When I started reading the first few pages of The Observations, I almost gave up and put the book down due to the atrocious grammar, punctuation, and spelling of the text. Of course, I then realized that the writing style was simply a part of Bessy’s character and has been writing these accounts on a journal. As the novel went further, Bessy’s writing became a lot more improved, not simply on the mechanics, but her account became richer in detail, more believable, and easier to read. In fairness, I was delighted by Bessy’s voice and the way she expressed her thoughts in the beginning, giving me the idea of the type of upbringing she came from. Though I’m not quite familiar with Victorian slang, I found Bessy to be hilarious and yet refreshing at the same time. As she continued on with her accounts, maybe I felt a little upset that once her writing improved, her signature voice waned a little bit. That somehow got me all confused again as I was getting used to Bessy’s storytelling style.
The story itself is a mix of dark humor, psychological mystery, ghost story, all-around gothic fiction. The themes remind me a lot of the old fiction that we’re familiar with, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the more well-known gothic-themed works by Edgar Allan Poe, and even famed Japanese author Edogawa Rampo’s surrealistic-style mysteries. At first the summary of the book really gave me enthusiasm to read it all the way, but as I reached the middle of the book I felt rather disappointed. Nevertheless, I have grown to love Bessy Buckley. I found her more lovable and more sympathetic than Gillespie and I’s Harriet Baxter, not to mention the fact that her accounts were a lot more believable than Baxter’s. After all, young Bessy was writing on an empty journal just after the day is over (even if in the beginning it was obvious she was a liar), while the elderly Harriet was simply recalling memories she believed really happened (as a result of a “senior moment”-like mindset).
If you are a fan of Victorian gothic fiction, The Observations is a worthwhile read, even though it's written by a contemporary writer. If you’re like me, who recently became a Jane Harris fan after reading Gillespie and I, you should also give her debut novel a try as well. It may not be as dark as Gillespie and I, but The Observations can also be a delightful, somewhat lighthearted summer read.