24 August 2011

Review: The Observations by Jane Harris

The Observations by Jane Harris book coverIt's 1863 in Scotland and Bessy is running away from her past towards an unknown future in Edinburgh. On the way, she has a chance encounter with the Lady of the house at Castle Haivers and accepts a job as her housemaid after it is revealed she can read and write.

Bessy is the only housemaid inside the isolated country house - it's hardly a castle - and the Lady of the house, Arabella, soon begins to make some odd requests of her. Bessy is narrating the story and her dialect - attributable to her upbringing, location and it being 1863 of course - makes her instantly endearing to the reader.

By her own admission Bessy is wicked, however she's always trying to improve and she'll do anything for Missus; until she finds out her secret that is. Then everything begins to fall apart and Bessy will do anything to take it all back and tries to apologise to master James.
The Observations is a unique mystery, complete with a creaking attic, a locked drawer, hidden journals and family secrets. I always enjoy these elements in a novel, but in this case, the plot seemed unique and took a different direction than I had been expecting, which was quite refreshing. Bessy also adds a touch of humour to every page and I thoroughly enjoyed her clever but somewhat naive charm.

I was pleased to discover The Observations contains enough gothic elements to qualify as a gothic novel (according to gothicreadingchallenge.blogspot.com) which means this qualifies as one of the books for the Gothic Reading Challenge - I signed up to read 5 by the end of 2011, and this makes #2.

I also have to comment on the cover art, I absolutely adore the cover of this book, it's evocative and powerful and relevant to the story. Visually stunning, I love it!

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

Would you like to comment?

  1. Hello. I am also reading 5 books for the Gothic reading challenge. When I was reading your review I was thinking that it would meet the Gothic criteria and then you mentioned that you were counting this for the challenge. Good luck on the rest of the challenge!

  2. That is a beautiful cover, and sounds like a great read too - not just a pretty face :-)

  3. Wow, a fellow Gothic reading buddy! How are you going on the challenge?

    And mummazappa, I am often wooed by a beautiful cover...

  4. Hi Tracey. I've completed four books. I have one more to go and it is the largest one out of all of them. Not good planning. I'm reading The Mysteries of Udolpho next. I look forward to your Gothic reviews!


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!