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119 Reviews
5 star:
 (59)
4 star:
 (41)
3 star:
 (11)
2 star:
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137 of 143 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flip me but this is entertaining and original!
There are so many novels written these days which are set in the Victorian era that they even have their own category - "Vic Lit". However while there are certainly parallels with, in particular, both "Fingersmith" by Sarah Waters and "The Crimson Petal and the White" by Michel Faber Jane Harris has certainly added something new to the genre. What makes her novel stand...
Published on 1 May 2006 by Gregory S. Buzwell

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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great
The novel is set in late 19th century Scotland and tells the story of Bessy Buckley, a young Irish girl, who is desperate to flee from her difficult, dark past. Her escape route to Glasgow leads her past a country estate - Castle Haivers - where she finds employment as a respectable, though clueless maid. Bessy latches on to her employer, the beautiful, but seemingly odd...
Published on 29 May 2007 by K. J. Black


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Observations, 4 Jan 2010
This review is from: The Observations (Paperback)
It's interesting to see such a consensus in the reviews here - and I agree with the majority who loved the book, and particularly the character of Bessy, but felt that it tailed off a lot in the second half. I'm surprised that no one at the publishing house alerted the author to this problem - or maybe they did? Either way, it's a pity this wasn't addressed as I think the potential for a really brilliant book was here.

As it is, definitely 4 stars rather than 5.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars galloped through this..., 9 Aug 2007
This review is from: The Observations (Paperback)
I couldnt put this down. It has its flaws, its lulls, but overall its a great read. Not particularly profound, and its definitely jumping on the Victoriana bandwaggon, but as a gripping read with a generally taut pacing, I couldnt fault it. I would not compare it to Fingersmith which is much more literary, richer and ultimately more satisfying. I galloped through it, then as soon as Id finished it, felt bereft. Don't you just hate it when you do that?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Enjoyable, 2 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Observations (Kindle Edition)
This was my first Kindle book and initially I thought I had made a mistake with my purchase. However after the first 2 chapters I found that the book took shape and I was intrigued to find out how the characters developed. Bessie is an interesting character and her humour combined with her sensitivity makes the book a compelling read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highlight for anyone's week!, 25 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Observations (Hardcover)
I have always previously tended to steer away from historical novels, because I imagined a heavy scattering of heaving bosoms and obedient females amongst their pages. I have had cause to feel ashamed of my ignorance recently, having read 'The Observations' and other notable historical novels by Katherine McMahon, Michael Faber etc. In 'The Observations', the central character Bessy could not be more different. I have laughed out loud through this book at Bessy's witty if not rather crude turn of phrase which only serves to endear her to us. She is, in every bit, the independent, clever, lovable character I thought I wouldn't find. I have been engrossed by a carefully measured story line which draws you in and, as so many others have said, has made us resentful of anyone wishing to divert us from it! I shall await Jane Harris' next book! Brilliant!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, silly and very entertaining, 31 Aug 2012
By 
Carol Witt (Sydney, New South Wales Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Observations (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this unusual book. It's colourful, well-written and just as good as Jane Harris' second novel, 'Gillespie And I'. "A rollicking good read" is such a cliche, but perfectly describes this entertaining tale of loyalty, obsession and madness. The Scottish setting made a nice change, at least for me, as did all Bessy's quirky phrases. She is tough, funny and smart with a unique voice that's hard to resist. The Dickensian characters and likewise plot make for fun, easy reading with plenty of twists and surprises. C'mon Jane Harris... where is no. three?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Memorable read., 9 April 2012
This review is from: The Observations (Paperback)
I can't imagine why it took me so long to get to read The Observations. Its a great book, and one I couldn't put down. The first chapter had me in hysterics, as I read Bessy's ( the main character) wonderful Turns of phrase, and descriptions which left nothing to the imagination. Based mainly at 'the big house,' and set in the late 19th century, it covers the life, so far of Bessy; her trials, tribulations and successes. Wonderfully written. I'm going now to find another book by Jane Lewis.Gillespie and I.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely readable, 23 Jan 2012
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This review is from: The Observations (Kindle Edition)
I did enjoy this book, although I am not a huge fan of Victoriana as such, which means it stands alone as a good read rather than just as a good example of the genre. . Having said that, it is a good example of the genre, reminiscent not only of Sarah Walters, who again i like, but also of Wilkie Collins - it is well written and very readable. I won't go into the plot, as it's mentioned lots of times here, I just wanted to add another 5 star, because this book is worth it and I was sad to finish it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bessy is a breath of fresh air, 14 Dec 2011
This review is from: The Observations (Paperback)
By rights this book should be quite sad and depressing. Jane Harris has written the character of Bessy so well that I became rather fond of her by the end of the book. Despite a dreadful start to life Bessy is brave, kind and loyal and sharp as a tack. She is also absolutely hilarious. I laughed out loud at several points in the story, especially at the names she invents for people. When her previous master had died Bessy kept a rather unusual momento of her time with him. She is hiding all sorts of dreadful secrets and she isn't the only one. This story is essentially a mystery told in a very original way. A terrific read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Observations, 12 Aug 2011
This review is from: The Observations (Paperback)
I loved this book and couldn't put it down. I hope the authoress will not be insulted when I say she has a Charlotte Bronte style. Lovely.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Celtic voices, 1 April 2007
This review is from: The Observations (Paperback)
I loved this book and was close to tears when I read the last page, not only because it was a moving tale but because I had finished the book and there was no more to come! I hated having to let the characters go. I loved the sound of Bessy's voice - there was so much 'Belfast speak' in there that you don't often read though I'm used to hearing it. There was Scots speak in there too which made a familiar mix to those of us who live in the northern parts of the UK.

The Observations was very much a Victorian novel with shades of Jane Eyre, Rebecca et al interwoven in the story but it is very much Jane Harris' own work. There are plenty of twists, some great characters and lots of humour. Bessy could have been a girl we feel sorry for, a girl who could have been beaten by her background and sad life but she's full of guts and doesn't let her world grind her down.

I hope the author lets us know sometime what happens to her...
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The Observations
The Observations by Jane Harris (Paperback - 7 Dec 2006)
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