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Gillespie and I

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  4,254 ratings  ·  683 reviews
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. A
Hardcover, 504 pages
Published May 5th 2011 by Faber & Faber (first published May 2011)
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Will Byrnes
Nov 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
An old woman, Harriet Baxter, tells her story, she goes back and forth between 1880s Glasgow where she attended their International Exhibition of 1888 and her now quiet life in England in the 1930s. Gillespie is an up and coming young artist she met and befriended in her youth.

This starts out as rather a fun romp with some silly characters and strange events and then becomes dark. I won't say anything more than that there is a mystery or two thrown into the mix and the reader doesn't know what
I read Jane Harris's debut, The Observations, a couple of years ago. I thought it was very good, but nothing about it really suggested to me that the author would go on to write a minor masterpiece. However, as soon as I started hearing good things about Gillespie and I, I had this feeling I was going to love it; something to do with the plot synopsis combined with all the good things I was hearing about it (the reviews here, so far, are overwhelmingly great) and, of course, that absolutely beau ...more
The success of Gillespie & I is almost entirely due to its phenomenal narrator, Harriet Baxter - exceedingly polite, utterly manipulative, the master of the backhanded compliment, and one of the loneliest characters I have ever come across. She's the perfect example of a fictional person that you loathe so much you love, that you appreciate just for the meticulous character development. The rest of the novel is excellent too, with a slow-burning Victorian feel, and after you push through the som ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Are you in the mood for a delicious, lurid, butt-kicking, hair-raising, and guilt free reading experience? Literary licks meets cinematic thriller? You are here. Press Go--or run, not walk to your nearest book seller or library. Grab a seat, speed-dial food-to-go, call in sick, and let the babysitter put the kids to bed. Oh...and don't read the book blurb; let yourself be astonished as you burn through this all-consuming novel. Once the first ninety pages or so go by at a casual clip, you will b ...more
Richard Derus
Jun 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: √2

The Book Report: There isn't anything I can say that won't be a spoiler here. The book description from Amazon says:
“As she sits in her Bloomsbury home with her two pet birds for company, elderly Harriet Baxter recounts the story of her friendship with Ned Gillespie—a talented artist whose life came to a tragic end before he ever achieved the fame and recognition that Harriet maintains he deserved.
In 1888, young Harriet arrives in Glasgow during the International Exhibition. After a c

Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my GIFTS AND GUILTY list.

Regardless of how many books are already queued patiently on my reading list, unexpected gifts and guilt-trips will always see unplanned additions muscling their way in at the front.

If I didn’t stick to certain rules, I would buy bo
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2012-reads
I wasn't prepared to be blown away by this book.

If I'm being honest, I really enjoyed The Observations and that is the sole reason that I requested the book when I purchased it for the library. I was a bit worried that this would be another Swan Thieves for me, but she seems to have pulled off the second novel (after the first success) quite nicely. Speaking of second novels, I'm still waiting, Diane Setterfield. It's been six years... get your butt in gear!

I can't really write about the plot w
Sep 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book had a really weird effect on me: after I finished, I sat there wondering if I was like the narrator — self-deluding, manipulative, not able to see what I’m doing or worse, knowing and yet somehow still managing to tell the story as if I’m the victim. There was something just so well done and so unpleasant about the way the narrator tells her profoundly skewed version of events, and the slow way the hints pile up about that. The little details you need to keep in mind, because they sudd ...more
May 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Review from Badelynge
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 du

From BBC radio 4 Extra - 15 minutes drama:

Victorian gothic mystery by Jane Harris. In 1888, Harriet Baxter, an art-loving Englishwoman, arrives in Glasgow for the city's International Exhibition. She meets the Scottish painter, Ned Gillespie, and his wife, Annie - but tragedy is about to strike the Gillespies.

Dramatised by Chris Dolan.

The end was a bit disappointing but the book is quite good. Even if I asn't able to read the full story Gillespie and I by Jane Harris, an interestin

Leslie Ray
The author captures the vocabulary and life style of the nineteenth century admirably, including the International Exhibition in Glasgow and art scene of the day. The book begins in the 1930's, as Harriet Baxter is writing her memoirs regarding her friendship/love of Ned Gillespie, an artist, and his family. Through a tragic turn of events, they are wrenched apart. The flashbacks and her current setting somewhat coincide as mysterious things happen to her in the present day as she recounts her b ...more
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book via a FirstReads giveaway on Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

It pains me to give this book such a low rating, especially since I was so looking forward to reading it and most grateful for having won a free copy from GoodReads’s First Reads program.

I must say that I simply did not care for this book. I felt compelled to finish it and wanted to see how it ended, but I found myself really not caring about the story and certainly without any
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ah-deadly
In Glasgow in 1888, Harriet Baxter saves Elspeth Gillespie from choking to death on the street. In a startling coincidence, Elspeth happens to have a son who is an up-and-coming painter in the Glasgow art scene, a man whom Harriet just happens to have met randomly at a gallery in London earlier in the year. She becomes close friends with Gillespie and his wife and family, but is she the charmer she makes herself out to be or the most unreliable narrator since Amy Dunne?

Harris creates a wonderful
This was such a great read. It’s been a while since a book stayed with me for weeks after finishing the last page and this despite me not ‘loving’ the ending either. But I was firmly engrossed reading this and there was something truly haunting about this story without being in your face about it and I absolutely loved that about it. It literally crawled under my skin.
The story started off unassuming and light-hearted enough, but before long something about Harriet Baxter’s narrative felt off wh
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a deliciously addictive mystery! I urge anyone who picks this up to clear the docket for the next couple of days. Jane Harris’ narrator Harriet may set the standard for unreliable narrators and her “memoir” will have you on the edge of your seat.

Harriet Baxter comes across a little-known artist named Ned Gillespie. She is a woman of means, a “spinster” in her mid-30s, and footloose after nursing an old aunt who has just passed away. After a brief encounter with the artist, she chances upon
It’s rarely with such relief that I press the ‘I’ve finished’ button. This isn’t a bad book, it’s just far too long. It’s narrated by Harriet Baxter, an Englishwoman who decides to come up to Glasgow for a while to enjoy the 1888 International Exhibition. Or did she come to Glasgow because she was enamoured with Ned Gillespie, an up and coming artist? We’re not led to suspect this until during the trial at the end of the book. It’s then that we start to doubt Harriet’s version of events and wond ...more
Diane S ☔
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
4.5 Harris is a master at creating atmosphere, because I consider this book on par with the atmospheric Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. Literally did not ant to put it down, though it was rather slow in the beginning I soon became consumed by the plot, the characterizations and the many twists and turns this novel took. At one point the author managed to totally shock me, which doesn't happen in very many novels, but this one took a twist I really didn't see coming. Glasgow and the exhibition in ...more
Feb 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Even as I type, I don't know how to write this review. I think I will approach it as a book club book. I would strongly suggest that, if you are a book cheater (like myself), don't look ahead with this one. Don't look for spoilers. You know that moment in A Beautiful Mind when Russell Crow is challenged about his mental stability while his roommate sits in the corner and cries? I needed about 30 more seconds to process the scene before I came to the conclusion myself that his roommate wasn't rea ...more
Jun 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Three things: one, Jane Harris, where have you been all my life?; two, imagine Shirley Jackson meets A.S. Byatt, with a little Sarah Waters and Zoe Heller thrown in, all set in Scotland, and you've got the feel of the story; and three, I loved this book.

I'm sort of just going to flail and squee, and I'm not sure how helpful this review will be.  Sorry!

In brief: this novel had everything I love in a great book -- wonderful writing, real characters, and a compelling plot that surprised me -- and I
Jan 10, 2012 added it
Shelves: fiction
I invested a bit of time into this one. Was it worth it? Yes and no. Jane Harris is an excellent story-teller and the story is interesting. Like many here, I can’t tell much without a spoiler slipping by. I’m thinking his is a book that will gnaw at me, asking “what’s it all about?”, for some time. Did it need to be over 500 pages? I’m not certain. I liked some of the characters and wanted to throttle others. I liked the exploration of relationships, familial and otherwise; friendships, both mal ...more
Nov 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story, but editing out 100 pages would've made it a better book. (The pace was a bit slow, even in the courtroom scenes.) What does the author want us to think of Harriet? Is she an unreliable narrator, or just a woman traumatized by certain events in her past? I still don't know. The book could've been written in a more compelling way than it was. ...more
Beth Diiorio
Gillespie and I is Jane Harris' second novel to receive both public and critical acclaim. It is beautifully written in a dignified Victorian manner, which initially disguises the undercurrents of the psychology of the main characters. Another element which took me by surprise (and which I very much appreciated) was the main character's quick-witted sense of humor. It is 1933 in London, England and Harriet Baxter, an elderly English woman living a polite, responsible, and intelligent life with he ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful read. Dark, witty, tense, creepy and enthralling.

Gillespie and I is set in turn-of-the-century Glasgow. The story follows a woman called Harriet Baxter and her friendship with the family of an artist she admires, Ned Gillespie.

As Harriet gets to know the family, she shares in their ups and downs, including a tragedy that defines the lives of all involved.

Other than that, as others mention in reviews, there's nothing else I can say without spoiling things!

Harris beautifully s
May 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I read this book because I liked the author's first book, The Observations. A few pages in, I realized Gillespie and I was going to be entirely different. But it seemed that I would enjoy it. So I kept reading. And reading. It was OK, as I was reading. The book kept my interest and Harriet's story drove me forward just wanting to know what was going on and why. The story is told from the perspective of the first-person narrator and it appears her version of the story she's telling might be sligh ...more
Lari Don
May 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
This novel has a couple of features which usually put me off: a very slow pace and a plot which is signalled beforehand with lots of hints. However, in this writer’s hands and in this character’s voice, these devices work perfectly. The story is set around the household of a struggling artist at the time of the International Exhibition in Glasgow, and is told, decades later, by an acquaintance who grew into a family friend and benefactor, and who was there to help when the (often hinted at) fami ...more
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
As I read this interesting historical novel, I kept thinking about a flower attacked by, say, an insect, or maybe some kind of disease. I think it offers one of the best examples of the untrustworthy narration device I've ever read.

It's 1888, and Harriet, a woman of independent means who is about 35 years old, meets a young painter at a show in London. Coincidentally-- or perhaps not coincidentally-- she encounters him some months later in Glasgow, his native city, and swiftly, deliberately, get
May 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A masterclass in ambiguity…

Elderly Harriet Baxter sits in her London home, thinking back to when she was a young woman, visiting Glasgow for the International Exhibition of 1888. There, she fell in with the Gillespie family, and became involved in an incident that was to impact both her and them for the rest of their lives. She slowly tells the reader the tale…

Slowly being the operative word. If this book had been half its length it would have been wonderful. Instead, it crawls along at a toe-cu
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this one but it doesn't get a full 5 stars only because it dragged slightly at one point, for me. Otherwise, it was really good. I was left wondering much about the main character, in a good, thought-provoking way. I like how i'm still not completely sure about the main character. You'll know what i mean if you read this. Really brilliant. If I could give it 4.5 stars, I would. I plan on reading her first book as well. ...more
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Gilliespie and I by Jane Harris 1 12 Apr 25, 2017 12:34PM  
Bailey's/Orange W...: October Archive book Gillespie and I 40 59 Jan 03, 2017 02:25AM  
Audiobooks: BBC Radio Drama: Gillespie and I 3 38 Oct 20, 2013 11:26AM  
Lush Library: Gillespie & I - Spoilers 4 60 Feb 13, 2013 08:22AM  

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There is more than one author with this name in the GR database

Jane Harris was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and raised in Glasgow. Her short stories have appeared in a wide variety of anthologies and magazines, and she has written several award-winning short films. In 2000, she received a Writer's Award from the Arts Council of England.

She started writing by accident while living in Portuga

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