Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Observations

Bessy Buckley is an Irish teenage girl with keen observation and a sense of humour. She is on her way to Edinburgh, hoping to make something of herself and to escape from her past. However, she ends up enlisting herself as a servant when she comes to Castle Haivers. Her missus, as she calls her, is the beautiful but strange Arabella Reid. Bessy is very fond of her young missus and would do anything within her means to please her, even if it is one of those odd instructions such as the “stand-ups/sit-downs” test. It is important to note that Bessy was hired because she can read and write, something very uncommon for a maid of that time. Her missus gives her a journal and she is to report her daily doings including her feelings and thoughts on those pages.

Bessy's curiosity gets the better of her and she soon discovers a book that Arabella has been working on called The Observations. In this book, she writes her research on servants she's had and their cooperativeness. The book has chapters and mostly in the form of the servants’ names. Upon discovering that her investigative missus actually knew a little bit of her past (she eagerly flips to the page containing her name), she begins plotting a revenge in the form of a haunting. Boy, did she regret it and wished she could turn back time. Also central to the plot is a dead servant girl by the name of Nora, the 'perfect' one who has served the missus before she came along.

I’ve enjoyed reading Bessy’s observations and marvelled at her story-telling ability. Jane Harris has created a character that endears readers to her wittiness and tender-heartedness. Even though the book is over 500 pages, I find it easy to sail right through and savour every moment as the story unfolds itself. A good first novel by Harris, no doubt about it.