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The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  171 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Though he was a hero of the Revolutionary War, a prominent New York politician, and vice president of the United States, Aaron Burr is today best remembered as the villain who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

But as H. W. Brands demonstrates in this fascinating portrait of one of the most compelling politicians in American history, Burr was also a man before his time—a
ebook, 224 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2012)
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Jun 29, 2015 Zach rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before I saw the (stunning, phenomenal, worth-the-hype) musical Hamilton, all I knew about Burr is that he killed Alexander Hamilton and was tried for treason because he wanted to establish a separate nation. What a douche, right? But the musical showed his humanity, and like most historical figures beyond serial killers and genocidal dictators, he was a complicated, sensitive person.

Hence the interest in this book. It's super-light for a work of scholarship (only 171 pages, with tubby margins a
Jul 16, 2013 Bruce rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm dumbfounded. Positively dumbfounded. I'm reading Jefferson The Art of Power, Jon Meachem's biography of our third president, and I come across a short passage about Aaron Burr. "Oh yeah, Aaron Burr!" I think, "He's the guy who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, right? I bet his lifestory would make an interesting read." I mean, the highlights bear him out as one of postcolonial American history's great scoundrels: from Revolutionary War hero to NY Senator to Vice President to the duel with ...more
Apr 24, 2012 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I grew up in an era when people still wrote letters. In fact, I remember my mother sitting down at least once a week writing to friends and relatives out of town, many on a weekly or biweekly basis. Today, though, letters are more rare. We tend to rely on email or text messaging to communicate with each other.

So why does a biography of Aaron Burr bring this to mind? Well, one of the primary sources for The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr is Burr's letters, particularly to his daughter, Theodosia. Aut
Aubrey Hansen
Like the cover design, this book is simple but sufficient, tasteful with a delicious historical flavor. This is not an extensive biography; rather, it's a snapshot. It focuses on the key events of Burr's life following the Revolutionary War. There is a strong emphasis on his relationship with his daughter, but several major political events are covered as well--Burr's vice presidency, his duel with Hamilton, his exploits in the West, his trial for treason, and his exile to Europe. It gives a goo ...more
Sep 05, 2014 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aptly named. I knew surprisingly little about Aaron Burr, whose life was immensely sad. I'm not certain I agree with the author's less than subtle suggestion that, had things gone somewhat differently, Burr would have taken Jackson's or maybe even one of the Texas revolutionaries' place(s) in history (the duel probably sealed his fate), but it's an interesting bit of speculation.
Oct 10, 2015 Sujata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been obsessed with all things Hamilton and Burr since seeing Hamilton the musical. Lin Manuel Miranda said this was one of his sources for Burr. It's short and not the most exciting read but it's all about Burr post-duel which is great to read. And after the lovely song Dear Thoedosia, good but sad to read about her life. And Aaron Burr, well he just does his thing.
Dec 12, 2015 Barb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
This brief book provides an interesting glimpse into the life of Aaron Burr. Brands focuses a lot on the relationship between Burr and his daughter Theodosia, and the book really only covers her lifetime--with Burr's trial for treason as a large part of that. The book is an easy, fast read, and makes me want to read a more thorough biography of Burr.
Feb 09, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very quick, informative read of Aaron Burr. A really good jumping off point if you're tentative to dive right in. Gives a really good account of his life based on his letters to and from his daughter and other figures (uses direct quotes!)
Jan 11, 2016 Alicia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good overview of the life of Aaron Burr, his relationship with his daughter, and the tragedy and misfortune that befell him after his fateful duel with A.Ham. He "survived, but he paid for it" indeed.
Aug 12, 2015 S. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book after having read Gore Vidal's Burr, a fictionalized and much more exciting read. Brands' Aaron Burr is charming and is a quick read that focuses on the unique relationship between Burr and his wife and daughter. If I hadn't already read Vidal's Burr and therefore found these historic figures to be quite compelling, I don't know if I would have liked Brands book that much.
Aug 02, 2012 Peg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aaron Burr has a tenuous spot in American history. Although he was a Revolutionary War hero, vice president of the US, and tried for treason, Burr is mostly remembered as the person who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. This short biography presents a very different look at Burr - as a devoted father, an advocate of women's rights and a man with a big personality. Told largely through the correspondence between Burr and his precocious daughter, Theodosis, the author shows their exceptional lo ...more
Wes Stahler
Having read Gore Vidal's version, simply titled "Burr", this comes across as shallow and incomplete. If this is your introduction to Burr (especially the Louisiana affair), you will find it informative.
Apr 17, 2014 Doug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good summary for first time Burr information, and I wanted to read something by Brands. But not much new. Listened to audio book to take up driving hours
Nick Douglas
Brands builds most of the book out of Burr's letters to and from his daughter Theodosia. This gives the first few chapters a dull domestic feel. But the book expands to cover, mainly, Burr's service as Jefferson's Vice President, his falling out and duel with Hamilton, his shady real estate deals that spiral into a plan to invade Mexico and possibly secede from the Union, his falling out with Jefferson, and his eventual trial for treason. But if you have the time, read Gore Vidal's closely histo ...more
Jun 15, 2012 Bart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
H.W. Brands tells the story of Aaron Burr's life based on the correspondence between Burr and his daughter Theodosia. Aaron Burr is best known for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey in 1804. Burr has just completed a term as Vice President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson. Aaron Burr was a revolutionary hero and successful lawyer and politician. The duel marked the beginning of the long decline of Burr's fortunes. The death of his grandson at age 10 and his ...more
Rob Lever
Jul 14, 2013 Rob Lever rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Largely based on the personal correspondence of Burr and his daughter, Brands constructs a moving, but often awkward story of intrigue, ambition, adoration, and life. Burr is treated well, almost heroically. Rather than traitor, Burr comes across as the ideal politicians, "screwed over," so to speak by the more audible personalities of his age. Book annoyingly concludes with death of daughter, fast forwarding briefly to an awkward encounter with an aged/wisened Burr.

Recommendable, albeit not wi
Jeff lent to me to listen. My mind wandered a lot, but I became interested in Aaron Burr's life and also his daughter, Theo's life (and mysterious disappearance).
Nov 20, 2015 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biographies
A short but interesting book. It lacks citations (and that drove me nuts), but uses lengthy excerpts from Burr and his daughters letters.
Jun 10, 2012 Carl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

H. W. Brands has written a very engaging narrative of one of the more enigmatic founding fathers. The author skillfully weaves sections from Burr's extensive correspondence to tell the stories of his feud with Hamilton, his falling out with Jefferson, his western adventures, precedent-setting trial for treason, and eventual European exile. I would have appreciate a bit more perspective on Burr's western plans, but it might be that Burr didn't really know what he was going to do.
Nov 12, 2012 Karin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

I don't remember when I finished this. I do remember, however, that it was painful, mostly because it had a great title to which it SO did not live up (IMHO). That, and I couldn't keep any of the main characters straight, tbh. White male early American names are goddamned near impossible to keep ordered. Overall, a good reminder why I never specialized in revolutionary America.

BUT, if that stuff is your jam, don't lemme dissuade you :)
Justin Time
Jan 13, 2014 Justin Time rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good short book on Aaron Burr. If you're like me most of what you've heard of him is negative. However, Brands cast him in a different light. Its very well written, easy to read, and he really tells a great story out of a biography. This is not a book of filled with tons of details of his life, nor is it exactly fair to the critical perspectives of Burr (but they're not fair either). All in all, a good easy read.
Aug 18, 2013 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a short biography of Aaron Burr with particular emphasis on his relationship with his daughter, Theodosia, and his trial for treason. It is part of Brands' American Portraits Series.

It is a very sad story. I actually knew little about Burr and this short bio has raised my interest in reading more about Burr.
Shirley Brown
Jun 07, 2012 Shirley Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
H.W. Brands is an amazing author. How he was able to write such a great book about Aaron Burr in less than 200 pages is remarkable. One feels a certain amount of pity for such a man as Burr as he falls from a position of high office to being charged with treason. The ensuring events that happen in his life are a great read.
Jun 10, 2012 Roger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
Nicely crafted use of primary source stuff including, most prominently, letters with Burr's daughter and his Hamilton & treason trial transcripts.

Sad life, misunderstood and too often villianized, Burr emerges as one of those figures who, but for the vagaries of life, could have have been so much more.
Sean Selman
Sadly, this was my least-favorite read by Dr. Brands. It starts off strong and tells you a lot about the man and the period. It's classic Brands at this point. Then it trails off into a long recitation of a courtroom tennis match. I got lost in the legal minutiae at the end and surrendered.
Leslie Klingensmith

Probably a 2.5 stars really, because Aaron Burr is an interesting subject, but this offering seemed thin to me, and not in a good way. It was like the Cliff Notes' Aaron Burr bio. I would like to find a more thorough biography that brings in more of the nuances of the time.
Jen Slipakoff
Jul 10, 2012 Jen Slipakoff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I really enjoyed this book. I found myself having to reread some of the more technical parts of the book, but I found Aaron Burr fascinating and thought the story was well-written, capturing both the emotions of Burr as well as the historical aspects of the time.
Pearl Yusuf
Apr 23, 2013 Pearl Yusuf rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a remarkable book about a remarkable life. Like so many, he had things you'd like and dislike about him but overall, his life tanked, well, remarkably! A quick book mostly because it was so engaging I couldn't put it down.
Well written at a good pace.
Mar 13, 2013 Faith rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I never thought I would abandon a book. Usually, even if the writing or editing or plot isn't all that great, I keep reading the book anyway. This book was just too hard to keep reading. The author switched from present tense to past tense too many times.
Oct 27, 2012 William rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
The narrative often moves forward through the words of the participants, and these personal accounts add much interest. The entire book is sparse on details, however, and is obviously not intended to satisfy a deeper curiosity on Burr.
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Goodreads Librari...: ISBN13: 9780307743268 3 155 Oct 18, 2012 05:46PM  
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