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Add This - Blindspot

Written by Jane KamenskyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jane Kamensky and Jill LeporeAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jill Lepore

  • Format: Trade Paperback, 544 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
  • On Sale: December 29, 2009
  • Price: $15.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-385-52620-3 (0-385-52620-2)
Also available as an eBook.
about this book

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

Written with wit and exuberance by longtime friends and distinguished historians, Blindspot is at once history and fiction, mystery and love story, tragedy and farce. Set in boisterous, rebellious Boston on the eve of the American Revolution, it ingeniously weaves together the fictional stories of a Scottish portrait painter and notorious libertine Stewart Jameson, and Fanny Easton, a fallen woman from one of Boston’s most powerful families who disguises herself as a boy to become Jameson’s defiant and seductive apprentice, Francis Weston.

When Boston’s revolutionary leader, Samuel Bradstreet, dies suddenly on the day Jameson is to paint his portrait, Bradstreet’s slaves are accused of murder. Jameson, Weston, and Jameson’s friend, the brilliant African-born Oxford-educated doctor Ignatius Alexander, set out to determine the truth. What they discover turns topsy-turvy conventional knowledge regarding the Founding Fathers.

Peopled not only with the celebrated Sons of Liberty but also with revolutionary Boston’s unsung inhabitants–women and servants, hawkers and rogues and pickpockets–Blindspot is both prodigiously learned and lush with the bawdy sensibility of the eighteenth century. It restores the humanity, the humor, and the passion to the story of the American Revolution.

This book includes a reader’s guide, map, bibliography, and historical essays by the authors.

Visit the authors’ website at

Praise for Blindspot:

“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.”
Library Journal (Starred review and Editor’s Pick)

“An erudite and entertaining recreation of colonial America on the brink of the Revolution.”
The New York Times Book Review

“A droll, edifying novel…Not since John Barth published his classic riff on a genre forged by novelists such as Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson, The Sot-Weed Factor (1960), has anyone rendered colonial America in such exquisite satirical strokes. Blindspot succeeds as raw entertainment; better, it soars as cunning academic revisionism…uproarious…As a piece of writing, Blindspot holds substantial delights…A big, absorbing novel so quirky and apposite that it belongs equally to past and present.”
Chicago Tribune

“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.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Friends by affection, historians by trade, Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore have fashioned in Blindspot a common place in which to romp through the eighteenth century with relish, ribaldry, and a moral regard for the human tragedies concealed beneath the rhetoric of liberty and the pretensions to Enlightenment animating Americans on the cusp of revolution. In this looking glass of a novel, two gifted students of the past reveal a colonial society turned upside down by its own contradictions, mingling virtue and vice, reason and sentiment, philosophy and farce, reality and fiction, and freedom and slavery in an uncharted movement toward a future whose plot had not yet been written–a world, in short, not unlike our own. Huzzah!” –Robert A. Gross, author of The Minutemen and Their World

“No blindspots here. Kamensky and Lepore are superb scholars with eyes wide open to the rich spectacle of human potential and bitter moral failure that marked the eighteenth-century era of revolutions. As history, Blindspot plumbs the vagaries of gender, race, money, and the power of representation and illusion in a changing world. As a novel, the brisk plotting, passionate characters, and high stakes drama make it sentimental fiction, twenty-first century style.” –Karin Wulf, Associate Professor of History and American Studies, College of William and Mary

“Kamensky and Lepore have turned their historical skills to producing a brilliant eighteenth-century style novel set in pre-Revolutionary Boston that is very readable today. Teachers and professors who use fiction to help their students understand the past will find in Blindspot a superb tool. Students will find it hard to put it down–it is American history at its best.” –Lee W. Formwalt, former executive director of the Organization of American Historians

“A riveting story of early America, told by two of its most distinguished historians. Print culture, racial politics, and portrait painting all look rich and strange, seen through a feverish haze of sex and money.” –Wai Chee Dimock, William Lampson Professor of English and American Studies, Yale University

“Joining the sensibility and wit of an eighteenth-century novel to a historically-informed plot, Blindspot is an engrossing and original tale of romance and mystery, of captivity and freedom. Kamensky and Lepore’s cast of characters, led by a Scots immigrant, a ‘fallen’ lady, and a one-time African slave–as well as tradesmen and gentlemen, politicians, magistrates, and common folk–bring to life the sights, sounds, smells, and human drama of Revolutionary Boston.” –Richard Brown, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of History, University of Connecticut

“Only historians as deeply immersed in eighteenth-century worlds as Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore could have written this delightful book. A send-up of period literary forms and an intimate tour of life in Revolutionary Boston, Blindspot entertains as it enlightens.” –Daniel K. Richter, Director, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania, and author of Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America

“Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore's wondrous new period novel, Blindspot, is populated by fascinating people and offers a rich and satisfying read. The intersection of history and ordinary lives is often difficult to describe for even the finest historians. The gifts of imagination and storytelling can bridge the gap. Lepore and Kamensky use those gifts and skills brilliantly in giving us intersecting stories about love, liberty, and community that stay focused on individuals living their lives as well as possible during the turbulent 18th century. This is a sweeping, romantic, outrageously funny novel filled with romance, political intrigue, and even a murder mystery. I loved Blindspot.”
–Bill Lewis, Northshire Books

“I stumbled upon Blindspot at our local library this past weekend, and I think I am going to have to buy a copy for myself. I teach AP English as well as an interdisciplinary American Studies class to 10th graders in New Hampshire, and just before we spent a class period with Anne Bradstreet, I read Fanny’s letter when she wrote about her schoolmistress with the ‘carping tongue’ who ‘said my hands would best a needle fit’! Of course I put a Post-it note on the page, and after showing my class Bradstreet’s prologue, I read to them from [this] book. What fun! I am imagining the two authors writing this book, and I am jealous. There is so much to delight in: the back page, the back and forth in the pages, the dog breath on the cross Atlantic voyage, the ‘crewel work and cruel work’ and ‘palate and palette’. This book will be an ideal supplement in any upper level high school class that touches on the American Revolution.” –Deb Bacon Nelson, Lebanon High School, Lebanon, NH

"All prudence fled my house when this Book entered. I cast aside my duties, I burned my candle low, in the reading of it. The teller of this tale is a Scottish Face-Painter, dogged by debt, who flees Edinburgh in 1764 for the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay. There the gentleman employs an Apprentice yclept Edward Weston. The lad's letters to a bosom friend disclose that Edward Weston is, forsooth, Fanny Easton, a lady in disguise.
Soon is their household enlarged by the advent of an unredeemed captive, a genius. He vows to prove as murder the mysterious death of a friend, a gentleman who has denounced slaveholding. Contention abounds, for in the city upon the hill, the British yoke chafes.
Romance, too, soon enters the house: though the painter seeks a Widow Bountiful, he finds himself distracted by a stirring in his heart & loins for his apprentice, Edward (or, as the Reader knows her to be, Fanny).
Not the story alone seduced me, but word play most witty: riddles, puns, and quotations, and also other play--carnal--that happily escaped the scrutiny of the board of Censors.
The learned Reader might remark on figures from True Life, for the two authors toiled in libraries, galleries, archives &c. to build fiction inspir'd by Truth. Their researches surely have merit, for they were apprenticed to scholars at Yale, that seat of learning, and their novel honors a dear Professor, viz. John Demos. Now themselves Professors of History close by Massachusetts-Bay, the authors remain fast friends. This tale is the fruit of their labours, and O, dear Reader, what pleasures await you!"
–Cathy Shufro, Yale Alumni Magazine