Author: Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
First line: Had Columbus my gut, the world would be a smaller place.
Blindspot, subtitled By a Gentleman in Exile and a Lady in Disguise, is a book that, in some ways, defies description. Authors Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore have written this novel as a mixture of journal entries, letters, and newspaper clippings, with bawdy puns and children’s riddles thrown in. Oh, and a wicked sense of humor.
The year is 1764. The (sub)title characters are Stewart Jameson and Fanny Easton. Jameson is a portrait painter from Edinburgh, who escapes his creditors and comes to Boston to ply his trade. He puts an ad in the local paper advertising for an apprentice.
Fanny Easton, at age 21, is already a fallen woman. Her father has cast her out of his house, and she is living in poverty. She binds her breasts, dresses as a boy, and answers Jameson’s ad as Francis Weston. Then the fun begins.
This is a historical novel that reads as if it was written in the time it portrays. The issues of the time are front and center: taxation without representation, liberty for the colonies, and the evils of slavery. While these issues could bog down a book, that’s not the case with Blindspot, mainly because Jameson has such a sly, slightly crude sense of humor. There are a few laugh-out-loud moments, and many, many passages that brought a smile to my face. I noticed that some of the reviewers on Goodreads.com didn’t quite get what the authors were going for, and that’s too bad. To try to read this book as any other novel completely misses what it is going for. It’s a “true history” in the same style that Tom Jones is a “true history.”
The authors also throw in many literary quotes and allusions, from Jane Eyre to Robinson Crusoe and Shakespeare to Milton. I love that zing of recognition I get when I read a reference to a loved work.
Even though this book deals with heavy historical issues, it is first and foremost a romance. And it is a pretty steamy romance – leaving not much to the imagination. Many of the love scenes were a bit too descriptive for my taste, but I enjoyed the rest of the book enough to keep reading to find out how it ended. I won’t give too much away, but I will say that the ending left me hungry to know what further adventures Jameson and Fanny have.
This is a re-post of a review I wrote a couple of years ago.