It is also widely regarded as the first family saga, and the first novel to use the device of a narrator who is both unreliable and an observer of, rather than a player in, the actions he chronicles.
The story of the Rackrent family is narrated by their steward, Thady Quirk. The characters, the country life and the language used in the novel are unmistakably Irish.
Shortly before its publication, an introduction, glossary and footnotes, written in the voice of an English narrator, were added to the original text to blunt the negative impact the Edgeworths feared the book might have on English enthusiasm for the Act of Union 1800.
The novel is one of the few of Miss Edgeworth's novels which her father did not 'edit'.