Mezzowriter's ReadWriter Blog

Reading, Writing, and The Search for Buried Gems of Literature

What I’m Reading #3: The Observations January 10, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews,What I'm Reading — mezzowriter @ 5:55 pm
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As usual, I have a little ADD when it comes to reading.  I am often working on more than one book at a time, usually in a combination of contrasting genres, depending on my mood.

So, I picked up Jane Harris’ debut novel from 2005:  The Observations.

I found it in my favorite used book store while browsing–which is where I often dig up gems.


The Observations by Jane Harris

Faber & Faber, 2005

Courtesy of

From Publishers Weekly

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)
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I’m about halfway through it, and love its edgy heroine and Harris’ gift for storytelling and dialect.  It’s witty in a way that I don’t often see in historical fiction.  I’ll update more when I finish.

January 12, 2010

I stayed up far too late finishing this one, but was compelled to.

Strengths: I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  Normally books that are written using a dialect wear on me after a while, but this one didn’t.  The wit and sass of the heroine made the use of the dialect necessary–and I really grew to love her by the end.  It was a little bit gothic, a little bit comedy, a little bit historical fiction.  A very skillfully written book overall.

Potential Flaws: It was hard to isolate any potential issues with this book.  To force something here for the sake of having something would do it a disservice.

My Rating:

A delightful read, HIGHLY recommended.