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Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

Gillespie and I

by Jane Harris

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6397015,139 (3.97)1 / 379
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Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
After a bit of a slow start I settled in to the pace of this novel, and found it totally engrossing. In 1888, Harriet Baxter, having lost the aunt whose caretaker she was, and having inherited a comfortable living from her grandfather, decides to take the train from London to Glasgow for an indefinite visit, primarily to attend the International Exhibition recently opened along the banks of the River Kelvin. While she is there, she meets and befriends an up and coming artist, Ned Gillespie, and his young family. In fact, you might say she insinuates herself into their lives with determination. We learn about the events of that Exhibition year from Harriet herself, in a self-serving "memoir" that begins by telling us how intimately she became acquainted with Gillespie...no, not that way...just as dear friend and "soul mate". Well, it's easy to discern fairly quickly that Harriet is a bit unreliable as a narrator, but how is the reader to know what to believe, when no objective observer is available to balance her account of things? Ah...well, see, that's the fun part. This is historical fiction, psychological thriller, Victorian mystery and pull-the-covers-over-your-head scary story all rolled into one. Oh, and there's courtroom drama of the 19th century Scottish variety as well. I lapped it up.

Review written July 2015 ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Nov 28, 2016 |
Really satisfying novel with a great unreliable narrator. I mean, really unreliable! Very artfully written. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
A deliciously creepy novel. She carries off the voice of Harriet Baxter very well, and the plotting is interesting without being contrived or overly complicated. Reminded me a bit of The Little Stranger, but I think this book is better. One of my favorite books so far this year; I'm rooting for it to be on the Orange shortlist. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
In Gillespie and I by Jane Harris, Harriet Baxter is writing her memoir. It focuses on her life beginning in 1888 and chapters rotate between then and the time in which she is writing. In 1888 Harriet was in her thirties and a single woman of independent means. That year she decided to leave her home in London and live temporarily in Glasgow. She was drawn to Glasgow by the 1888 International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry being held there.

While attending the Exhibition Harriet sees a painting by a young artist, Ned Gillespie, and remembers a brief conversation with him in London a few years previously. Oddly, she had an encounter with Gillespie's mother and wife soon after she came to Glasgow and his mother, Elspeth, credits Harriet with saving her life. When invited to Elspeth's home, Harriet is surprised to learn she has rented an apartment just around the corner from both Gillespie families. Soon she begins a somewhat obsessive friendship with Ned, his wife Annie, and their two young daughters. One of girls tends toward unsettling behavior and there is a strain on Ned's work as well as the marriage. Harriet's friendship and help in the household becomes invaluable.

Two years after their first meeting, and long after Harriet originally planned to leave Glasgow, the Gillespies became victims of an unspeakable crime. The perpetrator isn't easily found and eventually Harriet and the coincidences that caused the beginning of her friendship with the Gillespies come under police suspicion. Is all truth in Harriet's relationship with the Gillespie family? Is her account reliable?

A novel that hangs on after the last page is read, Gillespie and I is literary, atmospheric, and chilling. I found the first 50 or so pages slow going but sticking with it was well worth it. Without a doubt, this will be one of my favorites of this year. ( )
  clue | Aug 19, 2016 |
Loved, loved, loved this book. Can't wait to read her first book The Observations". This book kept me reading in order to find out what would happen. The ending did not disappoint. Lots of twists and turns!" ( )
  EadieB | Jun 4, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (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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It would appear that I am to be the first to write a book on Gillespie.
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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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