The Observations
Reviews
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The Observer

"It is rare for a first-time novelist to be chosen as Waterstone's book of the month, but Jane Harris is rather special. Rights for her first novel, The Observations, were sold around the world based on only a few chapters. When it's published next month, the book will be promoted by every major retailer (even Tesco, no great lover of historical fiction, will sell it at the front of its stores).More ...

The Guardian

"Literary fashions enjoy a longer shelf life than one would imagine in a culture so versed in instant gratification. Eight years after the publication of Sarah Waters's Tipping the Velvet, contemporary Victorian pastiche - crudely dubbed "Vic lit" - still generates bidding wars and much critical excitement. Michael Cox's 1850s murder mystery The Meaning of Night, published this September, secured one of the largest advances ever given to a first-time novelist, while Jane Harris's debut The Observations is currently receiving widespread attention.More...

The Independent

"It's 1863: Bessy Buckley, 15 years old, like something out of a folk tale crossed with Moll Flanders, has set out on foot from Glasgow with her bundle of belongings to seek her fortune. She is on the road to Edinburgh when her eye is caught by a sign pointing towards Castle Haivers. Not taking warning from the name (it means a load of nonsense), she turns in that direction and promptly finds herself up to the oxters in mud in pursuit of a pig.More ...

The Spectator

"Bessy's charming Irish lilt ranges seamlessly from brothel slang to Victorian euphemism, and her character matches this broad scope. Her abominable mother, permanently drunk (‘in a state of elevation'), sold her off to a man that took it upon himself to educate her while debauching her. By this plot device, the author is able to invest a sharp savvy into Bessy's otherwise naive voice, and this provides the opportunity to play a surprisingly highbrow novelistic game.More ...

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The Times Literary Supplement

"This first novel by Jane Harris moves with assurance and pace. Bessy Buckley, aged fifteen, is deflected from her journey to Edinburgh by the prospect of a post at Castle Haivers, which she believes is a grand estate." More ...

Harriet Devine

""To tell the gobs honest truth I did not give a first-light fart for full stops and all the rest. I thought my page looked fine while her page looked like it was covered with goat droppings with all the wee dots and spots on it. But as my Mr Levy used to say, choices choices, life is full of choices. I thought to myself would you rather be up in your room where there is no fire and a draft coming through the window or would you rather be down here warming your titties by the coals and watching the lovely Arabella as she gives you a lecture on commas and capital letters and maybe from time to time holds your hand and takes you into her confidence? I studied a lot of punctuation." So writes Bessy Buckley, whose wonderfully original, vivid, narrative voice is guaranteed to be like nothing you have ever read before." More ...

Time Out

"‘I had no idea how to write a novel,' says Jane Harris, ‘and after about 15,000 words it ground to a halt. I didn't know what to do with it, so I stuck it away in a box.' Lucky she took it out of the box.More ...

Suite101.com

"When Jane Harris' novel appeared in paperback earlier in 2007, it caused quite a stir, and with good reason: she has produced one of the most enjoyable books of the year.More ...

Late Reviews and Latest Obsessions

"Laugh-out-loud funny isn't what first comes to mind when you think of historical novels. Jane Harris's debut The Observations ought to change a few opinions, however. Bessy Buckley, the novel's feisty narrator, has written an account of her life from the time she became a maid at Castle Haivers at the age of fifteen and all through the events that led up to her working in an asylum at the book's close. An irreverent, sometimes melodramatic girl, Bessy tells a tale that is part Northanger Abbey and part vulgar Irish drinking song.More ...

Curledup.com

"Bessy Buckley is a young woman out of place in 1860s Scotland, with no resources, wandering the countryside in search of a position - or at least somewhere to lay her head for the night. An Irish lass, Bessy is viewed with suspicion by the locals but early attracts the unwanted attention of a rude young man who travels the road with her.More ...

Laurahird.com

"In winter, it seems, I am always drawn back in time in my reading. There is something about being indoors and cosy with a cold wind battering outside that has me reaching for the classics. This winter, though, I went back to the 19th century with Jane Harris and her debut novel, ‘The Observations'." More ...


Interviews

Penguin Book Club Guide Interview

When she runs away from Glasgow in the early 1860s, departing so precipitously that she leaves her overcoat behind, teenage Bessy Buckley knows all too well the sordid, ugly life she is leaving behind. However, not even her own powerful imagination can prepare her for the strange new life that awaits her. More ...

Books From Scotland Interview

What were your beginnings in writing? Have you always had a story or two in your head, for instance? More ...

Woman's Hour Interview

Jane Harris' first novel has already been described as “exuberantly good”, and features a 19th-century heroine, Bessy Buckley, who has “all the appeal and fearlessness of Moll Flanders and Scarlett O’Hara”. Bessy’s adventures lead her from prostitution to work as a housemaid for the enigmatic Arabella; but Arabella’s motives in employing Bessy are mysterious and a battle of wits, wills and madness ensues. Jane Harris joins Jenni Murray to talk about finding a voice for Bessy and about coping with the beginnings of literary fame. More ...

Meet the Author Interview

In this exuberantly quirky debut novel, Jane Harris introduces us to a most engaging heroine. Bessy Buckley is a rough but spirited 19th century Irish girl, who falls into employment as a servant while trying to escape her shady past in Glasgow. But as the requests from her beautiful mistress become increasingly bizarre, she finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue she had not bargained for. More ...


Interviews and Reviews for Gillespie and I

 

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