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Gillespie and I [Hardcover]

Jane Harris
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
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Book Description

5 May 2011

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.

Featuring a memorable cast of characters, infused with atmosphere and period detail, and shot through with wicked humour, Gillespie and I is a tour de force from one of the emerging names of British fiction.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; 1st Edition edition (5 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571275168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571275168
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 189,422 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


`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

Book Description

Gillespie and I is the eagerly awaited second novel by Jane Harris, author of the hugely acclaimed The Observations

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
96 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect summer read 12 May 2011
By Michael Finn TOP 1000 REVIEWER
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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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bitter sweet tale 26 April 2011
By kmcg101
Gillespie and I is set in the nineteenth century and told through the eyes of Harriet Baxter, an English spinster, who takes a trip to Glasgow following the death of her aunt. She extends her stay when she meets and befriends the Gillespie family, quickly making herself as indispensible as possible in their often chaotic household. Ned Gillespie is an artist yet to find any significant recognition. His studio is in the attic where Harriet thinks he endures the too numerous distractions of his family. Ned's mother Eslpeth, champion of good causes, his wife Annie who is sometimes seems a little overwhelmed by motherhood, his two daughters, the delightful three year old Rose and the somewhat disturbed seven year old Sybil, his opinionated sister Mabel recently returned from America and his brother Kenneth, who holds secrets of his own. But is all as it seems? When tragedy strikes the family is ripped apart and the truth slowly unveiled in this tale of obsession and deceit. Gillespie and I is the second novel by Jane Harris; following the success of her debut novel, The Observations, expectations were high and it certainly does not disappoint. This is an atmospheric novel, full of period detail, which grips the reader from the start. It takes you on a journey, along with a cast of well-developed characters, and doesn't let you go till the end. This is a bitter sweet tale, as humorous as it is tragic and a great read!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Resistance is Futile - Read it Now! 9 Jun 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
2006 was an excellent year for me as I read two of the most memorable debut novels, The Observations by Jane Harris and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I'm not holding my breath re a new offering from Ms Setterfield but I can't tell you how excited I was last year when I heard about Gillespie and I. I had to put myself out of my misery, buy the hardback tout de suite and dive straight in.

Well, I can assure you that if you were even remotely titivated by The Observations, then you will love Gillespie and I. Our narrator is 35 year old English woman, Harriet Baxter, who finds herself in Glasgow in 1888 for the International Exhibition. Following the death of her aunt for whom she was full-time carer, Harriet comes into a modest sum of money and decides to move temporarily from London to Glasgow for a change of scenery. The book takes the form of a memoir about her time in Glasgow which she writes in 1933, in London where she now lives on her own. attended by a series of carers, none of whom appear to stay very long in her employ. We are fed little crumbs of information along the way which let us know that her time in Scotland does not end happily and that her initially halcyon relationship with the Gillespie clan, in particular, with Ned, the artist, is doomed to disaster. However, as the narrative progresses, we realise that all is not what it seems and we might very well revise our initial impression of Harriet as a thoroughly objective observer.

I won't spoil things by revealing anything more about the plot but suffice to say that Jane Harris has created a compelling, dark, psychological narrative which belies its benign facade. Harriet isn't quite the cute, fluffy puppy she'd have you believe!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is the apparently genteel tale of Miss Baxter, a Victorian spinster who made friends with an impoverished Scottish painter (Gillespie) and his family, which took place in the 1800's when Miss Baxter and Gillespie were in their early 30's. Running concurrently with this gentle account of Miss Baxter's relationship with the Gillespie family is Miss Baxter's account of her life 'now' (in the 1930's) as a very aged spinster living with a sinister sounding maid-of-all-work/companion and her fears and concerns about this enigmatic younger woman.
Although Miss Baxter claims to have been integral to the success of the painter Ned Gillespie and a favoured companion of his, the evidence is more for her having been a friend of his wife, mother and two young daughters. She has comparatively little to do with Ned himself, although he does appear to come (eventually) to listen to some of her advice about his painting.
Miss Baxter is a bit of an energetic busy-body and know-it-all and doesn't realise that the sudden appearance of a young-ish woman who appears fascinated by Gillespie and his art might make Gillespie's wife a little uncomfortable regarding their relationship. In this regard Miss Baxter is either very nave or very complacent but does eventually reassure Gillespie's wife, Annie and there isn't anything 'improper' going on (but see below).
I was quite convinced by and happy with the content of the story as narrated by Miss Baxter right through a shatteringly climactic disaster that over-took the Gillespie family and caused Miss Baxter to be cast off from them forever.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic Book
This book is so different to anything I have read before and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I originally heared a little of the story when it was serialised on radio 4. Read more
Published 12 days ago by M. A. Willo
2.0 out of 5 stars Did not live up to my expectations
I bought the audiobook from Audible and started reading this book with high hopes, while listening to it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Frederiek
5.0 out of 5 stars What a story!
I read Jane Hariss's first book, The Observations, which I loved, so was keen to read Gillespie and I. I was delighted to find that I enjoyed this one even more! Read more
Published 3 months ago by Lesley
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read
Make your friends read it and then you can talk about it for hours. A truly brilliant read. Everyone I have given it to has adored it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by jivebanana
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read
If you've ever lived or worked or studied in Glasgow you will immediately feel involved in this book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by C. Snell
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, thought-provoking book
Although beautifully written, Gillespie and I does take a bit of time to get into. Fortunately, enough hints are given that something goes terribly wrong with the Gillespie family... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jilliebee
5.0 out of 5 stars Such an engaging voice.
I bought this novel because I loved the writer's previous book 'The Observations', and I was not disappointed. This is fantastically original. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Bookness
5.0 out of 5 stars Unreiliable narrator?
All is not as it seems in this stunning novel and just when you think you know where its going all is not what it seems..... Very clever and sustains interest throughout. Read more
Published 5 months ago by KAW
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read.
I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to friends, it kept me engaged throughout, though I thought the ending a bit lame. Would like to read this Author again.
Published 5 months ago by kitty c
4.0 out of 5 stars A ripping yarn
Really, I was very gullible when I read this. I enjoyed it but, after discussing it at my Book Group, I found that opinions differed about the narrator's reliability. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Anni of MK
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