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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Given the enthusiasm for and the celebration of the life of a lesser-known member of the “Founding Fathers” in the U.S. over the past five years, The Lost Diary of Alexander Hamilton by Sophie Schiller has come at a most propitious time. Yes, this is a work of fiction but it also gives us a fascinating insight into the early life of a man who played such a fundamental role in the founding of the United States of America. Young Alexander was born into poverty in the West Indies. His mother, the daughter of a well-to-do family, had married poorly and was unable to divorce her wastrel husband on the island on which they lived, which was ruled by the Danes. Alexander and his brother were, therefore, in the eyes of the law, illegitimate and this fact was to prove pivotal in young Alexander’s future endeavors. His illegitimacy would prove to be just another handicap in a life of struggle that will see him come into conflict with the law over a dear slave friend, as well as having to deal with the effects of being viewed by society as something less than those whose birth was legitimate. Alexander would rise to the challenges and seek his future elsewhere from the islands of his birth.
The Lost Diary of Alexander Hamilton is a wonderful read for those of us who have an innate history bent. The musical “Hamilton” has brought the impact of this man in the founding of America sharply into our consciousness. But what author Sophie Schiller has skillfully done here is to take what little is known about Alexander’s early life and fashion a fictional story around his upbringing that fleshes out the boy that would become the man. Her detailed descriptions of life in the West Indies in the mid-eighteenth century and the injustices that were piled onto both the African slaves and the poor working-class were poignant and timely. Alexander’s view of the world and of slavery, in particular, was probably well ahead of his time in that he recognized the poor slaves as equal human beings just like himself, humbled by circumstances of birth and worthy of the opportunity to better themselves through their own hard work and mental prowess. His friendship with Ajax was, for me, the crux of this story. It showed Hamilton’s true character and desire to make a difference. Easy to read and full of fascinating historical facts, this book is a wonderful addition to any library. I am ever hopeful the author will take up the story and continue to tell us of this remarkable man’s journey to America and his early exploits there. I can highly recommend this read.