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Comment: This book has already been loved by someone else. It MIGHT have some wear and tear on the edges, have some markings in it, or be an ex-library book. Over-all it's still a good book at a great price! (if it is supposed to contain a CD or access code, that may be missing)
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The Observations Paperback – June 27, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Harris' debut, set in Scotland in 1863, is narrated by the lively, sharp Bessy Buckley, who leaves Glasgow and happens into a job as a maid at Castle Haivers, an estate nowhere near as grand as its name suggests. Her mistress, Arabella, takes a personal interest in Bessy and encourages her to write her thoughts and experiences in a journal. She also subjects Bessy to odd experiments, but Bessy goes along with them because she is flattered by the attention and quickly growing attached to her mistress. Things change when Bessy snoops in Arabella's locked desk and discovers the book Arabella has been writing, The Observations, a study of the "habits and nature of the Domestic Class." Bessy is incensed to read some less-than-favorable things about herself in the account, as well as to learn of her mistress' affection for one of her predecessors, a girl who died under mysterious circumstances. Bessy concocts a revenge that ends up having consequences far more lasting than she ever envisioned. Bessy's unique, witty voice distinguishes this boisterous novel. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143112015
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143112013
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #648,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Harris was born in Belfast and grew up in Scotland before moving to England in her 20s. Her first book "The Observations" won the USA Book of the Month Club's First Fiction Prize in 2007 and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007 and the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in 2009. Her second novel "Gillespie and I" was shortlisted for the National Book Awards in 2011 in England and the Scottish Book Awards in 2012.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader on June 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The voice of Bessy Buckley is what makes "The Observations." Tart, scrappy, plain-spoken, and a liar, she is a teenaged Irish girl stumbling across Scotland on her way to Edinburgh and whatever that city may hold. She turns in the direction of a sign marked `Castle Haivers' to get rid of an annoying Scottish boy, and is taken on there by the Castle's strange mistress. She is asked to do a number of unusual tasks by beautiful Arabella Reid, on whom she develops rather a crush. Bessy's ability to read is both her blessing and her curse when she discovers Arabella's journal recording the obedience of servants, one in which Bessy does not receive the highest marks. Never one to take a slight in stride, Bessy uses Arabella's weaknesses against her, resulting in a tragedy that may fulfill Bessy's greatest hope.

First-novelist Jane Harris has created a terrific character is Bessy, a girl whose tender-hearted nature is revealed in the way she guards her protector's last act--pooping a tiny turd--in a silk bag. It would take a girl from the bowels of Glasgow to consider this a homage, but that's the kind of thing that makes Bessy so appealing. Less successful are Arabella and the whole supernatural element of the story. Victorian ghost stories spiced with 19th century hypocrisy/perversion are just not as interesting as Bessy Buckley scrubbing floors or snooping in drawers.

Harris's ability to create character and spin a good story is beyond doubt. She doesn't need to rely on ghostly gimmicks to make her story work, and I hope that she goes for a straight historical novel next time. She writes a great sense of place, time and character, and I look forward to her next concoction.
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Format: Hardcover
An Irish lass in 1860's Scotland, Bessy Buckley is down on her luck, her former "employer" having left this mortal coil. With nothing to her name but the dress on her back, Bessy takes to the road, hoping to find work somewhere along the way. By happenstance, while coming to the aid of a local man's wife, Arabella Reid, Bessy lies her way into employment, but her duplicity is exposed when she fails to milk a cow, one of her new duties; Reid calls Bessy back and takes her gladly into her home when she realizes that the girl can read and write. One of Bessy's new duties will entail keeping a detailed journal, although she must be taught how to properly assemble her thoughts into a coherent form on the pages. Happy enough in her new role, Bessy has clean clothes and a room for sleeping, although she must endure extremely odd orders from her new employer.

While snooping in Arabella's room, Bessy discovers the woman is writing a book, Observations on the Habits and Nature of the Domestic Class in My Home; some of the remarks written about Bessy are none too kind. Miffed, her feelings hurt, Bessy nurtures a grudge that will fester the longer she works for Mrs. Reid. Over time, Bessy learns there have been other girls, one of whom, Nora, disappeared and was later found dead near the railroad tracks, causing much grief to Arabella. Growing attached to Arabella in spite of her critical comments, Bessy's jealousy is pricked by the very mention of Nora and the effect the girls name has on Mrs. Reid. Bessy craves a small revenge. Unfortunately, her petty machinations result in the unraveling of the Reid household, uncovering the troubling events surrounding Nora's demise.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Fifteen-year-old Bessy Buckley "had reason to leave Glasgow," but that reason she'll tell you later on. First, she wants to start at the beginning of her story. In her journey along the Great Road toward Edinburgh --- which she made on foot, for this is 1863 and the automobile is a ways off yet --- she encounters a lady chasing a pig, which she thinks looks like tremendous fun. She stops to see if she can help. This woman turns out to be the mistress of Castle Haivers, a grand manor that is a little the worse for wear by the time Bessy gets there, but the offer of work as a maid is a far cry better than what she left in Glasgow.

A strange but electric kind of relationship builds between the maid and the lady of the house. Even a bold and bawdy young Irish girl fleeing a questionable past needs someone to love and care for. Bessy forms a fierce attraction for her mistress, with an almost desperate desire to please. Unfortunately, lady Arabella exhibits some unique behavior, eccentric at best. Right off, Bessy notes "...there was something queer about all could have sensed it a mile off downwind with your eyes blindfolded your nose blocked your ears stopped up and a cork in your hole."

Well, Bessy can read and write, to Arabella's delight, and the lady takes it upon herself to teach her more proper ways. She asks her, as she has all her previous maids, to keep a journal of her daily doings. Bessy writes freestyle, without the bother of commas and periods, which she deems about as understandable as goat droppings. As Arabella gets her to pay more attention, more punctuation finds its way into Bessy's story. If currying favor with missus means learning how to use those funny dots and squiggles, so be it.
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