Clover Book Club: Alex & Eliza
Alexander Hamilton. Who would’ve thought that someone who we (and probably you) slept through during American History class would become such a pop culture icon? More than 200 years after his death, the guy—one of America’s Founding Fathers—is bigger than Bieber, thanks to a wildly successful Broadway renaissance. Now that we’ve obsessed over the play, he returns as a teen, this time in Melissa de la Cruz’s YA novel. Alex and Eliza is a love story that chronicles the relationship between Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth Schuyler. We passed the book along to two Clover readers—and huge “Hamilton” fans—to read with their friends. Here’s what they thought.
I was beyond excited when I discovered that this month’s book club pick covered the love story of the historical figures and lead characters in the Broadway musical, “Hamilton.” I have, like many others, been an avid listener of the soundtrack and have indulged myself in furthering my knowledge of the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers through the Hamiltome, Hamilton’s America, and my (attempt) to read Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton’s life—the book that Lin-Manuel Miranda read on his break from “In the Heights” which lead him to write the famous play. This book was unlike the others because it was so concentrated on one aspect of the major story. It's a tough thing to do, but Melissa de la Cruz pulled it off.
A major song in the musical, “Burn,” shows how Eliza burned her letters and many records of correspondence, so when this book gave Eliza a voice, it was impressive to see what she had to say and what she herself was capable of doing. Since the musical and the other books fail to give her a POV, mainly because there is little factual evidence to support her, I very much enjoyed the author’s creation of a character from the little information given.
My friend Olivia said, “This is the first historical romance I have ever read, and I really liked how Melissa de la Cruz brought the story of Elizabeth Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton's romance to life. Life in 1777 was in so many ways very different than today. As Eliza gets ready for the party, she is upset that the 'sumptuous' party gown her mom got her 'contravenes all my principles' because she had been spending her time campaigning other Albany women to spend less on themselves (so righteous!). But some of the conversations that Eliza had with her sisters seemed like ones I have with my friends (though we are not looking for suitable and wealthy life partners at 16 years old). And I don't think assigned dance partners and dance cards would work very well today.”
She added, “This story made me appreciate the fact that my life is so different from the demands and expectations of the late 1700s. I would recommend this book because it does a great job of telling a 200-plus year old story in a very accessible and modern way.”
I invited two friends who weren't so “Hamilton” crazed and two who were totally obsessed with the show (and just Broadway in general). This really helped me understand a few different points of view about Alex and Eliza. To me, it was interesting because I was just so intrigued in how Alex and Eliza *actually* met and I was pleasantly surprised to see it had happened over the course of years and it wasn't just...BAM! Y'know?
One of my friends said, "I wished she had brushed on a few more things like Angelica's love for Hamilton, but it is Eliza's story." I totally agree. I know it was their love story but it would have been interesting to see how Eliza and Alex's relationship was affected by the flirting going on between Alex and Angelica or more of Alex and Peggy's closeness.
One thing all the Hamiltots in our group agreed on? We loved that we got to see Eliza as the smart, strong independent thinker, and it was refreshing to view Angelica as the sister who played up stereotypes and was amenable to her mother and family views. In the Broadway show, it's the other way around. That was really cool.