IoS paperback review: Gillespie and I, By Jane Harris

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The Independent Culture

A curious, creepy novel set in 19th-century Edinburgh, with flash-forwards to the 1930s, Gillespie and I is narrated by Harriet Baxter, who befriends the up-and-coming Scottish artist Ned Gillespie in the 1880s, and in old age decides to set the record straight about their relationship and the tragedies that befell him and his family.

It's a tour de force of ventriloquism: the voice is cultivated, arch, genteel and a touch spiteful, and one wholly believes in Harriet, both as a young, artistic groupie and an elderly spinster of diminished means. There's a physicality in the writing that causes certain passages to inscribe themselves on the cerebral cortex. Gillespie and I is a masterpiece of irony and grotesquerie, told with the straightest of faces. One for those long winter evenings: its 605 pages will fly by.