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Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

Gillespie and I (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Jane Harris

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5485818,269 (3.99)1 / 343
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)

  1. 40
    The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale (alalba)
    alalba: There are some similarities in the stories, that include the murder investigarion and trial.
  2. 30
    Affinity by Sarah Waters (Pigletto)
  3. 20
    Arthur & George by Julian Barnes (shelfoflisa)
  4. 20
    Florence and Giles by John Harding (alalba, Phlox72)
    alalba: These two books have the same kind of female narrators.
  5. 10
    The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (JoEnglish)
  6. 21
    The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (shelfoflisa)
  7. 21
    Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: It's difficult to explain this recommendation without revealing spoilers for either novel. Both are set in the 19th century, feature strong female narrators and concern a crime - and that's all I can say!
  8. 11
    The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling (Pigletto)

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English (56)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
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 |
I missed my stop on the U-Bahn because of Gillespie and ] and almost missed it a second time a few hours later. It's that kind of book; a meaty Victorian novel - Victorian in both setting and style - with an involving plot that runs the gamut from gently bred English spinsters and comfortable domestic life to kidnapping and sensational court cases. Set against the background of Glasgow in 1888, Jane Harris's second novel is about Harriet Baxter and how she became involved with the family of an up-and-coming Glaswegian artist Ned Gillespie. Decades later, she sits down to write about her friendship with the Gillespies and the scandal that shocked all of Scotland.

Harris is good with the historical detail, and really good at creating characters who breathe. But where she really excels is in telling a story from the point of view of a seemingly secondary character, someone who might not see the same things that the other characters do, or it might be that she is altering the tale to suit herself. If you dislike ambiguity in a novel, this one is not for you, but if you like the twist that looks like it's from out of nowhere, but that also fits the story in an organic way if you set the story upside down, then you'll enjoy this one. ( )
9 vote RidgewayGirl | Mar 18, 2014 |
Last year, Jane Harris’ second novel, Gillespie and I, officially became the book I was too scared to read. Would I like it too much? Too little? All the key components were there; 19th century, Scotland, strong female character, what wasn’t there to like? With all the rave reviews out there failure seemed impossible. So I denied myself for almost two years after going to hear Harris speak at Waterstones back in 2011. I finally took the plunge on our Hebridean mini-holiday last summer only to emerge blinking into the sunlight feeling completely bewildered and unsure what to think. It’s only now with a bit of space that I’ve been able to make sense of whether I really loved this book or not. Boy did I want to love it….

Harriet Baxter is an elderly woman living alone with her songbirds, sad memories and paranoia. The memoirs we read within this novel are her account of the intimate life and times of Scottish artist Ned Gillespie and his small family; a family Harriet had the fortune (or misfortune, we may discover) to meet by chance when staying up in Glasgow, the bosom of which she remains in for many months to come. Using the famed Glasgow International Exhibition as the rich setting for Harriet’s drama, we witness the gradual disintegration of the lives and sanity of those she has come to know and love, culminating in, horror of horrors, a full-blown criminal trial.

After much a musing I have come to the firm conclusion that, after hearing masses and masses about this novel from various quarters, I built it so far up in my mind that anything short of perfection was always going to be a disappointment.

Jane Harris is a wonderful writer and this plot-heavy tale with its emotive nuances, juxtaposed with the shock-factor of the final court scenes kept me hooked from start to finish. This is an imaginative, completely unique tale that really can’t be compared with anything else I have ever read or even heard of, told by a seemingly intelligent, forward thinking young Victorian woman, complete with her huge foibles and failures.

Therein lies my problem. Although Harris is wonderfully clever with her narrator (the most unreliable I have ever encountered); who paints herself as the Gillespie family’s guardian angel and whose primary hobby seems to be sweeping undesirable truths under the carpet, she was, when all is said and done, really rather irritating.

Who cares? You might say. Well, ordinarily I might find such a carefully constructed, busybody character such as Harriet deeply convincing and satisfyingly disturbing however, the obsessive/possessive nature of her relationship with ‘her artist’ simply didn’t convince me. As a character Ned Gillespie seemed rather indifferent to her presence and much more likely to throw the woman out of his home than allow her to become so close with his family. Obsessive love and psychosis can make for a splendid novel but, for all Harriet’s acerbic wit and grand sweeping assertions, something felt amiss for me and I really am sorry for it.

One certainty, however, is that Jane Harris possesses the incredibly powerful skills to confuse, confound and mesmerise. This is an intelligent novel that offers us no easy answers and, in a way, they are the best because surely it is literature’s job to make us sit back, think, and not take anything or anybody for granted. True, I had several crises of faith throughout but, if this is a true reflection of Harris’ skills then her first novel; The Observations, really does need to be next on my list.

http://relishreads.com/2014/01/04/gillespie-and-i/ ( )
  Lucy_Rock | Jan 4, 2014 |
Gillespie And I (first published in 2011) is the second novel by Jane Harris. Her acclaimed debut novel , The Observations (first pub. 2006) was also dramatised for Radio 4 as a ten-part serial by dramatist Chris Dolan and producer/director Bruce Young in 2007. Producer/director: Bruce Young

1/10. Victorian gothic mystery by Jane Harris. In 1888, Harriet Baxter, an art-loving Englishwoman, arrives in Glasgow for the city's International Exhibition. She meets the Scottish painter, Ned Gillespie, and his wife, Annie - but tragedy is about to strike the Gillespies. Dramatised by Chris Dolan.

2/10. Ned enters a competition to paint the Queen's portrait.

3/10. Annie begins work on Harriet's portrait, but young Sybil is acting strangely.

4/10. At the home of the artist Ned Gillespie, a New Year party goes horribly wrong - and young Sybil gets the blame.

5/10. Young Sybil's erratic behaviour continues to cause concern, when tragedy strikes.

6/10. The Gillespies' younger daughter Rose has been kidnapped. Meanwhile, her elder sister Sibyl is recovering after setting fire to herself with paraffin.

7/10. The police arrest a suspect for the kidnap of Rose Gillespie.

8/10. Three accused go on trial, but two of the kidnappers are determined to lay the blame on the person they claim is the ringleader.

9/10. The court considers the identity of the veiled woman who lured Rose away from her family.

10/10. As the trial reaches its climax, young Sybil is called to give evidence. ( )
  mimal | Jan 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (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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