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Blindspot: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle) Paperback – December 29, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Professors Kamensky and Lepore try for playful historical romance, but deliver instead a novel that is, if rich in period detail, also overwrought, predictably plotted and at times embarrassingly purple. The year is 1764 and portrait painter Stewart Jameson has been chased by debtors from his native Scotland to Boston, where he quickly opens shop and takes an apprentice, the half-starved orphan, Francis Weston, who turns out to be Fanny Easton, the disgraced daughter of one of Boston's leading citizens. Stewart does a good business with Boston's better class, which puts Stewart and Fanny in a good position to solve the murder of an abolitionist. They are joined at this task by Stewart's old friend from Edinburgh, Dr. Ignatius Alexander, a university-trained runaway slave. The mystery plays out with little surprise; rather, the narrative is driven by Alexander's hatred of slavery and by Stewart and Fanny's tawdry relationship. Unfortunately, however, both of these lines prove awkward, and while students of the era may find enough period detail to carry them through, the cheesy plot and facile characterizations are likely to turn off most readers. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

A tribute to—and a send-up of—18th-century melodramas, Blindspot addresses 21st-century themes while mimicking the bygone era's literary techniques: first-person, epistolary narratives; adventure-studded storylines; and sensational plot twists, including mistaken meanings, hidden identities, and unexpected revelations. At the same time, Kamensky and Lepore skillfully capture the contrasts of early American history, particularly the colonists' struggle to free themselves from British tyranny while blithely ignoring the growing African slave trade (Colonial America's "blindspot"). Most critics were charmed by this witty, irreverent novel, though a couple expressed concerns over its length and overplotting. Despite the San Diego Union-Tribune's admitted aversion to 18th-century literature, history buffs, fans of early fiction, and readers in search of a fun and clever book will thoroughly enjoy Blindspot.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Random House Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385526202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385526203
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #648,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A reader on January 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Full disclosure: I am an English teacher and an American history buff (some might say geek) and I ordered this book for three reasons: I enjoyed New York Burning, by one of this book's coauthors, Jill Lepore; I like a nice, racy 18th-century novel; and I was intrigued to learn whether two history professors could team up to write a plausibly entertaining novel in 18th-century style. So I suppose you could say I'm not really the average reader.

Given my predilections, I knew that I would enjoy the book even if it was not so great. Fortunately, it really was tremendous fun and I enjoyed the book even more than I anticipated I would. From my perspective, the book is a lark and can therefore be forgiven some of the shortcomings in weightiness that some other reviewers have objected to. While it touches upon some complex themes from American history (slavery, class, disempowerment of women), the novel does not set out to change the world or even to offer serious food for thought on these issues, which provide a context for the main story line rather than a foundation for it. Rather, the novel is primarily a love story, and this love story, in the best Shakespearian tradition, features cross dressing and mistaken identity. The most enjoyable part of the book is the cat-and-mouse play between the disguised woman and her libertine love interest before her true identity is revealed. Because he swings both ways and she makes a comely lad, he is burning with desire for her even as she lusts after him. Needless to say, this ardent desire is teased out in a number of steamy scenes before climax is finally reached.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Scissors on April 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When I realized that the three main characters in this historical novel set in the 18th century thought and acted like our contemporaries, I thought the scholarly writers were enjoying a deliberately incongruous romp, and romped along with them. But the novel soon becomes tedious, the characters too ungrounded. One character channels Sherlock Holmes, another quotes Bronte, and supposed Puritans quote Shakespeare as a moral authority. Oh, come on, Professors Lepore and Kamensky -- you could do better. Blindspot lacks the rewards of historical fiction -- the sense of visiting another time, or history animated. It yields little sense even of the colonial city where it is set. The detective plot is uncompelling. I dropped out before the murder was solved. I just didn't care. Very disappointing.
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52 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on January 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book serves as an excellent reminder of why academics, secluded in the ivory tower, should stay so secluded and not venture out into the realm of "historical fiction," especially when they do so in tandem with an academic friend from another ivory tower. To indulge in alliteration, Blindspot is a purple pastiche of period pamphleteering. I wonder if these gushing Vine reviewers have read any of the classic authors in this genre of the time: Fielding, Smollett et alia. Their reviews do indeed seem as if they were written by the same "John Puff, Esq." who pays homage to this book on its back cover.

To be more specific, this book is far too long, too predictable, too studiedly purple, and, above all, too coy by more than half to be enjoyable. Also - though I'm not supposed to point the numerous errata out in an ARC, there is one erratum I hope was duly corrected - that of the dog Gulliver's being in two places at once at one point in the narrative. Since Gulliver is apparently based on one author's own dog, one can only hope that she caught this canine violation of the time-space continuum.

What else to say? Oh yes, if you must needs read fiction of this sort, READ THE REAL THING: Tom Jones, The Adventures of Roderick Random, even Shamala (mentioned herein) are far, far more engaging reads then this very silly book. - Two stars, but only because I fully admit to being a sap for anyone who quotes at length one of my favourite thinkers, David Hume.

Now, I shall sit back and wait for the "unhelpful" votes to roll in, probably some spiteful comments too, I shouldn't wonder.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By B. Woodbridge on February 15, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel blends the atmosphere of The American Revolution in Boston with a murder mystery. You only want to put this novel down so you can savor it and have something to look forward to read tomorrow! I'm reading other books now, however I keep hoping for a Blindspot II! These three main characters need another mystery to solve as the revolution gets closer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Deb Nam-Krane VINE VOICE on September 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The characters: Stewart Jameson, a Scottish painter, is on the run from debtors when he arrives in Boston. He has incurred the debts not at gambling or other vices, but through a foolhardy plan to save his friend, a scholar, from bondage. Once in Boston, he takes on an apprentice named Francis Weston, a starved young boy that shows unusual talent. Only Francis is really Frances, and she is an Easton. Her family is one of the most esteemed in Boston, but she has suffered an out of wedlock pregnancy and can't let go of the desire to find her child.

The plot: Although Jameson is romantically inclined towards men, he finds physical satisfaction best with women. His unwitting seducer is Weston/Easton, who cannot deny her attraction to her employer, despite the danger it presents to her station.

What of slavery, taxation, politics, religion, hypocrisy, the essence of freedom for women, slaves and Americans and the competing requirements of independence and privilege? All of those themes are present in the novel, along with rich historical detail. But they are window dressing. This is a historical romance novel for intellectuals, no matter how well-dressed. Amazon's official reviewers call this "embarrassingly purple". Indeed, there are places where you blush, not only from graphic descriptions of sex but from the language. "Vulgar" may be the better word in some instances.

But I couldn't put this down for two days. The authors created characters whom you rooted for or at least wanted to stay with until you found out if you they got what they deserved. Some of it was heart-breaking- particularly at the end- and at the end you're left wondering if you're looking at the happiest of all endings or the beginning of a tragedy. But that only makes the characters stay with you more. And... some of that purple prose is really well done.

You won't want to put this down.
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