Monday, 30 September 2013

The Observations - Jane Harris

Oh Bessy, I love you and I miss you and why did this book had to be so short? OK, I admit that five hundred pages do not constitute a short book, and yet, I could have read another five hundred EASILY, because Bessy. 
I loved her instantly and quite unexpectedly as I had no idea she was going to be so flipping funny and adorable and smart and sweet… I was only looking for another Historian kind of book, something that had the same atmospheres, the same power to grab you. Little did I know.The Observations couldn’t be more different than The Historian. There are elements of gothic in it, but Bessy’s voice changes everything and it’s what makes this book so special and so addictive. It’s true that I have a weakness for Victorians maids stories. It probably started with Jane Eyre, even though I’ve always liked stories told from a working-class point of view. With their accents and all. So beware, if accents and bad grammar are not your thing, you might be bothered by Bessy’s narrative. Although I find hard to believe ANYONE would dislike Bessy.

So what happens in this book aside from Bessy being awesome? All sorts of things. It starts with Bessy, only 15 or thereabouts, being taken in as a housemaid by the beautiful Arabella Reid as soon as she finds out that Bessy can write and read, although she’s useless at actual housework stuff. She asks her, in return for her job offer, to write down her thoughts in a journal every night, but she doesn’t tell her why. Soon, Bessy finds out that her “missus” requires her to do a lot of other peculiar things, which have no apparent reason. Although Bessy is dumbfounded by her new mistress’ behaviour, she’s also almost instantly fascinated by her, and soon enough she develops this GINORMOUS and hopeless crush on Arabella. Seriously, Bessy has it really bad for her missus, so much that I had high hopes the book would soon veered toward Leztown, although I had never heard that was the case so I wasn’t realistically hoping it would, just quietly daydreaming about it. But then something happens and BAM, the book takes a completely (or so it seems) different turn. I still stayed on Bessy’s side all the way, all the time, especially then, when all I wanted was to give her a hug and tell her she didn’t deserve all that shit. I cheered for her and supported her even though I knew something awful was bound to happen, but still, she had her reasons. And then, little by little, her past is revealed and THE POOR CHILD OH MY GOD. It was almost a little too much, a little too tragic. It would have been completely over the top if, once again, Bessy’s voice didn’t level it all up. Or maybe, by that time I was so enamoured by her, just as much as she was by her missus, that I could have accepted anything she threw at me. What happens after is an almost inevitable avalanche, except I can’t say that what happens next (especially to Arabella) was so obvious. That I didn’t predict. But a lot of other big revelations could have been easily guessed. But does this make the book less addictive, less fun, less engrossing? No, it doesn’t.

So, yeah, I devoured this chunkster in less than 4 days and now I am at a loss because I can’t bring myself to be as invested in a book, and it’s all Bessy’s fault. 

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