An old frail woman narrates a story from her past about a painter friend and about a very famous trial that she had been embroiled in. She sits at her desk, quietly penning down from her memory, while her two Finches chirp pleasantly from their beautifully carved cage. The story that this old woman, Harriet Baxter, is narrating is very much like that cage, pretty on the outside, but from inside an inescapable trap. Jane Harris, a very talented author weaves a highly captivating, complex tale of friendships and betrayals in ‘Gillespie and I’.
Harriet Baxter is an Englishwoman with a very kind heart. During her time living in Glasgow she saves Elspeth Gillespie’s life which initiates a friendship between the Gillespie family and Harriet. Soon she becomes a close friend of the family and her constant urge to help their betterment makes her very dear to them. Ned Gillespie, the artist and his wife Annie Gillespie become her particularly good friends. But all is not well with the Gillespie family. Ned and Annie’s seven year old daughter becomes wayward and uncontrollable and the relationship between Ned and Annie deteriorates. But the final blow comes with the disappearance of Rose, their younger daughter, and Harriet finds herself caught in the middle of this ordeal in an unexpected manner.
Jane Harris is a very talented writer. The most striking aspect of this novel is the strength of its characters and its plot. Each individual is carved out in detail and the interrelationships between them are portrayed beautifully. The storyline, which seems like a simple and linear narrative in the beginning, slowly evolves into a complex and intriguing plot. The darkness in the story slips in unnoticed and increases by degrees. Harris’s enigmatic style of writing very skillfully brings out the facets of the sinister. The prose is simple yet beautiful and draws you into the story. Glasgow, where most of the story takes place, serves as an excellent setting. Harris speaks about the famous Glasgow exhibition and the various artists from around that time which adds to the charm of the novel.
I really loved reading ‘Gillespie and I’ and I will recommend it highly for its excellent plot and intriguing characters. It is a must for all lovers of the mystery genre.
Book Source: Self