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Gillespie and I : a novel by Jane Harris

Gillespie and I : a novel (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Jane Harris

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5886316,752 (3.97)1 / 364
Title:Gillespie and I : a novel
Authors:Jane Harris
Info:New York : Harper Perennial, c2012.
Collections:Wishlist, Odds Are
Tags:brenpike, fiction, historical, Scotland

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
    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!
  7. 21
    The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (shelfoflisa)
  8. 00
    The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola (JoEnglish)
  9. 11
    The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling (Pigletto)

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English (61)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (63)
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
This book was chosen as our Book Group read, partly because Glasgow Library Service lent us 8 copies on long loan & partly because two of us had it on our wishlist having read the author's first novel: The Observations.

The more I think about this book, the more difficult I'm finding it to describe/review etc. I guess I should start with the basics:

Harriet Baxter is an English woman who heads north to Glasgow, following her aunt's death, to visit the International Exhibition of 1888. There she meets the Gillespie family and quickly becomes part of their 'circle' and life. Ned Gillespie is an artist just on the fringes of 'The Glasgow Boys' and is married to Annie with two children Sybil and Rose. There are other family members and friends, but it's Harriet's involvement with Ned that the story is really centred around. From here, it's difficult to describe without giving too much away.

The book is written as a memoir, so you meet Harriet in 1933 as she writes about her time in Glasgow with the Gillespies and as you read it, your perceptions shift and you begin to wonder about what you've already read and what it all really means. (I read one review that suggested it was only good in 'retrospect' which I found a little harsh, but not entirely wrong) I did 'cotton on' fairly early that things were not all they seemed, but that was partly due to attending a reading by the author at the Edinburgh Book Festival - more because of some of the audience questions than the author giving the game away! I don't think I'm spoiling anything by mentioning that here.

Someone has also said that it has similarities with 'The Suspicions of Mr Whicher' but really that's only because a crime is committed and a court case ensues and the Victorian setting is reminiscent. I think it's a better book than that, even though I did enjoy reading 'Mr Whicher'.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and didn't feel that it was too long despite it being 500 pages. It did take me longer than usual to read, but that's because it wasn't handbag/train/bus friendly being such a sizeable tome! When I did get chance to sit and read, I flew through it.
( )
  Cassandra2020 | Jan 24, 2016 |
Bought on the strength of the publisher's name, I was sorely disappointed by this novel. This is not literary fiction. It is very poorly written pulp fiction. Extremely wordy and full of clichés. ( )
  edwinbcn | Oct 19, 2015 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (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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