DNF (Did Not Finish) #1 of 2019
I don’t read a lot of realistic fiction, but I do love historical fiction, so I was moderately excited for this book. That turned out to be 100 x more exciting than anything that happens in Alex and Eliza‘s first 100 pages.
Why I DNF’d Alex and Eliza: The 1770s and 80s were an insanely dull time to be a teenager, a rich person, or in love. And that’s with the Revolutionary War going on, for heaven’s sake.
Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton meet during the Revolutionary War. She is a cossetted, highborn daughter straining at the societal confines of the fairer sex. He’s an aide de camp for General Washington. They meet at a ball thrown by Eliza’s mother, for the sole purpose of marrying off her daughters. (Again, historically accurate. And tired AF as a plot point.) Eliza is basically a bitch who acts as if secretaries should be influencing court martial decisions. Alex, de riguer, immediately falls in love with her, the way other people fall down a flight of stairs. These characters are so wooden and predictable that you could skip every other page and not miss a beat.
I maintained hope the story would pick up when Eliza, seeking to do good, talks her way into wintering at the war front in New Jersey. But when she and Alex meet again, after two years, it’s so contrived and stiff, so paint-by-numbers, I was ready to get out of my car and March for Women on the side of the road.
Eliza is offended by everything. Everything that ever happens. (Again, likely historically accurate. That doesn’t mean it’s a good story.) Alex has spent two years pining over her, of course. Remember: they met for one evening. We learn that since that night, Alex has kept a dirty handkerchief that Eliza touched on his person at all times. If someone acted like that today, the cops would find Eliza’s body in a suitcase and this story would be a true crime podcast. But it’s 1780. A war rages. A colonial superpower is being challenged by the birth of a new world order. And this is what Alex is doing with his emotions? Suh-nore.
The inevitable comparison here is Pride and Prejudice, but let’s be real. Pride and Prejudice is a unicorn. It’s witty, wacky, and boasts the single best strong female character (in a real-world setting) I’ve ever read. It’s brilliantly satirical of a time so confining, so dull, as to put readers straight to sleep. Without Jane Austen’s incomparable spirit, the story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy would die on the page. And thus does Alex and Eliza die on my DNF shelf.