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Blindspot: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle) Paperback – December 29, 2009
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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 Audio CD 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 Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Couched in the language and style of the 18th Century, Blindspot is subtitled "By a Lady in Disguise & a Gentleman in Exile." The book tells the unlikely tale of Stewart Jameson and Fanny Easton, who find themselves caught up in the chaotic politics of pre-Revolutionary America at its epicenter in Boston as they seek to solve a murder of one of the city's most prominent men. Major Revolutionary-era figures such as Ben Franklin and Gilbert Stuart appear in thin disguises with bit parts, and others without camouflage of any sort. And a major character, Dr. Ignatius Alexander, billed as "the celebrated African genius," greatly resembles the historical figure, Mr. Ignatius Sancho, who bore the same distinction in that era. The authors make generous use of the corny dramatic plot devices found in 17th Century literature and on the stage, but it's all in good fun. Though I felt guilty from time to time at the often sophomoric humor, I enjoyed Blindspot immensely.
Jill Lepore and Jane Kamensky are both accomplished historians. Lepore holds an endowed professorship at Harvard; Kamensky chairs the history department at Brandeis. Their other books are all eminently respectable works of nonfiction. They wrote this book to have fun, and I'm glad they did. I had a great time, too.
(From Mal Warwick's Blog on Books)
Set in the decade prior to the American Revolution, Blindspot leads one through the seedlings of the distinct American point of view that ripened to independence. You can feel the ambivalence towards slavery among Bostonians of the time and the tension arising as the rationale for liberty from the crown resounds so well with colonials, yet the same logic if applied to personal freedom invalidates any and all rationale for slavery.
Blindspot is a delightful and historically authentic visit to Colonial Boston, best enjoyed with a cup of (duty free) tea.
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.
Like some other reviewers, I found the unveiling of the solution to the murder mystery to be somewhat strained and the character of the cross-dresser's father to be rather inexplicable. On the whole, though, I was absorbed by the book as I read and will remember the experience fondly. I suppose the book is not for everyone, but if you have a soft spot for 18th-century ribaldry, this novel will not let you down.