Gillespie and I

Reviewsgill_aus


Warning!
Almost all of these reviews contain what might be considered 'spoilers' in that they reveal rather too much of the book's plot, giving away parts of the story that would be better for readers to discover for themselves. So, if you want to read Gillespie and I 'unpolluted' then save the reviews until afterwards (and, in particular, avoid the Evening Standard review, which is lovely but reveals a ridiculous amount).

The Sunday Times

"Like a Hitchcock film, every detail is there for a reason. . . 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." Daisy Goodwin. More ...

The Telegraph

"Jane Harris follows her first novel, The Observations, a scintillating comic tour de force, with another subversive chunk of Victoriana, stuffed with incident like a horsehair sofa, and a creepy, chortling narrative that rattles along at locomotive speed despite the book's length." Catherine Taylor. More ...

The Times

"It would be wrong to give away too much of the plot of Gillespie and I — suffice to say that 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." John Burnside. More ...

The Independent

"The opening of Jane Harris's clever and entertaining second novel gives little indication of how dark it will become. Harriet Baxter, a cultured and refined woman approaching her 80th year, sits in her London flat in 1933 writing a memoir of events that happened in Glasgow in 1888. We are addressed directly as "Reader", as in a Victorian novel, such words as "sojourn" are used, and the writing is measured and stately. Yet a faint tinge of something wild and overwrought underlies." Carol Birch. More ...

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The Scotsman (Living)

"Jane Harris's first novel, The Observations, caused a minor publishing stramash when 100 pages and a synopsis created a bidding war between publishing houses. Published in 2007, it made several award shortlists and won glowing reviews and rave comparisons to Sarah Waters and Michel Faber, so one might call Gillespie And I the difficult second album. And yet, with her singular talent, she makes this triumph of a tale seem like feeding wee buns to a bear." Peggy Hughes. More ...


The Guardian

"The opening of Jane Harris's clever and entertaining second novel gives little indication of how dark it will become. Harriet Baxter . . . approaching her 80th year, sits in her London flat in 1933 writing a memoir of events that happened in Glasgow in 1888." Carol Birch in the Independent was delighted with Gillespie and I, which she described as "multi-layered, dotted with dry black humour and underpinned by a haunting sense of loneliness"." Clare Clark. More ...

The Times Literary Supplement

"Glasgow in 1888 was a culturally rich city, the scene of an international exhibition of art and technology, and home of the influential Glasgow Boys. To this group of painters Jane Harris adds a fictional figure: the charismatic Ned Gillespie, an ambitious but impecunious artist, an affectionate family man, and the unwitting object of an infatuation on the part of Harris’s narrator, Harriet Baxter." Alison Kelly. More ...

Evening Standard

"Gillespie and I hooks the reader in with great, demented, power." Liz Hoggard. More ...

The Independent

"Full of incidents and conversations whose significance only becomes clear long after you've read them, Gillespie and I is a masterpiece of irony and grotesquerie, told with the straightest of faces. One for the long winter evenings: its 605 pages will fly by. But it lingers in the memory after you've finished it." Brandon Robshaw. More ...

The Scotsman

"Jane Harris's second novel is Faber's lead fiction title for the spring and is the subject of the sort of major publicity campaign which many other novelists may envy. It isn't surprising, however, that the publishers should have high hopes for the book. It is a meaty middlebrow novel." Allan Massie. More ...

bbcradioscotland_logoBBC Radio Scotland Book Café

Fantastic review on the 16th May edition, with art historian Anne Ellis and presenter Claire English. Listen to it here (23 mins in).

The List

''Gillespie and I', a fictional memoir by Jane Harris, combines warm late Victorian detail with well-crafted storytelling technique. We first meet Harriet Baxter in 1933 Bloomsbury, as our elderly narrator embarks on her memoir. The focus from the off is on her magical encounter with ‘soulmate’ Ned Gillespie, Baxter soon becoming deeply embroiled in the lives of this talented young artist and his friends and family." Camilla Pia. More ...

Financial Times

"Harris plays with the convention of the narrator to call into question whether we can ever really understand other human beings. She introduces layer upon layer of doubt and surmise, often through seemingly insignificant details: a pendant, a rusty stone, a bag of sugar. Hearsay and mistaken identity both function within the plot and form part of the narrative . . . this enthralling tale will delight those with a taste for the seamy side of Victorian life." Suzi Feay. More ...

Chicago Tribune

"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." Julia Keller. More ...

Daily Mail

"In Glasgow for the 1888 International Festival, lonely, wealthy 35-year-old spinster Harriet Baxter befriends and attaches herself to the family of up-and-coming artist Ned Gillespie." John Harding. More ...

The Express

"This is an excellently narrated and chilling drama. 5/5" Charlotte Vowden. More ...

Kirkus Reviews

"A fine evocation of a lost era, and without a false note." More ...

The Malaysia Star

"Familiar themes and ideas are given new and enthralling twists. The worlds of art and the “unreliable narrator” come together beautifully in Jane Harris’s second and latest novel, Gillespie And I." More ...

Harriet Devine

"A few years ago, before I started this blog, I read Jane Harris's great debut novel The Observations and loved every minute of it. So you can imagine how pleased I was when I got a copy of her much awaited second book from the publisher ...  it is an absolute cracker and I was awake for long hours in the night racing to the end of it. I'm longing to tell you about it, and also to talk to someone else who's read it, as it's going to be very difficult to write about it without revealing all kinds of developments which I'd rather you discovered for yourself. Lovely stuff." More ...

bbcradio4_logoBBC4 Saturday Review

Aminatta Forna's Saturday Review on BBC Radio 4 gives rave reviews to Gillespie and I: "Magnificent", "A belter." Starts 12 minutes in on this link.

New Zealand Listener

"Those many readers who adored Jane Harris’s first novel, The Observations, will be delighted with her latest sparkling offering, Gillespie and I. Once again, Harris delivers a clever histor­ical novel set in Scotland, chock-full of period detail, teeming with lively characters embroiled in mystery and steeped in an earthy wit. It’s Victorian gothic with a tart Scottish burr, and it’s irresistible." Louise O'Brien. More ...

Metro

"Despite getting off to a deceptively slow start, Jane Harris's follow-up to The Observations soon ups its game. Packed with dark deeds and unreliable narrators, it is a cunningly plotted puzzler full of mysteries and ambiguities that satisfies the contemporary taste for Victoriana and Gothic tales." More ...

Suzi Feay

"I recommend Harris's superbly slippery novel, but the less you know about it in advance, the better." More ...

Financial Times

"Far from a regular whodunit, this sharply written intrigue is a triumph of suggestion and possibility that exerts a tenacious hold on the imagination." James Urquhart. More ...

Catherine Czerkawska: Wordarts

"Just finished reading Gillespie and I, by Jane Harris, which I bought about a week ago, started reading and could not put down. I read it late into the night, woke up looking forward to resuming it and found myself sneaking a sly chapter in the middle of the day when I was meant to be doing other things. It's a big, beautifully written and cleverly constructed read. The research has clearly been meticulous. Historical research, as I know all too well from personal experience, can be a trap for the unwary. The research itself can become so enchanting that one thing leads to another, and you find it hard to make yourself stop and write the novel. But Jane Harris displays an admirable and vivid facility for transporting her readers back in time." More ...

Cornflower Books

"Let me say straightaway what an impressive book this is. Gillespie and I, the second novel by Jane Harris - whose The Observations was widely acclaimed - is a bravura work, its pace finely controlled, its plot like a rope played out, as taut or slack as dramatic effect requires, its setting so well re-created that the reader could find their way around the Glasgow of the 1880s, should the need arise. But beyond all that, what really makes the book is the central character, Harriet Baxter, and as it's a first person narrative, it's Harriet's voice which literally and metaphorically carries the story." More ...

Tell Me a Story

"Wow! In a recent author interview the author was asked to name the best books she'd read in 2011 and [Gillespie and I] was one of them. I hadn't heard of it before but enquired at the library and there it was. I knew nothing about it except it was historical fiction and.... Wow!" More ...

Dovegreyreader

"In fact I have avoided any chance of fatigue by coming to Gillespie and I in instalments spanning several weeks, and at over 500 pages the book can cope with that and this may well explain why I seem to have been carrying this one up and down stairs for ever, but it's paid off...what a brilliant read." More ...

Goodreads

"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 beautiful cover design (I really hope they don't alter it for the paperback edition)." More ...

The National

"It is 1888, and Harriet Baxter, a spinster on the wrong side of 30, escapes to Glasgow to recuperate after the death of her only close relative. Jane Harris's Gillespie and I appears to be an account of Harriet's subsequent entanglement with the family of Ned Gillespie, a struggling painter of some talent, who we learn later killed himself and burnt his canvases. Written as a memoir, with the narrator now in her 80s, the novel affects the genteel manners of a Victorian lady, until the Gillespie family is plunged into turmoil by the behaviour of Sibyl, their eldest daughter." More ...

Waterstone's reader reviews

Excellen reader reviews on the Waterstone’s website, where Gillespie and I was one of the most reviewed books of 7th/8th May:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Gillespie and I by Jane Harris. Elderly Harriet Baxter tells the story of her chance meeting and following friendship with the Gillespie family in Glasgow 40 years previously. Ned Gillespie is a struggling artist at the time of the Glasgow International Exhibition and gentle, unassuming Harriet takes a liking to his works. The descriptive writing of Glasgow in the year 1888 allows you to clearly imagine the characters and the period. Jane Harris has a wonderful way of keeping the reader entertained throughout the whole book with the twists and turns of the story and keeps you guessing what will happen next. It’s a dramatic book written in a mild mannered style which is a breath of fresh air compared to the many horror crime writers out there. I couldn’t put the book down. I’d definitely recommend this book to others and I am now going to read Jane Harris’s previous novel The Observations which I can only hope will be just as good.” A Waterstone’s customer from Manchester.

Rodney Troubridge, Waterstone's

"Gillespie and I is a 500-pager but at no stage did I flag while reading it as the story, which starts slowly and deliberately, soon tightens its grip with great cleverness. It is historical fiction again, this time late Victorian Glasgow, and the disappearance of a child is told through the viewpoint of an outwardly respectable spinster from the 1930s. I just loved the way the author cunningly sets up the ambiguous atmosphere of what really happened to the child. This really is a treat."

Author John Boyne has said "... if there are 2 better novels published during 2011 than Jane Harris’ GILLESPIE AND I and Patrick Ness’ A MONSTER CALLS, then they will have to be very, very good books indeed ..."

The Orange Prize Project

"Jane Harris is a magnificent writer, and she grabs the Gothic tradition with fierceness." More ...

Me And My Big Mouth

"A beautifully crafted piece of historical fiction which wrongfoots you throughout. More ...

No Cupcakes for You

"We already have proof that Jane Harris can write fresh and authoritative historical fiction. Check. She can invent original, historically appropriate characters whose self assurance she manipulates to great effect. Check. What I learned in Gillespie and I is that Harris has a wonderful gift for slowly parceling out the suspenseful details in a novel while never making the book feel like it is just a mystery story. I was positive I knew where things were headed in Gillespie and I but I was completely and happily wrong. Yea!" More ...

Adele Geras

"This is a rich, fascinating, involving and fast-moving story, which races to its conclusion with the inexorable power of one of those old Victorian steam trains. There is also  plenty  to discuss  with others and turn over in your  mind when you reach the last page. Terrific stuff." More ...

 

Interviews


Woman's Hour Interview

Jane Harris, author of the acclaimed The Observations, which was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2007, talks about her second novel: Gillespie and I. It is largely set in the late 19th century, and involves anonymous letters, sleazy journalism and a notorious court case. We ask Jane Harris why she returned to the setting of late 19th Century Glasgow - and to writing about madness. More ...

The Herald Interview

We are in the sun-drenched cafe at the Wellcome Collection, where the exhibition, Dirt: The Filthy Reality Of Everyday Life includes sepia-tinted photographs of Hannah Cullwick, a Victorian domestic servant and diarist. More ...

Scottish Book Trust Interview

This month Book Talk features two books linked by the theme of interesting narrators, Gillespie and I by Jane Harris and Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson. These are books that are very much about how the story is being told to us, and also about how the narrator’s memory affects the stories we are being told. We also interview Glasgow-born Jane Harris to find out the origins of Gillespie and I's dark and mysterious story. Regular host Paul Gallagher is joined by writer Kirsty Logan and Scottish Book Trust PR Manager Helen Croney for an in-depth discussion of both books. More ...

Meet the Author Interview

Jane Harris writes fiction and screenplays. Her first novel, The Observations, was nominated for the Orange Prize, and her most recent, Gillespie & I, published this month, inspired the Telegraph to write: "Harris's writing is a joy, excitable yet controlled, bawdy yet respectable." More ...

Savidge Reads Interview

The wonder of the internet means that you can do an interview anywhere in the world. So today we are whizzing up through the countryside with Jane Harris, author of ‘The Observations’ and ‘Gillespie and I’ which has become my latest favourite book, with Glasgow as the destination. Whilst sipping on cups of tea, from a flask of course not that train dishwater, and maybe munching on a cupcake or two. Discussing ‘Victorian sensation novels’, second book syndrome, reading, writing and books. So grab yourself a cup of tea too and join us for a natter… More ...

Faber Podcast Interview

We were thrilled to welcome Jane to the Faber offices recently to record a Faber Podcast with our regular interviewer, George Miller. George is originally from Glasgow, and Jane was raised there, so the city loomed large in their conversation – along with a discussion on gothic fiction, characterisation, dialogue, comedy and plenty more. It’s about 25 minutes long and we hope you enjoy it. More ...

Sky Arts Book Show - Bedtime Reads

Screenwriter and novelist Jane Harris tells us which books she likes to read before bedtime: "When I’m writing a novel I tend to read, generally, works that are related to that book that I’m writing. At the moment I’m in that quite luxurious position of being between novels ... and I’m able to read whatever I like."  Jane says.

Unfortunately the link to this doesn't work any more so we're trying to find one that does. 

The List

On the eve of her appearance at the 2011 Edinburgh International Book Festival, Jane talked to the List about making Glasgow an evocative charactier in Gillespie and I. More ...

The View from Here Interview

I met Jane Harris briefly at the Steyning Festival in 2012. Since, her latest novel Gillespie and I has been shortlisted for the 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and The Independent on Sunday has chosen it as one of its paperbacks of the year. This is in addition to the vast array of awards and acclaim it has already received elsewhere. In March 2012 it was longlisted for The Orange Prize for Fiction and was a finalist in the Scottish Book Awards 2012. More ...


Interviews and reviews for The Observations

 

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