So there I was with two pens, my two titties, Charles Dickens, two slices of bread and a blank book at the end of my first day in the middle of nowhere. Except as it turned out it wasn't quite the end...Scotland, 1863. In an attempt to escape her not-so-innocent past in Glasgow, Bessy Buckley - the wide-eyed Irish heroine of "The Observations" - ...
So there I was with two pens, my two titties, Charles Dickens, two slices of bread and a blank book at the end of my first day in the middle of nowhere. Except as it turned out it wasn't quite the end...Scotland, 1863. In an attempt to escape her not-so-innocent past in Glasgow, Bessy Buckley - the wide-eyed Irish heroine of "The Observations" - takes a job as a maid in a big house outside Edinburgh working for the beautiful Arabella. Bessy is intrigued by her new employer, but puzzled by her increasingly strange requests and her insistence that Bessy keep a journal of her most intimate thoughts. And it seems that Arabella has a few secrets of her own - including her near-obssessive affection for Nora, a former maid who died in mysterious circumstances. Then a childish prank has drastic consquences which throw into jeopardy all that Bessy has come to hold dear. Caught up in a tangle of madness, ghosts, sex and lies, she is determined to remain devoted to Arabella. But who is really responsible for what happened to her predecessor Nora? As her past threatens to catch up with her and complicate matters even further, Bessy begins to realise that she has not quite landed on her feet. "The Observations" is a brilliantly original, funny and endlessly intriguing story of one woman's journey from a difficult past into an even more disturbing present. This powerful story of secrets and suspicions, hidden histories, and mysterious disappearances is at once compelling and heart-warming, showing the redemptive power of love, loyalty and friendship. A hugely assured and darkly comic debut, "The Observations" is certain to establish Jane Harris as a significant new literary talent.
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I believe I am now convinced I have no appreciation of gothic tales. This may be a good book for some but not to my taste: I wasn't wild about the writer's chosen style or the main character's vernacular--it just doesn't work for me. I gave it about 75 pages and kept wondering, "Okay, where's the story?" then just figured to move on to something else. Still, if you've an appreciation of stories in this genre it might be a good choice for you.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-04-10 Bessy Buckley comes upon Castle Haivers on her way to Edinburgh in 1863. An Irish girl, she's in "Scratchland" to improve her station, and ends up a scullery maid to a strange, lovely mistress, Arabella Reid (on whom she develops something of a crush), despite her lack of experience. Bessy's discovery of Arabella's book, The Observations, which she is writing about servants she's had and their cooperativeness, tests her loyalty to Arabella ("the missus") five-fold and sets in motion a tragedy (complete with supernatural elements). Bessy learns that being above-stairs is no guarantee of happiness, and others may have as much to hide as she does. Sharp, funny and tender-hearted, Bessy is an accomplishment for Londoner and first-time novelist Harris, who also manages the pace, period and book-within-a-book conceit nicely. (June 19) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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