Longlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction
Sitting in her Bloomsbury home, with her two birds for company, elderly Harriet Baxter sets out to relate the story of her acquaintance with Ned Gillespie, a talented artist who never achieved the fame he deserved. Back in 1888, after a chance encounter, young Harriet befriends the Gillespie family and soon becomes a fixture in all of their lives. But when tragedy strikes - leading to a notorious criminal trial - the certainties of this world all too rapidly disorientate into mystery and deception.
©2011 Jane Harris (P)2011 W F Howes Ltd
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Wonderfully written and expertly narrated, Gillespie & I is a chilling tale of altered perceptions, half truths and obsessive love. Jane Harris is a supremely talented storyteller.
"Chilling and Compelling"
Brilliantly read by Anna Bentinck (not only does she cope with a range of accents she even modulates her tone to reflect the 'young' and 'old' periods in the narrator's life) this audiobook had me gripped until the final seconds. It focuses on the tragic fate of the artist, Ned Gillespie as told by his close friend and great admirer Harriet Baxter. What becomes increasingly apparent however, is that this is only one, far from impartial, view of events...
Don't miss out on this one - the closing sentence truly sent a shiver down my spine!
"lacks pace and plausibility"
An over-rated book, I think. To start with, it is too long to sustain a pretty thin plot, and lacks both pace and narrative drive. The plot's plausibility gets preposterous towards the end, and the characters are not that convincing. The only thing that kept me going to the end was the outstanding narration. Anna Bentinck could recite a telephone directory and bring it to life. She certainly earned her money on this book.
"Like watching paint dry"
It said on the back 'literary crack cocaine.' I stopped listening after 4h 38m in which NOTHING HAD HAPPENED. It's a long book and I'm sure it must get better but, really, life's too short. There isn't even any pleasure in the mundane details of the lives of the characters, like there is with a really good writer. Just... nothing going for it. I'm returning mine.
"Something different, glad I read it"
I tried on several occasions to get in to this book. The style of narration, although well matched to the main character and period of the book, irritated me which is why it took several attempts. This is an interesting story switching from 1930s to 1890s and is narrated by a single English lady of private means who befriends the family of a struggling Scottish artist. The family consist of two daughters, one of whom appears disturbed, and throughout the book you do not really know what happened to her. A tragedy ensues in which this spinster lady is implicated. However the story is told as a memoire so you know the outcome even as it unfurls. At some points you feel the past and the present may merge which definitely held my interest. The narrator herself is quite self opinionated. There were times I was irritated by her, but at other times I felt sorry for her. She is someone who appears independent, who befriends people but deep down does not appear to have the support of loving relationships herself and so her "independence" is really more stoical acceptance. Towards the end, I was gripped as I felt something new was about to happen, but in the end it just finishes and was not quite as satisfying as I hoped, as I like a good, surprise ending. I am glad I read this book as it was a change from the contemporary books I usually read but is not in my 5* list.
The development of the story-line grabbed me and refused to let go until the bitter end.
About a third the way through I realised this was no ordinary story.
I thought Anna Bentinck's performance was perfect, not overstated or pushy she created the right atmosphere and gave nothing away.
Not at first, but as the story developed I was itching to get back to it.
Stick with it if you think the beginning is a bit too much like a parlour drama - its worth it in the end.
This book is a bit slow to start but this is necessary to really build the story. It is well worth sticking with however, as the story develops the tension builds and you begin to question what is happening. A well written and thought provoking book which stayed with me for quite a while after I had finished it.
"Jane Harris and I"
Having listened to The Observations and enjoyed it very much, I had no hesistation in choosing Gillespie and I. Again skillful writing, great character development and a sort of undefinable creepiness makes this a very gripping tale. I loved the almost reverse premise of The Observations used in this book. You start off believing the main character is a nice, polite lady, but before too long the suspicion begins to overshadow her niceness. Well read by Anna Bentick who managed most of the Scottish place names with ease. I would recommend this audiobook to anyone who likes books that are not predictable.
I was uncertain about this audio book at first but it turned out to be an enthralling listen and superbly read by Anna Bentinck who dealt flawlessly with character changes so that this had none of the "flatness" that some audio books can have. I keep having to go back to the Ipod to "check" my understanding of what really happened or what I might have misconstrued. Set in Victorian Glasgow and switching to thirties London, the main character tells the story of the artist she befriended and their tragic tale.
"Addictive and engrossing"
No spoilers, I promise. I found this book totally engrossing from start to finish. It is the unreliable memoir of Harriet Baxter and her dealings with the family of Glasgow artist Ned Gillespie in the 1880s. If you enjoy Barbara Vine books you may well like this - a sense of an impending tragedy haunts the earlier parts and the truth is built on shifting sands. The narrator captures the different characters well and I found myself looking forward to traffic jams so that I could listen to it for longer in the car!
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