Blindspot by Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore

July 23, 2011

Plot summary (from the publisher): “Tis a small canvas, this Boston,” muses Stewart Jameson, a Scottish portrait painter who, having fled his debtors in Edinburgh, has washed up on America’s far shores. Eager to begin anew in this new world, he advertises for an apprentice, but the lad who comes knocking is no lad at all. Fanny Easton is a lady in disguise, a young, fallen woman from Boston’s most prominent family. “I must make this Jameson see my artist’s touch, but not my woman’s form,” Fanny writes, in a letter to her best friend. “I would turn my talent into capital, and that capital into liberty.”

Liberty is what everyone’s seeking in boisterous, rebellious Boston on the eve of the American Revolution. But everyone suffers from a kind of blind spot, too. Jameson, distracted by his haunted past, can’t see that Fanny is a woman; Fanny, consumed with her own masquerade, can’t tell that Jameson is falling in love with her. The city’s Sons of Liberty can’t quite see their way clear, either. “Ably do they see the shackles Parliament fastens about them,” Jameson writes, “but to the fetters they clasp upon their own slaves, they are strangely blind.”

Written with wit and exuberance by longtime friends and accomplished historians Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore, Blindspot weaves together invention with actual historical documents in an affectionate send-up of the best of eighteenth-century fiction, from epistolary novels like Richardson’s Clarissa to Sterne’s picaresque Tristram Shandy. Prodigiously learned, beautifully crafted, and lush with the bawdy, romping sensibility of the age, Blindspot celebrates the art of the Enlightenment and the passion of the American Revolution by telling stories we know and those we don’t, stories of the everyday lives of ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary time.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • The authors were actively trying to make their novel a kind of send-up of 18th-century fiction, and in that regard I think they succeeded. The melodrama in this book was way over the top, and certainly did remind me of some of the classics I’ve read.
  • The goings on inside the house were funny and interesting at times. I think the authors protracted Fanny’s reveal as a woman far too long, but up until that point there were some good scenes.

Disliked:

  • I couldn’t understand why the authors felt they needed to tell the story from two points of view. I preferred Fanny’s pov to Jameson’s, and would have preferred if the entire novel were told in epistolary form instead of switching back and forth.
  • The murder mystery was completely boring, and took the novel in a completely different direction from where it originally seemed headed. I think this book would have been better just focusing on Jameson and Fanny’s love affair rather than bringing in the murder and all the revolution stuff.
  • Speaking of the revolution, this book is labeled as being historical fiction, but I couldn’t really figure out which parts were historical. Was it the Sons of Liberty group? I have no idea, and the authors didn’t do enough to make me actually want to find out by checking Google.
  • I didn’t care for the way Jameson lusted after Fanny when he thought she was a serving boy. It just seemed completely out of place because he had never had any homosexual proclivities before. And then when he found out that Fanny was a woman, he just changed back to being hetero??? WTF?

Rating:
Blindspot was an e-book that I checked out of my library just because it sounded fairly interesting and I didn’t have anything else queued up at the time. Although the writing was decent and the plot moved along at a good pace, there simply wasn’t enough of a hook to keep me invested in the story from beginning to end. The murder plot was boring, the Sons of Liberty angle didn’t go very far in this volume, and even Stuart and Fanny became tiresome when all they did was have sex 24/7. Overall, I give this book 2 stars out of 5, and advise you to skip it.

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