The Observations, by Jane Harris

Emma Hagestadt
Friday 02 February 2007 01:00
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Victorian pastiche in the Sarah Waters mode, Jane Harris's latest novel, set in 1865, comes embroidered with lashings of hyperbole and gothic fancy. The novel's spunky narrator, 15-year-old Bessy Buckley, is on the run from a life of prostitution. She finds herself a job with Arabella Reid, the chatelaine of an estate outside Edinburgh. Asked to perform various bizarre tasks, Bessy is also asked to keep a journal. Her mouthy outbursts are part of the novel's clamorous landscape: "Hell's teeth, how can I explain the wretched despair I felt, except to say that my heart was banjaxed..."

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