Monday, December 7, 2009

Blindspot: By a Gentleman in Exile and a Lady in Disguise

For my second installment of The Alphabet in Historical Fiction Challenge, I decided to read a new book by new to me authors. The book, Blindspot: By a Gentleman in Exile and a Lady in Disguise is written by two long time friends, Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore.

Here's the blurb for Blindspot:
“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friends and accomplished historians Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore, Blindspot weaves together invention with actual historical documents in an affectionate send-up of the best of eighteenth-century fiction, from epistolary novels like Richardson’s Clarissa to Sterne’s picaresque Tristram Shandy.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.

The book is written in journal entries and letter format. Usually I am not a fan of this format but I enjoyed in this book. It added to the story. I found myself while reading it wondering what would happen in the next entry or letter.

The setting of the story was wonderful, the authors description of Boston during the time was interesting and very vivid in my opinion. It may have helped that I recently watched the John Adams mini-series, so Boston and the area (of Revolutionary time) was still very real in my head, thanks to Hollywood magic.

I enjoyed the characters very much. Jameson, a gentleman artist in exile by his own choosing, has a great sense of right and wrong, a deep passion for his art, is a true friend who doesn't look at the color of skin to see a man's personality, and who also struggles with deep feelings that he cannot ignore but has to for his own sanity. Then there's Fanny, a young woman who grew up with in a family of means, but by her own decision leaves her family after a tragedy. And to survive she does things that she isn't particularly proud of doing. She reaches a depth that she knows she has to leave, and doing so she masquerades herself as a young male apprentice to an artist, Jameson.

I lost myself in this book, it drew me in and I couldn't put it down until the very last page. And to say that I was disappointed with the ending is an understatement. I was hoping for more, I felt like there wasn't enough closure. Where is the rest? Will there be another book with these characters? I have so many questions that were left unanswered. And for that reason alone I'm not giving this book a perfect 5.

Blindspot: By a Gentleman in Exile and a Lady in Disguise by Jane Kamensky & Jill Lepore (4/5) Historical Fiction; Published: Spiegel & Grau (12/2008); New Authors; Alphabet Historical Challenge (2); 2009 100 + Reading Challenge (139);


Sarah said...

Thanks for the review - I have this book on my shelf waiting to be read. I also saw the John Adams miniseries and enjoyed it.

Cat said...

Great review. Sounds interesting except for the ending.

Leya said...

Sarah and Cat thanks for stopping by Wandeca Reads. :D

It was a definitely a great read, a pity that the ending wasn't to my liking. If you get around to reading this book I would love to hear your thoughts. :)

Rowenna said...

Thanks for this review--the subject is one that really fascinates me, but I would have been put off by the journal/letter format. I'm glad that you mentioned that you generally don't prefer these but enjoyed this regardless--I'll keep it in mind for future reading!

Steph said...

Based on your excellent review, I am definitely interested in this one. It sounds like the author does a wonderful job of creating interesting characters and evoking the time and place.

Marg said...

This does sound very interesting! I am not usually a fan of letters etc as a format either, but after reading and loving Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society last year which uses this format I would be willing to give this one a go too. Adding it to the TBR list!