read_warbler (read_warbler) wrote,

The Observations - Jane Harris

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I've returned to my Chunkster Challenge books at long last! About time - I've been ignoring the list for several months. Anyway, The Observations appealed, so that was the one I picked up. This one was on the list because I'd heard quite a lot about it and it sounded like it might be my kind of thing. Which it was.

The story is set in the 1860s, in and around Glasgow. 'Bessy' is 15, Irish and, for reasons I won't go into, escaping the city and her mother. She lands up at Castle Haivers and gets taken on as a maid come housekeeper even though she has no training and is clueless. It very soon becomes apparent that her beautiful employer, Arabella Reid, is an odd woman. She wants Bessy to keep a daily journal of her doings and thoughts, she starts measuring her facial features and then treats Bessy to some very sudden mood swings. Bessy is curious (aren't they all?) and starts poking around. She finds a book in a drawer that her mistress is writing and things get very interesting from there on...

The strength of this book is definitely Bessy. The plot itself is pretty run-of-the-mill but her narration (it's told in the first person) brings the tale alive. She minces no words at all in saying what she thinks and her comments are in turn funny, bawdy, and very irreverent. You really do get a good idea what it must have been like to be poor and living in 19th. century Scotland - how the poor were treated, especially those who went into service. Drunkeness, prostitution, poverty, human frailty, it's all there in this book along with a good understanding of friendship and loyalty. Not a bad read at all.

Right, so now I'm all ready for The Deathly Hallows. I've been spoilt twice which is annoying but not the end of the world and anyway I've no way of knowing if the spoilers are true. I shan't have time to rush through it like I normally do so it'll be a more leisurely read than usual. I planned to reread The Halfblood Prince before DH was published too but that didn't happen! Oh well. At some stage I think I'll spend a few weeks rereading the entire seven books just to get a good overview of the whole thing. It's going to be so weird to have no more books to look forward to though, kind of like the end of an era. Just a tiny bit sad really.
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