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Blindspot
Cover of Blindspot
Blindspot
A Novel
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BONUS: This edition contains a Blindspot discussion guide.

Stewart Jameson, a Scottish portrait painter fleeing his debtors in Edinburgh, has washed up on the British Empire's far shores--in the city of Boston, lately seized with the spirit of liberty. Eager to begin anew, he advertises for an apprentice, but the lad who comes knocking is no lad at all. Fanny Easton is a fallen woman from Boston's most prominent family who has disguised herself as a boy to become Jameson's defiant and seductive apprentice.

Written with wit and exuberance by accomplished historians, Blindspot is an affectionate send-up of the best of eighteenth-century fiction. It celebrates the art of the Enlightenment and the passion of the American Revolution by telling stories of ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary time.

BONUS: This edition contains a Blindspot discussion guide.

Stewart Jameson, a Scottish portrait painter fleeing his debtors in Edinburgh, has washed up on the British Empire's far shores--in the city of Boston, lately seized with the spirit of liberty. Eager to begin anew, he advertises for an apprentice, but the lad who comes knocking is no lad at all. Fanny Easton is a fallen woman from Boston's most prominent family who has disguised herself as a boy to become Jameson's defiant and seductive apprentice.

Written with wit and exuberance by accomplished historians, Blindspot is an affectionate send-up of the best of eighteenth-century fiction. It celebrates the art of the Enlightenment and the passion of the American Revolution by telling stories of ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary time.

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Had Columbus my gut, the world would be a smaller place. And maybe the better for it. O brave new world: wild, rebellious, mysterious, and strange. And distant. God above, who knew it could be sobloody far?

    Now begins a gentleman's exile, and, with it, my tale.

    You may wonder, dear Reader, dear, unfathomable Reader, why I have undertaken this voyage, why a man of parts, of fine parts, I may say, and education, better than most, would hazard a crossing and that, in April, the most treacherous of months--showers sweet turn to tempests bitter--and, worse, on a galleon with no berth for a gentleman but a bunk not fit for a dog, not even my mastiff, Gulliver--and I, though six foot tall, his Lilliputian--who, despite my best efforts, splays himself, fleas
    and all, atop my moth- ridden blanket, with me huddled under it, as if I were a city and he a great army, equipped with cauldrons of drool, besieging me. While you wonder why I wander, know this: run I must.

    Aye, I would have stayed home if I could. If I could. Instead, each day the winds blow me farther from the dales and vales of Jamesons past, clan of clans, men among men, though, truth be told--and here, dear Reader, it will be told, and without ornament--our tartan is sold by the yard at Covent Garden to every shaver, ever striver, every waster with twopence in his pocket and a plan to marry a merry widow with ten thousand a year and an estate in Derbyshire, with horses, comely, and tenants, timely in their rents. Had I ever come across such a lady--let us call her the Widow Bountiful--I would have wooed her with sighs enough to heat a stone- cold bed- chamber in the dead of winter. Perhaps she waits for me, my Widow B., somewhere on the other side of this
    wretched sea. Hark, she pants for me. Or, no, 'tis only Gulliver, giant cur.

    As a man of both sense and sincerity, I admit, freely, and with that same unsparing candor which you must henceforth expect of me, that I leave behind little but debt. Twould be an even greater sorrow to leave Edinburgh, that nursery of enlightened genius, did not each degree of longitude stretch the distance betwixt me and my creditors, to whom I owe so much gold, and so little gratitude, the brothers McGreevy, with their Monday duns, Tuesday threats, and Wednesday bludgeons. Suffice to say: I sailed on a Thursday, a day too late, with the scars to show for
    it. Departed, the Sea- Serpent, April 5, 1764.

    Sterner men on stouter ships have crossed this vast and furious ocean, training their hopeful gaze upon the horizon; I, ever squeamish, scan only the depths and see naught but gloom. I would blind myself--and spare you the sight--but I find, as ever, that I cannot close my painter's eye. Here the blue sloshes into green, and there, gray, and just here, as I lean over the gunwales, lo but the ocean becomes a rainbow of muck, a palette of putrefaction. The lurching, the To and the Fro, are my twin tormentors; and the sea, my sewer and my jailer.

    Wheel of Fortune, pray, turn: let some young Bluebeard take the Sea-Serpent as his prize. Let his pirates throw me overboard. Let them haul me 'neath the keel and drown me. Sweet Jesus, just get me off this ship. Captain Pumble, a bulge- eyed, blotchy frog of a man, hops about the deck, uncloaked, even against the fearsome wind, as I, shivering, lean over the rails once again. He tells me that Boston will be temperate by the time we dock.

    "Yar, 'twill be blooming in the city," croaks he, clapping me on the back, as jolly as if we were sat in a tavern, instead of steering through a storm. "Ladies walking about without shawls. And a dandy, and a Scots gent, no less, will be most welcome...

About the Author-
  • Jane Kamensky is a professor of American history and chair of the History Department at Brandeis University. She is the author of The Exchange Artist and Governing the Tongue, among other books. Her scholarship has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She is currently writing a biography of the eighteenth-century American portrait painter Gilbert Stuart. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and two sons.

    Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History at Harvard University, where she is the chair of the History and Literature Program. She is also a regular contributor to The New Yorker. Her books include The Name of War and A Is for American. Her most recent book, New York Burning, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband, three sons, and an extraordinarily large and formidable dog of entirely mysterious extraction.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 4, 2008
    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.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from September 1, 2008
    Portrait painter and libertine Stuart Jameson arrives in 1764 Boston as many arrived in the American Colonies, one step ahead of the law. Fleeing a sheriff and debtor's prison in Edinburgh and hoping to start anew, he makes his first stop in the New World at the print shop of Benjamin Edes to purchase cards, a map, and a history of the city, but he comes away having found prospective lodgings, more information than he cared to know about the deteriorating situation between the Colonies and their British rulers, and a staunch friend. He also places an announcement of his services as a portrait painter and an accompanying advertisement for an apprentice, both of which bring him unexpected surprises. Francis Weston, the apprentice, is talented beyond his wildest dreams, and Jameson's burgeoning business soon plunges him into the dramatic affairs and intense politics of Boston's most influential families. Readers not put off by the slow start will be rewarded by a beautifully crafted debut historical novel that is at once a tender love story, a murder mystery, and a brilliant sociological and political portrait of a turbulent time. The authors are noted historians. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, "LJ" 8/08; see also "Editors' Fall Picks," p. 28-33.Ed.]Cynthia Johnson, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA

    Copyright 2008 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Newsday "A rip-roaring yarn, a real romp; these pals may be professors, but their novel is about as dry as two little boys in one big puddle. . . ambitious as well as fun. . . It's fantastic–the romance novel of your dreams."
  • Washington Post "Both frisky and learned . . . a treat."
  • San Francisco Chronicle "A lusty romance, a murder mystery, and a bit of Americana, all rolled into one big, fat historical romp. . . Lepore and Kamensky have recreated a fascinating world and brought history hotly alive."
  • Library Journal, starred review and Editor's Pick "At once a tender love story, a murder mystery, and a brilliant portrait of a turbulent time."
  • Wall Street Journal "A portrait of pre-Revolutionary Boston that is true to the spirit of the time while inventing a couple of romantic, witty, down-on-their-luck, larger-than-life characters struggling to stay afloat in tumultuous times."
  • Rocky Mountain News "The authors capture the florid prose and brassy banter of their pre-Revolutionary Bostonian subjects with imagination and verisimilitude."
  • San Diego Union Tribune "A very smart book. . . captured colonial America's wit and vulgarity, its sensibility, sensuality, and snobbery."
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