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Gillespie and I: A Novel Paperback – January 31, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Harris, author of The Observations, follows up her smashing debut with another biting, character-driven satire. As elderly narrator Harriet Baxter takes a trip down memory lane, the story of an essentially lonely life punctuated by one period of giddy activity and involvement unfolds. When Harriet, a well-heeled, youngish Victorian spinster, travels to Glasgow in 1888 to take in the sights and sounds of the International Exhibition, a chance encounter embroils her in the middle of the eccentric Gillespie family. As she becomes indispensable to the clan, her relationship with Ned Gillespie, a struggling artist with a wife and two daughters to support, becomes more and more obsessive. The initially playful narrative tone darkens decidedly as the double mystery of Ned’s eventual suicide and Harriet’s reliability as a memoirist steadily unpeels. --Margaret Flanagan


“To detail even minor aspects of the plot twists in GILLESPIE AND I would necessitate an additional crime: You’d want to kill me. So delectably well has Harris constructed this psychological thriller that even the slightest hint of what’s to come would spoil things.” (Chicago Tribune)

“To say anything more would be to give away the plot, which is too delectable to spoil.” (Washington Post)

“Even for readers who think they’ve seen everything, GILLESPIE AND I is almost certain to be surprising. . . . A masterwork of subtlety and penetrating psychological insight. . . . But few hints will prepare most readers for what is to come.” (Shelf Awareness)

“Elegant novel of love, loss and redemption. . . . Harris writes sensitively and in rich detail. . . . A fine evocation of a lost era, and without a false note.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Haunting. . . . Harris succeeds with nuanced characters. . . . The reader will be so thoroughly entrenched in the carefully arranged details and the courtroom’s gripping drama that there will be no turning back.” (Publishers Weekly)

“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.” (Sunday Times (London))

“Harris follows up her smashing debut with another biting, character-driven satire.” (Booklist)

“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.” (The Times (London))

“A wonderfully compelling read.” (Daily Mail (London))
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062103202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062103208
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #984,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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" won the USA Book of the Month Club's First Fiction Prize in 2007 and 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 in England and the Scottish Book Awards in 2012.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By P. Woodland on February 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
Where do I start? This is a very hard book to review; it was fantastic, don't get me wrong. In fact one of the best books I've read - but to explain why is to give away too much. Ms. Harris is brilliant. She has created a heroine that is so multifaceted you run the gamut of emotions from like to out and out hate and back again before you are done with the book. Just who IS Harriet Baxter?

Harriet, at the start of the book is a young woman who has lost her mother and has just buried her aunt. She is of independent means and so she decides to go to Glasgow for the great International Exhibition that is being held. While there she saves the life of Elsbeth Gillespie and ingratiates herself into the family. To what end?

The book is Harriet's memoir as she writes in her dotage. She is "to set the record straight" about her time with "the artist Gillespie." But one wonders about her ability to discern the absolute truth from the Harriet truth. The story is told in a well constructed flashback/flashforward style that forces you to piece snippets of information together like a jigsaw puzzle. Never have I enjoyed a book more. Never have I puzzled over a book more. Never have I wondered at the sanity of a heroine more. And I am still thinking about her and I finished the book over a week ago. This book has serious pull. Oh, I will read it again and I suspect that I will find all manner of things I missed as I flew through it the first time.

Do not miss the chance to acquaint yourself with Ms. Harriet Baxter. You won't be disappointed. Her times are fascinating, her story is thrilling and her life a conundrum. All manner of praise to Jane Harris for creating a character so complex and a story so rich in detail and human drama.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Darryl R. Morris on April 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
Harriet Baxter is an 80 year old woman living alone in Bloomsbury in 1933. As she nears the end of her life, and while she possesses a full mental capacity, she decides to write a memoir about Ned Gillespie, a brilliant Glaswegian painter who never achieved the fame he deserved.

Harriet is a single and outspoken woman of good taste and independent means in her mid-30s, who travels from London to Glasgow to attend the 1888 International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry. She is introduced to Ned after she has a remarkable encounter with his mother Elspeth and wife Annie, and she recognizes him from an art exhibition in London held several years previously. The two women befriend Harriet, who integrates herself into the lives of the Gillespie family, including their younger daughter Rose and her older, troubled sister Sibyl, along with Ned's overbearing mother and his secretive brother.

Harriet decides to lengthen her stay in Glasgow, as she becomes a somewhat awkward yet appreciated fixture in the Gillespie household. Sibyl exhibits increasingly strange and disturbing behavior, which strains the marriage and Annie's relationship with Elspeth, and culminates in a shocking crime that devastates the Gillespies and their new friend.

The novel shifts between 1888 Glasgow and 1933 London, as Harriet tells her side of the events that surrounded the crime and its notorious trial and aftermath, in order to set the record straight. The action and tension build in both settings, as Harriet proves to be an increasingly unreliable narrator, which left this reader fascinated and on the edge of his seat until the final page.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 5, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've arrived late on the scene here with this review; there are already plenty of exemplary five-star reviews. In fact, it was the high quality of many of those reviews (and the reviewers) that caused me to buy this book and read it as soon as I downloaded it. The book sounded too good to pass up...a delicious and very special literary treat. I needed that. So I stole the time and I certainly don't regret it.

Many of the highly praiseworthy reviews note that the book drags for the first 90 to 200 pages. I agree. But, please, don't let that get in the way. These pages are essential; they build character and, more important, tension. Stick with it. Try to relish the detail and abandon yourself to it. It's already given away in these reviews that you're dealing with an unreliable narrator, so spend that extra time and energy trying to read between the lines, examining the facets, looking behind the incidentals. Soon those long atmospheric character-building pages will be behind you and you'll be primed (yes, primed) for the amazing psychological rollercoaster ride at the end.

The ending is spectacularly spine-chilling! No matter how well, or how closely, you've attended to the beginning of this novel, you'll find the hair at the back of your neck standing straight up as you make your way through the last third.

Harriet Baxter is a character that you'll never fail to remember; she's as unforgettable as Hitchcock's Norman Bates. Without a doubt, Jane Harris is an extraordinarily effective and accomplished author.

If you love strong character-driven literary psychological mysteries, don't pass this up. This is as delicious a literary treat as they come. "Gillespie and I" will certainly be on my list of one of the best books I've read this year.
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