#HamAlong: Chapters 1-5

I'll be participating in Reading Rambo's Hamilton Readalong for the next two months, so expect weekly (if I can keep up) posts on the book from now through the end of February. Because the story of Hamilton's life is generally known from history books and the musical, I will not be avoiding spoilers in these posts (in other words: if you're planning to read Hamilton and want it to be a surprise, skip along).

Me, looking at the length of this book and the size of its tiny, tiny print.

So: I'm already behind and we've only just started. But dayum, this book is good. I'll fully admit to being put off by its GIANT size and TEENY TINY print, but the first 100 pages flew by far more quickly than I'd anticipated for two reasons:

  1. Alexander Hamilton apparently lived the kind of life that one couldn't even dream up for a fiction book. Seriously, some of this is downright unbelievable: he of dubious fatherhood was abandoned by his presumed father (the one who gave him the name Hamilton), left orphaned by his mother, left destitute all over again when his cousin-turned-guardian either shot himself or stabbed himself in the head (how exactly can the two be confused??), left destitute all over again when his uncle-turned-guardian up and died on him (people did that a lot) and then somehow managed to become George Washington's right-hand man like... 5 years later. 

  2. Ron Chernow is sly and unpredictably funny. Case in point:

In this ghastly place [Fort Christiansvaern], unspeakable punishments were meted out to rebellious blacks who had committed heinous crimes: striking whites, torching cane fields, or dashing off to freedom.

and, after Hamilton's mother, Rachel, was thrown in jail by her then-husband, Lavien, for perceived infidelity:

As an amateur psychologist, Lavien left something to be desired, for he imagined that when Rachel was released after three to five months this broken woman would now tamely submit to his autocratic rule...

Chernow's clearly gone to great lengths to not only read everything Hamilton ever wrote (or possibly wrote; as there are some writings in the world that may be attributed to him but are uncertain), but everything ever written about Hamilton, in Hamilton's time (ok, maybe not, but it certainly feels like it), or by those Hamilton knew. Though some details (like the minor one of the year of Hamilton's birth) have been lost to history, Hamilton overall reads like something written about a contemporary or even currently living character, so in-depth are the source materials.

By the end of Chapter 5, we have a strong-willed, brilliant young boy who has been exposed to the horrors of slavery; witnessed first-hand the problems of rigid class structures; left his homeland behind to seek an education; been granted the war he wished for to give him upward class (and income) mobility; made a few enemies; impressed a number of notable politicians and military leaders; possibly had gay relationships with maybe one or maybe two other notable figures in the American Revolution (pure speculation, that), but at least forged lifelong friendships; become a significant figure not only in the American Revolution but in the political landscape of the American colonies... and what else am I missing?

Oh yeah, and we have seven hundred more pages to go. No wonder Miranda found this to be excellent fodder for what is surely one of the best musicals of our time.

So bring it on, Chernow. I'm ready for the rest of it.

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