When plucky young Bessy Buckley flees 1863 Glasgow in her best beribboned satinet gown, she leaves behind the rest of her belongings and her past as a prostitute. A detour at a barren, crumbling wreck of a house, Castle Haivers, leads to a job offer as a scullery maid, which she hungrily accepts. But when Bessy discovers that her mistress, Arabella, is using her to write a book about servants and obedience, she plots a revenge scheme that sets in motion an unexpected and tragic series of events. It's nearly impossible to find period pieces like Jane Harris's The Observations, by turns funny and sad, but always true to the ear. And the sprightly, profane Bessy is a joy.