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Gillespie and I Paperback – 5 May 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (5 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571238270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571238279
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 839,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Harris was born in Belfast and grew up in Scotland before moving to England in her 20s. Her first book "The Observations" was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007 and the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in 2009. Her second novel "Gillespie and I" was shortlisted for the National Book Awards in 2011 and the Scottish Book Awards in 2012.

Product Description

Review

`An absolute belter.' --Bidisha, Saturday Review



`In Gillespie and I, Harris has pulled off the only too rare double whammy - a Booker-worthy novel that I want to read again.' --Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times



`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.' --John Burnside, The Times



`Harris writes with a gorgeous delicacy and wit, and the richness of her vocabulary makes one aware of how impoverished that of many modern novelists is.' --Amanda Craig, Literary Review



`A chilling tale reminiscent of both Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and Julian Barnes's Arthur and George.'
--Suzi Feay, Financial Times

--John Burnside, The Times

'Brilliantly plotted.' --Sunday Times --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

Gillespie and I is the eagerly awaited follow up to Jane Harris's hugely acclaimed debut, The Observations.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

99 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Michael Finn on 12 May 2011
Format: Hardcover
I've never been the quickest of readers but this vibrantly written novel, weighing in at 500 plus pages, so engrossed me I devoured it in just 4 days. It seemed so innocent at first, beguiling me with its engagingly described cast of characters.
In 1933 Miss Harriet Baxter sits in her Bloomsbury apartment, tending to her caged finches and writing her memoir of the times she spent with Ned Gillespie over 4 decades earlier, an up and coming young artist, her dear friend, she dubs him, her soul mate even.
At once we are informed that her friend Gillespie and his young family are ill-fated, that the tale will end in tragedy, a tragedy so deep that the young man will destroy his life's work and take his own life. The first half of the book follows Harriet, then a thirty something spinster, as she relocates from London to Glasgow after the death of her Aunt, a woman who had brought her up after the death of her mother. In 1888 Glasgow hosts the first International Exhibition and Harriet decides to rent rooms nearby to take in the spectacle. A chance encounter, amusingly recounted through Harriet's memoir, brings her into the orbit of the Gillespie family, her timely extraction of half a set of dentures from the back of an old lady's throat, who turns out to be Ned's mother, is the first step on the road to what lies ahead. Over several months Harriet becomes almost part of the household, finding opportunity after opportunity to ingratiate herself among them.
Just as we start to get comfortable with the happy set up, Harriet reminds us that there are dark times ahead - a trial even, though what crime is looming and who is to stand accused is left unsaid. Although leisurely, the narrative at no stage bored me. Despite its length I was always either entertained or intrigued.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By kazzershazzer on 15 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I chose this for my book club, and almost all of us loved it. However what was most interesting was the spectrum of opinion about what actually happened. Some reviewers have suggested, as did a couple of book club readers, that ends are left untied and the reader is left uncertain. These two were quick readers with lives too busy for pondering. It was only after I'd reached the end that I thought back through the story we'd been told, and gradually - and I must admit reluctantly - became certain of what had gone on; the clues are all there. As one other reviewer says, it made me want to read the novel a second time, to experience the story again from my new perspective.

To me this was a brilliant achievement by Jane Harris. She managed to slip things into the reader's mind that were only half-noticed. So subtle. I found the characters - particularly the narrator - psychologically authentic. I often reflect over - live with - a good novel for a few days after I've read it. But this was unusual in that several of us went on piecing together the clues over several days after finishing reading, before revising our view of things, and experiencing increasing certainty about what must have happened.

More than most novels, it is one you want to discuss with friends after you've read it. It is also tragic and heart-breaking, and still haunts me, just as a real-life story would, so convincing are the characters. The first half of the novel is quite slow-paced, but please do persevere, as you will be rewarded in the second half.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 22 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
The "I" in the title of Jane Harris's "Gillespie and I" is Harriet Baxter. Now elderly and residing in London in 1933, she is finally telling her events of what happened in the early 1880s in Glasgow and her relationship with the Gillespie family. At the time, a spinster of independent means, she arrived in Glasgow to visit the International Exhibition and became a champion of and friend to a young Scottish painter, Ned Gillespie and his young family. We know from early on that tragedy struck the Gillespie family leading to Ned destroying his career, but Harriet wants to set the record straight with regard to her involvement in events. You may or may not believe her story.

It's a highly readable story, full of wit and suspense that draws in the reader while unashamedly playing with our perceptions. It's a dark and compelling story and although the inferences are fairly strong, ultimately it is up to the reader to interpret events. It's beautifully written and paced.

"Gillespie and I" is also one of those books where to reveal anything about the plot is to ruin the experience. Suffice to say that it concludes with a court case whose outcome is uncertain until the final moments. But the great achievement of the book is in the character of the narrator. There's a touch of the Hyacinth Bouquets about her, and you will go through a range of emotions about her. Is she simply a slightly lonely but well meaning busy-body or is there something else afoot here. Certainly she seems unduly obsessed with the Gillespie family. But I will say no more than that.

Harris evokes the spirit of the times in her portrayal of Victorian Glasgow. Her cast are all wholly believable and the story evokes a range of emotions, from humour to sadness.
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