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Gillespie and I
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on 25 October 2017
Cleverly written tale of an era when things were very different, and life very stiff and much harder. The judicial system certainly had its work cut out trying to obtain evidence for the courts.
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on 5 October 2013
This has to be one of the most ingenious, superbly crafted novels I have read for a long time. The writing is sublime, imbued with a vivid sense of time and place as the backdrop to a masterclass in unreliable narration. Cunning, clever and completely convincing.
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on 4 July 2017
Cant recommend enough - you really dont understand the full story until the end.... I had this on loan for a book club but I then bought it on Kindle just so I could re-read it
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on 20 November 2017
Not sure about the ending? What happens? Did she do it or anything for that matter? What with the blue bottle flies?
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on 9 November 2017
Subtle, clever writing. A great read. Would highly recommend.
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on 11 October 2014
Had to read this for book club. We all felt that Harriet was a strange lady.
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on 12 May 2011
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. I was fascinated by the complicated family dynamic, the Victorian detail, the depiction of Glasgow and its characters both fictional and historical, and of course, Harriet's colourful and often acerbic observations. It's fairly apparent that Harriet at times does resort to being manipulative, she's prone to bias and there's something quite off-kilter in some of her references to her stepfather and Ned, her so-called soul mate, but I still found myself liking her. The second half of the novel deals with the break down of the Gillespie family and the trial. I hold my hands up and admit I was completely wrong footed by how things progressed. I'll not say any more as I'd be risking straying into spoiler space. Suffice it to say that the conclusion doesn't disappoint.
I would heartily recommend this book as a great summer read, perfect for that sunny afternoon in the garden, though I must warn you that you may not notice the sun on your face, or the pleasant bird song in the trees, or the bees in the Buddleia - not if you sink as deep into Harriet Baxter's world as I did.
This review was from an Advance Reading Copy.
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VINE VOICEon 5 June 2011
Ah, yes, a grand read, this, and Weegies the world over will love the fine detail of the International Exhibition held in Victorian Glasgow's Kelvingrove. The period detail is superb, from the layout of the streets, to the domestic details of life in a 'close'.

The tale is told by one Harriet Baxter, an English spinster who finds herself living in Glasgow, where she befriends the Gillespie family, and quickly becomes embroiled in their lives and troubles. From the start of the book, we know a tragedy awaits us, and the first half of the novel builds the tension and helps us understand the character of Harriet. The second half of the book takes us on a rollercoaster ride of events, inklings and doubts which leaves the reader desperate to get to the end to find out the truth. You will learn much along the way, not least the unsatisfactory quirks of Scottish Law.... The characters are all well-drawn, perhaps with the exception of Ned himself, but by the end of the book you will understand why this is. (So many things I am dying to tell you about, but can't, or it would spoil your journey through the world of ferns, paintings and birdcages.....)

This book is so cleverly constructed, I was left in awe of the author's skill in putting together this delightful confection of dark humour and genuinely chilling insight into the human mind. Brilliant.

The only reason I have not given it 5 stars is that I did feel the book was too long by about 100 pages. At times there was a little too much detailed dialogue which I thought could have been edited out.

Overall though, it's a gripping read, and I can't wait to talk to someone else who has finished it!!
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on 9 May 2017
I thought the story was very slow, it seemed to be about loyalty. It did seem to take a long time to build up to the accusation of murder and then a long time to sort out the outcome.
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on 17 October 2017
I downloaded Gillespie and I onto my Kindle, but having finished reading it I want a physical book to put my on “favourite books” shelf!
I often steer away from doorstopper books, but I am so glad I read Jane Harris’s second novel. An absolutely brilliant read.

The flashes of humour within Harriet’s recounting of events are sublime, some of the one-liners had me laughing aloud. The scene when Harriet saves Elspeth is wonderful and funny, whilst at the same time cleverly foreshadowing Harriet’s true motivation. But as the story moves on and as I began to realise the unreliability of Harriet’s memories (or were they?), as the story becomes the dark tale it really is, the story hooked me from a different angle.
Beautifully written and structured, from the very beginning Gillespie and I is a compelling page-turner, which is a major feat from the author who doesn’t baulk at giving the reader the full and complete story; the writing is so assured that the reader really does want to know everything, because we suspect every single detail is important, and it is, deliciously so.

This book is a masterclass in the art of creating the unreliable narrator. Magnificent.

Highly recommended and I cannot wait to read Harris’s first novel, The Observations, and her newly published third book, Sugar Money.
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