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Penguin Books

Alexander Hamilton

Penguin Books

Alexander Hamilton

£56.00 £34.00 Save: (39.29%)
£34.00 £56 Save £22 (39.29%)
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Couldn't this all have been said with less words?Update: So I have completed the book and am so glad that I didn't give up. Following some tedious verbiage, the book became interesting again. It was like seeing a movie...I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. Even though I was aware of how his life ended, the detail that Chenow provided made me feel as though I was there in person. The fact that he was alert and still giving orders until his dying breath, through the agonizing pain, is amazing. The description of the funeral procession sounds so grand. How wonderful of the people of NYC to give this giant personality the sendoff that he deserved. Having grown up in NY, and visiting his grave site at Trinity Church, I can visualize the moment.Kudos to Chernow for providing a more complete portrayal of this unique individual other than that he was killed in a duel. Knowing more of his character, it isn't surprising that he died in this manner. Hamilton was certainly combative and confrontational, and had a huge ego; however the man was a genius. It's no wonder that Washington conferred with him on relevant matters. I became so intrigued with this dynamic duo that I had to read "Washington and Hamilton: the Alliance that Forged America" by Knott and Williams. This is a much easier read than Chernow's book. I also hadn't realized that Chernow acquired much of the research for Hamilton from this book. Interesting!When I first received this on my kindle and began reading, I was ready to give this 5 stars, Now 1/3 of the way in, I'm getting rather frustrated. The research and revelation is excellent...but why the difficult read? The verbiage takes away from the content. I don't want to have to reread sentences to make sense of what is occurring.However, I admit that I understand the character of Hamilton much more than when I began reading this biography. There is more elaboration on his attributes than what Lin Manual Miranda is able to evoke in the stage production. The biography also provides more detail on what happened before, during and after the Revolution that was not included in my history book. And the minute detail of the forming of our government is eye-opening, which has given me a new appreciation of American history.I would like to finish this book however, based on previous reviews, I'm currently in the most tedious part.5Very interestingThis was a long hard read, but it was worth it. Great insight into a brilliant man. His accomplishments were astounding. But, like many in politics, he had enemies and he didn't know how to respond to them. This was his downfall. I must say, Chernow uses many large words that continually sent me to Google for definitions. I could have just skipped over them and still gotten the meaning, but had he used simpler synonyms, it would have sped up my reading by a considerable amount. OK, with that rant over, Chernow really digs deep into a person's life. If you want to understand who Hamilton was, take the time to read this book. I would say that the most insightful quote from the book was the statement, "If George Washington was the father of our country, Alexander Hamilton was the father of our government." That sums up Hamilton's life. This is what we need to remember about this great man. I can't help but wonder what kind of president he would have been had his life not been cut short with a bullet.5Scandals and Insults among our Founding Fathers that could be ripped from Today's Political Headlines !I read a good deal of history - some historians are better writers than others. EX: I enjoy McCullough more than Kearns-Goodwin. So I like to learn about the great leaders and events of our past, but it is tricky to find both a compelling story and compelling storyteller. This book has gotten a lot of attention because of Miranda's revolutionary (play on words?) play. Chernow's book is not flawed, but it is exhaustive.In short his book is an amazing story - the players, the insights, the events....frankly it is all quite mesmerizing. There is a lot here that we know, there is a lot we think we know, and there is so much more that we (at least I) never dreamed: The treachery, the mobs, the scandals and the foibles of the great men who created our great Nation. And almost any line in the book (well except the parts about productivity) could be ripped from today's headlines.The book is long however, and sometimes the writing is too detailed !?!?! (not a bad thing for an historian, but the reader is sometimes wearied) Thus the Opus gets 4 stars rather than 5 - but do read it - we learn not just about AH - we are also gifted with substance regarding Washington, Jefferson, Laurens, Madison, the French Revolution.......and much much more....4Illuminating, Riveting and Readable!ALEXANDER HAMILTONRON CHERNOWMY RATING PUBLISHER Penguin Audio BooksPUBLISHED January 19, 2005NARRATOR Scott BrickAn illuminating, riveting and readable biography of a remarkable man who helped form our republic.SUMMARYA dramatic saga detailing the life and times of one of the most important figures in America s birth. Chernow presents the entire sweep of Hamilton's life. Included are details about his early upbringing, his military, legal and financial trials and his dramatic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Monroe. The biography also details his close relationships with Eliza Hamilton and George Washington, his illicit affair with Maria Reynolds, and his famous duel with Aaron Burr in July 1804, resulting in his untimely death.REVIEWI absolutely loved this biography; by far one of the best I have ever read. RON CHERNOW s biographical writing is powerful and masterful. It's vivid, evocative, and immensely enlightening. This comprehensive book is jammed with facts, historical writings, and tremendous research. You want to read it carefully and slowly so not to miss a thing.I listened to the audio version of ALEXANDER HAMILTON which came alive with the voice of Scott Brick, who did a fabulous job on a 36 hour narration. The book contains over 800 pages. ALEXANDER HAMILTON has received the George Washington Book Prize in 2005 and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography in 2004. Well deserved!5Full and well-drawn portrait of Hamilton; less so for his opponentsThis book is a beautifully rendered portrait of Hamilton, both his public life and his private life. As so many other reviewers have noted, the book is an example of first-rate biographical research and most of the book is well-written.Up to chapter 16, Dr. Pangloss, the story is superbly told. But, when Thomas Jefferson enters Hamilton s life, much of the book becomes a contrast between Hamilton, who had his own well-documented personal failings, with Jefferson who, if the text is to be believed, had nothing but personal failings. Jefferson is variously described as hypocritical, duplicitous and conniving. Undoubtedly, Jefferson fit much of this description but so did Hamilton in their Federalist-Republican (anti-Federalist) feud in the 1790 s. What bothered me was the unrelenting negative portrayal of Jefferson, Madison (after 1790) and John Adams. Hamilton is portrayed accurately and fully as a brilliant and decent man with some major flaws. Jefferson and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Madison and Adams, are portrayed as deeply flawed individuals who happened to have a few good points. The language reinforces this. If one were to count the negatively loaded adjectives and verbs accorded to Hamilton s three main opponents, they would vastly outnumber any positive linguistic connotations. In order to sharpen Hamilton s character portrayal, the image that Chernow gives of Hamilton s opponents is, given other biographies of these men, less than just.The name-calling, smear campaigns and character assassinations in the 1790 s are appalling (but less so given the 2016 Presidential campaign). However, a dozen years after independence and only a few years after the Constitution was ratified, the fears of the anti-Federalists were real ones. Jefferson s and Madison s hypocrisy and the foibles of John Adam s personality notwithstanding, the concerns expressed were often genuine ones at that time about what kind of country the United States would be and how the Constitution should be interpreted. The possibility that the Jeffersonians may have had a point gets lost in Chernow s constant barrage of claims about duplicity, hypocrisy and malevolent intentions.So I thought this was a brilliant portrayal of the man who founded our economic and, to a large extent, our political system. The portrayal of Aaron Burr is excellent and the factors leading up to the duel are gripping. But the mid-section of the book would have been even stronger if Chernow had presented Hamilton s foes in a fuller, less negatively charged light.4Five StarsGreat reading - & then go visit Alexander & Eliza at the Museum of the City of New York!5A great man, a flawed man, a challenging environmentHamilton is a commitment, around 800 pages worth. It falls a bit too strongly in praise of Hamilton. He was pretty unfair, for example, in his anonymous criticisms of rival politicians. It also took a very long time to outline Hamilton's poor relationships with Jefferson and Adams. His affair was dealt with in painful detail. Beyond these limitations, Hamilton gives a good behind-the-scenes look at the early days of the founding of American government. Hamilton was well read and used his knowledge to set up commerce and financial systems we have greatly benefitted from. For these reasons, the book has much to offer.3A powerful and thorough account of America s forgotten Founding FatherRon Chernow makes up for the lack of attention Alexander Hamilton has received in the past by offering us an epic and detailed account of his life and work. The book is well researched, referencing many letters and pamphlets by Hamilton and his contemporaries. Chernow informs readers at the beginning that he has taken liberties to update some of the language and spelling in these primary sources. I count this as a strength of the book, as it makes the historical documents more accessible and makes the prose flow more smoothly.Chernow does a wonderful job of presenting Hamilton as someone with strengths and weaknesses that frequently went hand in hand. Hamilton was a rapid thinker and full of ideas but sometimes that just gave his enemies more ammunition. He was a prolific writer, drowning his enemies in a deluge of words but on many occasions that meant writing when he should have kept silent. Hamilton was energized to preserve the promises of the Constitution for generations to come sometimes to the point of iron-handed authoritarianism. This book offered me more than a history lesson. By the time I was finished, I felt as though I had gotten to know the brilliant and complex man himself. In the past few weeks, I ve spoken of Hamilton like I might speak of a friend.However, this book isn t without its weaknesses. This is not a neutral book. Hamilton was a pugnacious man and the ensuing war of words could get quite nasty. Chernow doesn t flinch in describing Hamilton s moral failings. This is especially evident as he recounts the Reynolds affair and some of Hamilton s electioneering during the Adams administration. Still, it s hard to not to wonder if Hamilton s enemies are getting a fair shake. This is true of Thomas Jefferson but, even more so, John Adams.Overall, I heartily recommend this book. We could all learn much from Alexander Hamilton, in both his triumphs and his failures, and Chernow makes him marvelously accessible to us. Reading this book will require a significant investment of your time but I m confident that you ll find it time well spent.4Public relations for a deeply flawed founding fatherMany of the faults of this book are well documented in other reviews, particularly the excellent review by Daniel Putman. Every fault of Hamilton, and there were many, are excused, explained, rationalized, and dismissed. Faults of his contemporaries are magnified. If you have read other biographies of these contemporaries, especially David McCollough's excellent bio of John Adams, then you realize that one of the writers has lost his perspective, and I believe that Chernow is the one who has.Even Chernow's otherwise glowing, almost worshipful, descriptions of Hamilton's many achievements cannot disguise how a person of humble origins marries onto a great fortune then turns his back on those less wealthy. Much of Hamilton's political career was a battle against populist politicians who fought against replacing a wealthy ruling English upper class with a wealthy ruling American upper class. Hamilton worked against rule by the "rabble," the common men, and even advocated at the constitutional convention for an American hereditary monarch to avoid giving common people significant power. His inflexibility and arrogance made many powerful enemies, and his repeated and scandalous infidelities damaged the image of the early government.Chernow's book may have led to a popular Broadway show, but it fails to put the accomplishments of the founders in the correct perspective.Bill Anderson2Worth all of the press and all of the accoladesAll the hype that you have heard about this book is true. It is an outstanding biography. I admit I was somewhat skeptical. When I saw how much this book was dominating every single best-seller list, I figured the reason might be because of the highly successful musical (which I have not seen, nor plan to see). After completing the book, I can t help but feel the reverse is true someone, somewhere found a great biography about a great man, and then decided to make it into a musical.I read an awful lot of biographies. My tendency is to favor Americans in the years around the time The United States came into existence. With rare exceptions, I would have to say that I thoroughly enjoy all of them. So why should this one be any different? Is it really that different than all of the other biographies out there? I even recently read a biography about George Washington (who was close to Alexander Hamilton) by the same author (Ron Chernow), and even that one wasn t particularly sensational. For whatever reason, though, this one is truly exceptional.Like all well researched biographies that are about 800 pages in length, this one is very thorough. It doesn t exclusively focus on one aspect of his career, nor heavily focus on any particular area of his life. Everything is included. From being orphaned in the Caribbean at a young age to being killed by the Vice-President of the United States in a duel. Everything is here.Although there s a lot of material to cover, Chernow works magic when transcribing the man s life. I rarely ever got bored. The book seemed exciting, as though someone were telling me a fascinating story as opposed to simply recounting a famous person s life. Quite often when writing such a detailed exposition, ennui often creeps in from time to time. An everyday life of a politician doesn t necessarily relate to captivating reading. Fortunately in this case, instances of boredom are rare. There was one time when I mentally dozed off for a few pages while the author explained in a tad too much detail how Hamilton s central bank worked, but these instances were quite infrequent. I felt like I intimately knew so many of the many people who interacted, good and bad, with Alexander Hamilton. I truly wished that I could have traveled back in time to meet all of these fascinating people.There are a lot of people that didn t like this man, nor did he care for them. Particularly interesting is how the author treats Thomas Jefferson. Had this been the only book you had ever read, you would come away with the notion that Jefferson was Satan incarnate. Equally unfavorable treatment goes to John Adams, James Madison and James Monroe (all early U.S. Presidents, coincidentally). I would recommend further reading on these individuals for a more balanced perspective. In fact, had it not been for George Washington, you could argue that there wasn t anyone around at the time of any importance that thought highly of Hamilton. Of course, having George Washington on your side counteracts a lot of adversaries.The author is quite biased in favor of his subject matter. Oh sure, he points out many mistakes and deficiencies of Hamilton, but you end up firmly in the man s corner, despite the squabbling with so many of the other founding fathers. The biggest source of discontent is Hamilton s Federalism as opposed to Jefferson s Republicanism. The birth of our two-political party system. Both ideologies have highlights. To truly understand the significance, one must truly imagine life directly after America s independence is won. Now that we ve won, what do we do? We still need a centralized government to rule. Right? At the time, many didn t think so. Such questions are easy to answer in hindsight. Hindsight does tell us, that Hamilton was right about a lot of things during our country s infancy.I implore you to read this if you re a fan of history. If you re not a fan of history, I implore you to read it as well just make sure you consult other sources so you come away with a strong, balanced perspective.5
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