Gillespie and I by Jane Harris: a Book Review

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris is a cleverly told story, narrated by Harriet Baxter, alternating between events in 1888-90 (in Glasgow) and those in 1933 (in London). In 1888 Harriet moved to Glasgow where she got to know the painter, Ned Gillespie and his family. At first I liked Harriet but as I read on I became increasingly doubtful about her character, even though she comes across as an honest, reliable person. But, as she relates what her life is like in 1933 my impression of her began to change.

All is well at first but than a tragedy occurs which forms the major part of the book. It’s signalled in advance, when Harriet refers to the ‘horrible events’ that lay in the future. To say any more would be too much of a spoiler.

The setting of the book in Glasgow of the late 19th century is well described, helped by plans in the front of the book. The characters are also convincing, even some of the minor ones and her portrayal of Ned’s disturbed daughter, Sybil is quite chilling. This is a very detailed book, both about the place, artists and, through the account of a trial, the Scottish legal system of that period. It’s a book that lingered in my mind after I finished reading and if it wasn’t so long I’d like to re-read it in the light of what I now know.

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (5 May 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0571275168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571275168
  • Source:an uncorrected proof from the publishers (via LibraryThing Early Reviewers)
  • My rating 3.5/5

I haven’t read Jane Harris first book, The Observations, although I’ve owned it for a while. It’s probably time I read that one too.

4 thoughts on “Gillespie and I by Jane Harris: a Book Review

  1. Quote: “if it wasn’t so long I’d like to re-read it” Yes, I see there are 528 pages. It is helpful of you to include this information in your reviews. I recently ordered Hilary Mantel’s “A Place of Greater Safety” from the library, it was only when I collected it that I realised how big is. I guess I should have been warned by “Wolf Hall”. Anyway, with that one waiting for me, it could be a while before I get to “Gillespie and I”, but it is one I keep hearing good things about, so perhaps I’ll get to it eventually.


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