In a recent author interview the author was asked to name the best books she'd read in 2011 and this 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....
......I wasn't prepared for what was to come. Gillespie and I is so very good and so very different from what I imagined it was going to be and definitely one of the very best I've read this year.
The story begins in 1933.............Harriet Baxter is approaching 80 and decides to write a book on " Ned Gillespie: artist, innovator, and forgotten genius; my dear friend and soul mate."
She then goes back to 1888, when as a " young, independent and modern' woman she decides to visit Glasgow where the International Exhibition is being held. An incident in the street leads her to making the acquaintance of the Gillespie family and the discovery they live just around the corner. Very soon Harriet becomes a frequent visitor to their home and a welcome family friend...........until tragedy strikes and she finds herself embroiled in a world of mystery and deception.
That's all I'm going to tell you because I don't want even a hint of a spoiler. At first the book seemed like another enjoyable Victorian tale. I liked that it was set in Glasgow - I don't think I've read an historical novel with that setting before and the glimpses into the time of the Exhibition and the Scottish art world were most interesting. Harriet is an appealing narrator - she says one thing while treating the reader to thoughts that are perceptive, strongly opinionated , often less than kind and have a biting humour.
Very slowly a sense of unease starts to grow, the feeling that nothing is quite as it seems to be. Jane Harris's skill at manipulating her reader through Harriet is brilliant and the twists in the plot continually raise doubts and questions about what is really happening. I still can't read the final pages without chills running down my spine.
Fantastic reading - I recommend!