Review: Gillespie and I, by Jane Harris

I could make this my shortest review ever, just by saying I loved this novel from start to finish, and if you haven’t read it, you should.  I don’t want to tell you too much more about it, because its magic is in the storytelling.

But I’ll give you a little teaser …

Harriet Baxter is writing a memoir, specifically the story of her relationship with the artist Ned Gillespie and his family.  Most of the novel is set in Glasgow from 1888-1890.  Harriet met Ned quite by chance while visiting the first International Exhibition, in 1888.  One thing led to another, and her relationships with Ned, his wife Annie, and their two young daughters grew.  When tragedy struck the family, Harriet was right in the thick of it.  But not necessarily in a good way.

Every so often the story is interrupted with a chapter narrated by Harriet in 1933, when she is 80 years old and living in London.  These segments show us a different Harriet, perhaps the one she became after the tragedy, but more likely the Harriet she’s been all her life.

Which made me wonder: what really happened in 1888?  Then I would read on, looking for the “real Harriet” in her version of events, but still not completely sure who the “real Harriet” really was.  Does that make sense? Of course not — but that’s the fun of reading Gillespie and I.  There are so many twists, turns, and nuances that keep you guessing long after you’ve turned the last page.  And I suspect there are as many interpretations of events as there are readers — just get your hands on a copy and enjoy the magic.

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12 thoughts on “Review: Gillespie and I, by Jane Harris

  1. After reading so many positive reviews of this novel I was a bit disappointed with it. The unreliable narrator technique was clever and you are right that even at the end I wasn’t absolutely sure of how much we could believe Harriet. But I thought it ran out of steam somewhat towards the end…..

    • Well that’s too bad, Karen! I thought the final chapter set in 1933 was a really good way of wrapping things up and leaving you wondering …

  2. I loved this, too. I felt as if the sand was shifting under my feet as I progressed through the story. :-)

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