Early American Portraiture: Review of Blindspot



If you like American Revolution historical fiction that is written in diary/letter form along with historical accounts (snippets of newspaper articles and the like), and portions of historically-significant works, you will like Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore’s Blindspot. This is one of the books from my Goodreads wish list from 2011.

Stewart Jameson is an Scot in exile, escaping his debtors who seek to put him in prison. He is a Scot, whose good heart lands him in the predicament that forces him to seek shelter in Boston, Massachusetts. He meets up with a young male, a Francis Weston, who lands on his doorstep, after some misadventures that had forced the Fanny Easton to become Francis Weston. Francis becomes Stewart’s apprentice. Stewart is a portrait artist, and from the narrative, is fairly good at it.

Francis, and later Fanny, and Stewart become enamored with each other. In 1760’s Boston, this poses a problem for Stewart as everyone but two thinks Fanny is a male. Along with this is Stewart’s wish to resolve the issue of what caused him to flee to America. That issue in the form of a Dr. Alexander that is perceived by the town to be a slave, turns up on his doorstep as well. Stewart, who has bought his friend’s freedom back in London, takes his friend in. His friend is a learned soul, and a smart one, and a rebellious one.

Before long, Stewart, the good doctor, and Francis aka Fanny, are embroiled in a murder mystery, one that revolves around the sudden death of a man that sat for Stewart to have his portrait painted. Two slaves in the victim’s household are arrested, a trial is had, the suspects are found guilty, and one is hanged while the female slave is destined for the West Indies to work in the sugar cane field as a slave. Stewart and crew must find out who’s responsible for the murder before it is too late for the female slave and her baby, which has been decreed by the court to be sold.

Blindspot is a treasure trove of history, art, books, and romance (some the sex is graphic though tastefully done) from the period. It a bit long in the tooth but still an enjoyable read and an education. The novel was well-written particularly given that there are two authors.