitutional Convention. A monarchy! It's just one example of the million different directions our country could have gone in. And one example of how the founding fathers had no idea what the hell they were doing. Just like we are today, they were making it up as they went along. The similarities to today's political discourse didn't end there. The initial major distinction between the two political parties is a limited federal government and a stronger state versus a big executive branch. And just like Fox News and MSNBC, the newspapers are very partisan. Slander and misinformation everywhere. Facts don't matter to sell newspapers and sway voters. Like today's foreign policy debates, the Federalists and Democratic Republicans argue whether or not we should get involved with the affairs of other nations.
And as I wrapped up the book, I cried. A lot. This should surprise no one. Philip's death is more heartbreaking in the book than in the musical as the chapter leading up to it goes in depth on the hopes the Hamiltons had for their oldest son. And then leading up to the Hamilton-Burr duel, there were so many opportunities for a duel to be avoided. But both are stubborn jackasses and it ends how it has to.
I kept comparing it to the musical. There are big chunks missing from the musical, from the Whiskey Rebellion to the feud with Clinton to the newspaper battles. But the characters are very much present as they are in the musical. Hamilton is a juggernaut, super intelligent and hard working. Knocking out everything his enemies throw at him. I'm glad I read the book. I'm continuing the non-fiction kick, reading The Big Short next. Then probably back to the founding fathers... This is not at all what I expected to come out of buying the Hamilton soundtrack a few months ago.