Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I have had a perfect storm of reading. I had nothing I had to do, the day was cold and overcast, there was the cozy chair, the blanket, and the book. A fantastic book. Why had I not read this book before? This was a Read It Or Remove It title I pulled out from stack 437B. I remember getting it. I remember looking forward to reading it. I do not remember what prevented me from reading it. Oh well. Water under an important bridge. The book is a debut novel by Jane Harris, The Observations.
The Observations is the story of a footloose and one step ahead of the law young woman named Bessy Buckley, formerly Daisy O'Toole. It's 1863 and Bessy is eager to improve her station and maybe to lay low for a bit as well. On her way to Edinburgh she comes across the once grand Castle Haivers. The mistress, Arabella Reid, hires Bessy as a scullery maid. Bessy thinks she has charmed Arabella into employment but maybe Arabella has an agenda of her own? Arabella spends her time secretly working on her opus, Observations on the Habits and Nature of the Domestic Class in My Time (I love that!) and demands that Bessy keep a diary of her servitude. It isn't long before there is as much to worry about at the Castle as there was in any of Bessy's other more licentious occupations.
The Observations is Victorian Gothic with a devious twist of delicious humor. Jane Harris has provided me (And you all too!) with glorious storytelling and my new favorite fictional character, Bessy Buckley. To be honest I can't remember if I had a fave before I met Bessy but if I did they have been supplanted. My Mother would have described Bessy as "no better than she should have been". She is a streetwise, cynical, uneducated, brilliant and kind hearted survivor.
The book within a book conciet has been done and done but when it's done well as it was in The Observations it is a joy. Congrats to first time novelist Harris for pulling it off so well. Now where is book #2 Ms. Harris?
What did not I adore about this book? hmmm....nothing except that it ended.
P.S. The cover? All wrong. Not attractive and not right for this novel.