Gillespie and I

Jane Harris

Gillespie and I

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 disorientate into mystery and deception. 3.8 out of 5 based on 11 reviews
Gillespie and I

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 528
RRP £14.99
Date of Publication May 2011
ISBN 978-0571275168
Publisher Faber and Faber
 

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 disorientate into mystery and deception.

Reviews

The Scotsman

Peggy Hughes

Harriet is a simultaneously piteous and vaguely malign force at the heart of the story, a measured masterpiece of narrative allusion and poise, witty and bitchy and wry. Her exacting and unstinting memory contrives to make Gillespie And I a fat tome, but Harris keeps the devil in the detail and it never flags or sags ... 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

10/05/2011

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The Sunday Times

Daisy Goodwin

For once, the second novel is even better than the first ... brilliantly plotted, blackly comic ... 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.

08/05/2011

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The Independent

Carol Birch

Harris plays with the reader's expectations and perspectives brilliantly, and to reveal too much more of the plot would be criminal. Suffice to say that our growing unease will be more than justified. It is with the most subtle sleight-of-hand that Harris brings us to the gradual realisation that we are being manipulated ... Multi-layered, dotted with dry black humour and underpinned by a haunting sense of loneliness ...

06/05/2011

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The Daily Telegraph

Catherine Taylor

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.

04/05/2011

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The Times

John Burnside

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.

07/05/2011

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The Daily Mail

John Harding

Unfortunately, in the closing chapters, a rush of heavy-handed clues pointing to Harriet’s unreliability as a narrator undermines the hitherto understated subtlety of the narrative. It’s unnecessary and so out of kilter as to suggest the influence of an external editorial hand. A minor blemish, perhaps, in what is otherwise a wonderfully compelling read.

05/05/2011

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Scotland on Sunday

Allan Massie

... a meaty middlebrow novel ... Jane Harris has, despite a few solecisms and expressions which belong to our time rather than Harriet's, written a very clever novel. The story, building from a slow punctilious start, becomes compelling, all the more so because we never know quite what to believe.

08/05/2011

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The Guardian

Clare Clark

Gillespie and I, while less strikingly original than The Observations, has much of its pace and verve. Harris is a fine storyteller and controls the twists and turns of her plot well.

21/05/2011

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The Evening Standard

Liz Hoggard

Gillespie and I is a more demanding read than The Observations. There's less earthy humour and not everybody will be prepared to wade through a trial scene lasting 200 pages. But as a portrait of the "invisible woman", in denial about her own damaged sexuality and loneliness, yet refusing to be assigned to the margins, it hooks the reader in with great, demented power.

19/05/2011

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The Financial Times

Suzi Feay

The mixture isn’t quite cooked enough. Harriet’s “memoir” often doesn’t read like one. There is a scene of pure Gothic horror which turns out only to be a nightmare, and an obvious piece of symbolism in the form of Harriet’s two caged birds, Layla and Majnun, which points unsubtly to Harris’s themes of incarceration, ownership and control.

22/04/2011

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The Daily Telegraph

Anthony Cummins

The sense grows that, in order to succeed, Gillespie and I must eke suspense from the nagging accumulation of discrepancies that slowly oblige you to view the narrator not as a good Samaritan but as a needy busybody. But – for this reader at least – these discrepancies provoke incredulity rather than curiosity ... The ending, as with any mystery, solves a few of these difficulties. All the same, one hesitates to recommend a 500-page book that can be appreciated only in retrospect.

25/05/2011

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