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Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

Gillespie and I (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Jane Harris

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5576117,907 (3.97)1 / 353
Title:Gillespie and I
Authors:Jane Harris
Info:Faber and Faber (2011), Hardcover, 440 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:British literature, Orange Prize longlist, Victorian literature, Glasgow, London, mystery, historical fiction

Work details

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (2011)

Recently added byrena100, private library, areni55, rena75, crimson-tide, jrach
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English (59)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
Several of you had very positive things to say about this book when it came out a few years ago. So I bought a copy, but (like many other books) it got put on the shelf. With my renewed effort to read off my shelves this year, I decided to pull it down. This book started a little slow for me. We spend a lot of time getting to know Harriet Baxter, an unmarried woman who visits Glasgow for an extended period of time during the International Exhibition in 1888. Harriet becomes friends with the Gillespie family after saving matriarch Elspeth from choking. She becomes a frequent visitor to the home of Annie and Ned Gillespie, Elspeth's daughter-in-law and son. Ned is an artist whose reputation is on the rise, and although he declines the commission to paint Harriet's portrait, he comes to trust her advice. But when tragedy strikes the Gillespie family, we come to realize that perception is not always reality.

The pace of the book picks up as we are pulled forward in pursuit of "the truth." Occasionally, the story flashes forward to Harriet's life in 1933 as she reflects back on her time in Glasgow, adding another layer to our perception. In the end, I was enthralled by the way that Harris brings the reader into the story by making our perceptions a part of the narrative. This is a book that made me want to go back and re-read it so that I could pay attention to how Harris works her magic. ( )
1 vote porch_reader | Feb 8, 2015 |
It just didn't seem like it was going anywhere. I disliked Harriet and found her oblivious. I have too many books to read to waste time enduring one I'm not enjoying. ( )
  Violetthedwarf | Oct 23, 2014 |
It just didn't seem like it was going anywhere. I disliked Harriet and found her oblivious. I have too many books to read to waste time enduring one I'm not enjoying. ( )
  Violetthedwarf | Oct 23, 2014 |
I think on the back of gone girl and the luminaries, I've been stuck in bit of 'unreliable narrator' groove. Time to get out and explore other genres! I didn't enjoy this as much as anticipated, probably because of the above. ( )
  celerydog | Jul 3, 2014 |
Read about 100 pages and was unengaged by this rambling text. Yes, I figured out the narrator was likely unreliable...just found the whole premise--on a Glasgow street, "spinster" assists older woman who's choking and becomes (inappropriately) involved with the woman's family, one of whom (Ned Gillespie) is a talented artist--a bit hard to swallow. Furthermore, I wasn't too interested in the perverse doodles of Sybil, the artist's child, or the sexual escapades of his brother. Didn't have the time or interest for this leisurely and (as far as I read) seemingly directionless narrative. I kept waiting for SOMETHING of import to happen.
  fountainoverflows | Apr 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
It is rare to read a literary novel where the storytelling is as skilful as the writing is fine, but in Gillespie and I, Harris has pulled off the only too rare double whammy — a Booker-worthy novel that I want to read again.

It's tempting to marshal clichés, for this book is a tour de force: taut, unsettling, funny, a story that holds you in its grip and makes you skip ahead but circle back again for more of the same - literary crack cocaine - but Gillespie And I transcends cliché.
It would be wrong to give away too much of the plot of Gillespie and I — suffice to say that this is a compelling, suspenseful and highly enjoyable novel — but what stands out is the way in which this narrative provokes us to think again about what we imagine, and what we hope for, and about the burdens that those hopes and imaginings impose upon those around us.
added by Pigletto | editThe Times, John Burnside (May 7, 2011)
Multi-layered, dotted with dry black humour and underpinned by a haunting sense of loneliness, this skilfully plotted psychological mystery leaves a few threads dangling, all of them leading back to an old woman living in London in 1933 with two greenfinches in a cage and a mysterious servant/companion called Sarah Whittle, of whom she is afraid.
Harris’s writing is a joy, excitable yet controlled, bawdy yet respectable. The fog and tenements of late 19th-century Glasgow, the torpor of a Thirties summer are keenly recreated. Moreover, in Harriet, an entirely credible combination of Turn of the Screw governess and repressed New Woman, she has fashioned an unreliable narrator par excellence.
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Book description
As she sits in her Bloomsbury home, with her two birds for company, elderly Harriet Baxter sets out to relate the story of her acquaintance, nearly four decades previously, with Ned Gillespie, a talented artist who never achieved the fame she maintains he deserved. Back in 1888, the young, art-loving Harriet arrives in Glasgow at the time of the International Exhibition. After a chance encounter she befriends the Gillespie family and soon becomes a fixture in all of their lives. But when tragedy strikes - leading to a notorious criminal trial - the promise and certainties of this world all too rapidly disintegrate into mystery and deception.
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As she sits in her Bloomsbury home with her two pet birds for company, elderly Harriet Baxter recounts the story of her friendship with Ned Gillespie--a talented artist whose life came to a tragic end before he ever achieved the fame and recognition that Harriet maintains he deserved. In 1888, young Harriet arrives in Glasgow during the International Exhibition. After a chance encounter with Ned, she befriends the Gillespie family and soon becomes a fixture in their lives. But when tragedy strikes, culminating in a notorious criminal trial, the certainty of Harriet's new world rapidly spirals into suspicion and despair.… (more)

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