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Publisher's Summary

In this novel, set in Scotland in 1863, Bessy Buckley attempts to escape her past by taking a job as a maid in a big house outside of Edinburgh, where she works for the beautiful Arabella. Bessy is intrigued by her new employer, but puzzled by her increasingly strange requests.
© Jane Harris; (P) Clipper Audio

Critic Reviews

"Bessy's unique, witty voice distinguishes this boisterous novel." (Booklist)
"Sharp, funny and tender-hearted." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    66
  • 4 Stars
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  • 3 Stars
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  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    10

Performance

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    18
  • 4 Stars
    14
  • 3 Stars
    13
  • 2 Stars
    2
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    1

Story

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    15
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Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Funny & Extremely Well-Read

Normally, I shy away from books read by their own authors, but after listening to the audio sample, I made an exception. Jane Harris has not only written a highly entertaining book about a sharp-witted Irish girl, working as a maid for a strange English woman in 19th century Scotland - but she also gives voice to her characters with a level of skill that few professional readers possess.

Do yourself a big favor & get this audiobook. You won't be disappointed.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Angela
  • Centerville, OH, United States
  • 09-01-08

Great book!

Favorite things about this book: 1) Narrator does a great job on the different voices/accents and the manners of speech, i.e. some of Bessie's pert smart-alec comments. She made me laugh out loud in a few places, a rarity in a rather gothic tale, 2) Ms. Harris also kept me guessing. I have read other reviews that complained that some characters are not fleshed out other than Bessie, but that is what keeps me (and Bessie) guessing, 3) the writing is terrific!

I am partial to historical fiction - if you liked The Thirteenth Tale, you'll probably enjoy The Observations. Most gothic-type stories do move rather slow but with a good author there is a joy and delight in the words as you move to the conclusion.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

As Engrossing As It Is Charming

I've spent the last three days rattling around inside Bessy's head, and I've come out thinking with a slight Irish accent, amused at the earthy side of life. I can't imagine how I found this wonderful book, since the review is so sketchy, but there you have it - it was meant to be. This story of a Irish teenager in Scotland in the 19th century will appeal to history lovers who are looking for a taste of what life was truly like, as well as mystery seekers. Bessy's story unfolds a mystery which is thoroughly solved by the last word (don't you hate it when the last quarter of a book appears to be written in a hurry and ends are left a' danglin'?) I enjoyed this book so much I'll probably listen again to pick up more pieces now that I know how the tale resolves itself. Go ahead and get it if you are reading this to decide - you won't be sorry. Truly.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Tour de Force Performance by the Brilliant Author

Listening to this book was a strange experience. Was I riveted? Definately. Did I know what would happen next? Never. Was it well read? Brilliantly so. Was the story well told? As a period piece, it was an honest depiction of a strata of society that sometimes landed like a gut punch. Having finished it 24 hours ago, I am still processing the experience. In many ways it reminded me of another book, Black Body, about a young witch in service -- facinating, dark, moving and terrifying all at once. And a book I will never forget. One thing I can say for certain, I will be watching for more books by this author. Jane Harris is clearly a genius. And if we're lucky, she will read her next book for us as well.

If you're looking for something that will immerse you in the life of a very young Irish immigrant in Scotland, who is turned out to whore for her bread, who then finds redemption -- this book is for you. The accents and characters will ring true from beginning to end.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Stunningly Fabulous!

I can hardly believe that this is a FIRST book by Jane Harris, and that she narrates it! The story is terrific and listening to it is a delight. She portrays her character flawlessly, and the other characters as well. Absolutely love this book and can't wait to get more from her!

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fine debut novel

I was very surprised to find out that this is Ms. Harris' debut novel--the writing is excellent. It took me a while to get into it, but it's intriguing, funny and sad--and most of all, unexpected. As another reviewer wrote, I wasn't sure if it was going to get kinky or psychopathic; it turned out being both, in a non-acted out way. Repressed sexuality is rampant in this book, and the writing is convincingly Victorian (well, at least I think so...). The author also narrates, and does a superb job of it.

I'm anticipating her next book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

I loved everything about this book

I loved everything about The Observations: interesting plot, great characters, and the narration is top-notch. I was surprised when I realized it was read by the author. She must also be a professional actress. This is a rare pseudo-Victorian novel that actually feels like it was written in that time. It's one of my favorite audiobooks, right up there with Innocent Traitor, Closing Costs, and In the Woods.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Witty and well read

This novel unfolded in a wonderful manner, and the narration added to the quiet humor of the novel. It had a great narrative at the center, which had plenty of suspense to keep me wanting to listen, but it also had some basis to make one think about where sympathies lay. I'd definitely recommend it. A great story, and it made me keep wanting to switch my ipod back on for more.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Vivid and Alive

I will keep this simple: A colorful, lively, humorous story that lends itself to the classical masters of storytelling. You will fall in love with the unlikely heroine. I would love to see the author bring her back in other adventures. My new favorite!

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Funny and touching

Bessie is the first-person narrator of this account and I can't get enough of her! She is around 15 when the story begins and is earthy, observant, and altogether original. The story is set in 1860's Scotland and Bessie is herself Irish, so be forewarned that she uses some period slang that may not be familiar, but most of it is clear from the context. The author narrates and does a wonderful job. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, as Bessie reveals shocking details of her background in her own good time.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Karen
  • 05-24-07

Very Enjoyable

This is the second audio book I have listened to and I really enjoyed it. It had me laughing out loud on several occasions and crying at others. The author doing the reading was perfect. This is a story I wanted to go on and on. Very pleasant and pleasing to the ear. Although quite predictible it was a delight to listen to.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • JenPeter
  • 09-30-10

Excellent novel; brilliantly read by the author

I loved this book.
The Observations is a brilliant and original story, told in the first person by the irrepressible Irish heroine, Bessy Buckley.
Bessy has some wonderful expressions; which are delightfully comic and create hilarious visual images. This is a book full of comedy but it is also deeply moving, dark and tragic.
The Observations is read by Jane Harris, the author. It is the best read audiobook I have listened to. The accents of the characters are wonderful, especially that of Bessy herself.
Highly recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Maureen
  • 11-23-09

Entertaining

I rarely review books but felt moved to make the effort for this wonderful listen.
It is possible that the suthor reading her own novel gives that added insight. The humour scattered throughout this essentially sad story keeps the listener entertained from beginning to end.
Thank you Jane for this delightful gift and I look forward to more

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Sarah
  • 11-17-08

Observations

Excellent story, intriguing characters and very well read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Helen
  • 01-07-08

Perfect

This is, quite simply, the best book that I have purchased from Audible. The narrative of maid Bessie Buckley is a delight and is read wonderfully by the author.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 08-13-18

Fantastic hilarious from start to finish

I have read this book twice and loaned it out to friends. all of whom enjoyed it immensely. Sadly it fell to bits after so much use but I have just listened to the audio book and it was even more enjoyable! It is narrated by the author who is a genius in comic timing with the perfect voice for all the characters.
I can not recommend this book enough if you want a hilarious, fun story with an enjoyable leading character who you grow to love.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • chickpea
  • 12-03-11

Wonderfully read

This was an absolute pleasure to listen to - Jane Harris does a great job of capturing her characters, and Bessy's voice particularly is vivid and engaging.

At the start of this book, young Bessy Buckly, a sharp-tongued and street-smart Irish girl, is on her way to Edinburgh where she hopes to get a job in the castle. She passes a garden where a lady is trying rather hopelessly to catch a pig - it turns out that the maid has just walked out, trashing the kitchen (and letting out the pig) before she did so.

Bessy talks her way into the newly vacated position... and at this point, I thought I knew how the story was going to play out. Cunning maid, innocent mistress, and so forth.

But, although Bessy does turn out to have a shady past, nothing in this book plays out as the reader might expect. I think Jane Harris must have had great fun writing this, as the narrative leads the reader up all sorts of Gothic alleys, complete with brooding husband, hidden compartments, dark secrets and insanity.

She certainly seems to have had fun reading it, and I can't imagine anyone doing it better - certainly, Bessy's no-nonsense voice, full of earthy slang, was a delight to listen to and I am sure came over more vividly than it would have done on the page.

Perhaps the ending was slightly too neat given the twists and turns of the story before, but this was an absolute pleasure to listen to and I would recommend it to anyone. I'd probably rate the book itself 4 stars, but the audiobook 5.

I am only disappointed that Harris has not read the audiobooks of any of her other novels.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Fran
  • 07-17-11

brilliant!

It's a long time since I was so enchanted by a story! Brilliantly written and read by the author with a beautiful lilt. I found myself beguiled by Bessie, laughing aloud at her bawdy descriptions and antics, at other times stopping in my tracks at more poignant passages. All that and it's a mysterious psychological tale with twists you don't see coming. Couldn't stop listening and was sorry to reach the end. More of this author please!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • lesley
  • 05-27-11

loved it

Have just finnished listening to this book and felt compeled to write a review as I can not fault it. The naration was the best I have heard on my audible subscription. The story kept me hooked to the end and the end was very satisfing. Hope there will be another Jane Harris book to listen to.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Hayley
  • 10-27-10

Really well read, thoroughly enjoyable

This is one of the best read audio books I've listened to. The accents are so well done. The story is simple and quite curious, and it always left me looking forward to the next instalment from. I'd definitely recommend it.