Tag Archives: pulitzer prize

Review: Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

5 Stars

I will readily admit that I have the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat most days.  I have memorized every line.  I will admit without shame or embarrassment that I’m quite addicted to this work of art and hope that someday I’ll be able to see the production in person.  For now, I’m going to make due with reading Hamilton: The Revolution.  Ok, I’ll probably read it more than once…or twice…

For starters, the book itself is absolutely beautiful.  In recent years, most of my purchases have been e-books and the random paperback.  It has been awhile since I’ve purchased a hardcover book and I can’t remember ever seeing one so well put together.  It reminds me of a book you would see in someone’s library with a heavy, embossed cover and thick pages with a natural unfinished edge.  I can attest to the fact that it looks wonderful sitting on my coffee table.  I would definitely recommend against getting this as an e-book.  As wonderful as e-books are, I don’t think that they can truly capture the beauty of this book.  There are a lot of pictures and I just don’t think that an e-book can truly do this book justice.

Surprisingly enough, I have never read a libretto, so I did not know what to expect.  I didn’t know if I was just going to be seeing the musical written out like a play, showing who is singing what part and some minor stage blocking and positions, etc.  I would have been happy with just that.  I would have found it a wonderful companion to the soundtrack.  But this book is so much more.

You’re given an insider’s view of the creation of Hamilton and what led Lin-Manuel to create this tremendous work of art.  You’re also walked through the production and how they created magic not only with the staging of the production, but how each of the original cast was brought in.  For those of us who are new to the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s an amazing insight into his creation process and the tremendous amount of respect that the Broadway community and music community as a whole have for him and his creations.  People were literally begging to be part of this endeavor before it was even much more than just an idea and a few songs.

On nearly every page there is an amazing photograph.  Some are photographs from the stage production and some are candid shots of Lin-Manuel or other people instrumental in the phenomenon known as Hamilton.  There is even a surprise for people who haven’t yet seen the show but are addicted to the soundtrack.  There is a scene in the show that wasn’t included in the soundtrack and you’re able to both read the scene and there is a gorgeous photographic background showing what it looks like in the production.

The annotations to every song are more than worth the cost of the book.  Getting the story from Jeremy McCarter was amazing enough, but to see into the inner workings of Lin-Manuel’s mind was just priceless.  To see where the inspiration came from for the different numbers and what went into them is just awe-inspiring.  The attention to detail and historic accuracy are amazing.  When he takes liberties with the timeline or with certain characters, Lin-Manuel is quick to point out what he changed and why.  I got almost giddy with anticipation when I turned the page and went to the next song, waiting to see what notes were in the margin and what new things I was going to learn.

I really can’t say enough about this book.  I know that it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but this is a work that is for everyone.  Even if you hate musicals, don’t follow theatre and don’t have a clue who Alexander Hamilton or Lin-Manuel Miranda are, take a chance on this book.  This is more than just a play.  More than just a musical.  More than just the telling of the life of one of our founding fathers.  Everyone is going to get something different from Hamilton, especially for those who have never cared about history.  This work opens up a whole new perspective into our past.

I hope to someday be one of the lucky ones to be able to see Hamilton.  I want to be in the room where it happens.


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Filed under Biography/Memoir, Historical, Non-Fiction

Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

4.5 Stars

This book kept popping up on my recommended feeds all over the place.  Then it even showed up as an answer to a crossword puzzle I happened to be doing last week.  I figured that I’d seen enough signs, it was time to check it out.  I love my library, they have an ever expanding selection of e-books and I was able to get this one within a day of requesting it.  If you’re either broke or no longer allowed to buy anymore e-books, check out your local library and see if they have options available to check out e-books.  I’ve found that many of them are now offering this service and some are even letting people check out e-readers.  But I digress…back to the review!

I’m a sucker for historical novels and I’ve always been extremely interested in all things WWII.  So I can see why this book kept popping up on my recommendation pages.  I hadn’t known that this book had won the Pulitzer Prize until I was about halfway through.  And I can definitely understand why he won the award.  Anthony Doerr has put together a novel that keeps a frenetic pace and constantly goes back and forth both between points of view and also in time.  But it works.  Instead of being something disjointed and hard to follow, it fits with the time.  How many people’s lives became disjointed and frantic?  I will admit that in the very beginning, it was a bit jarring to go back and forth between two stories that didn’t seem to be connected in any way.  I will say that if you can keep going, you will be richly rewarded.

We meet Marie-Laure in Paris when she’s a young child.  Before the age of 7 she is completely blind and dependent on her only remaining parent, her Papa.  He is the master of keys at the Museum of Natural History, handing out keys to everyone while his daughter learns everything she can by feeling the shells, the plants and insects and everything else within the museum.  She talks to everyone and questions everything.  He builds for her a model of their neighborhood and over the years she begins to find her independence and can lead them home from anywhere simply by remembering the model and using her senses to determine where she is.

We also meet Werner an orphan in German mining town.  He lives in an orphanage with his younger sister, Jutta.  He has an exceptional mind for numbers and engineering.  He also questions everything from why is the sky blue to why do cats meow.  One day while they are out searching for food and junk they can sell, Werner and his sister find a broken radio.  Within the day, he has the radio fixed and they are listening to music.  Soon they are hearing broadcasts from France.  They hear a grandfatherly voice telling stories and playing music.  His skills are soon spread through the community and he’s sent to the academy for Hitler Youth to become an instrument of the Reich.

Both Marie-Laure and Werner are caught up in the war as it rolls through.  We follow Marie-Laure and her Papa in their flight from Paris to the home of his “crazy uncle” Etienne in Saint-Malo, a walled citadel by the sea where he lives with his housekeeper.  In a strange new home she once again learns how to navigate the world.  Once again, her Papa builds a model of the town so she can find her way around.  But with one secret, there’s something hidden inside the model of their tall house by the sea.  A gemstone that some say is cursed.  One that tends to bring out the wrong type of seeker.

Saint-Malo is where Werner and Marie-Laure’s stories become entwined.  During an Allied bombing run that was designed to flush out the German army entrenched there and free the civilian populace.  Werner learns the human cost of his intelligence and Marie-Laure learns just how strong she really is.

The images that are invoked by Anthony Doerr’s writing are simply amazing.  You can feel the shells, see the destruction, smell the smoke.  You can feel the frustration of the civilians in Saint-Malo as well as the apathy presented by the young soldiers of the Reich.  This was simply one of the most breathtaking novels I’ve read this year.  It started with a slow build, through the early years of their lives and then you’re rushing headlong into the waning days of the war and beyond.  It was almost a frenetic race to the finish that left you breathless but wanting more.  I can see why he won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel.  Definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year and if you follow me…you know that’s saying something!

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Filed under Historical