If it weren’t for the smash hit musical, entitled Hamilton, I probably would’ve never investigated this book. However, I saw an interview with Ron Chernow, where he described his early interchanges with Lin-Manuel Miranda, producer of the Broadway hit. I was extremely intrigued.
Hip Hop and history?
Alexander Hamilton as an urban immigrant rapper?
Woah. Now, that’s compelling!
But, the thing that sold me was that Miranda, while on vacation, was reading the book and by the end of chapter 2 knew this belonged on stage. And I thought, what was it about this book that struck such a creative nerve?
Well, after 36 hours of listening to an audio version of the book, I can say Chernow is a true wordsmith. His style is vigorous and commanding. Yet, to be honest, his prose was a bit too purple for my taste. Chernow’s high-flown style, however, was the perfect compliment to his subject. Hamilton was a bright and dashing young stallion who appeared on the shores of America to make a name for himself. And make a name he did! His timing was perfect, and he latched himself to the revolutionary cause with a torrent of energy and ambition.
I was truly educated about the impact this young man had on the shape and direction of our country. Very impressed. What a God-send he was. But, what a tragic figure! Washington liked him; his family loved him; he had a few confidants, but for the most part, he created adversaries in every sector of the government. His ambition was that odious. But, without that ambition (and penetrating mind) much of our country’s executive, financial, and military infrastructure would not be in place today.
Chernow has done a remarkable job of restoring this founder’s besmirched honor, without erasing his flaws.
I can see why Miranda was so taken with this book back in 2008. It’s a colorful and comprehensive account of the life of one of America’s most conflicted characters. At times the narrative bogs down under the shear weight of detail, but the river of Chernow’s eloquence carries it through to the end.