I find something so cozy about reading a chunky historical fiction during the colder months. You can just wrap up in a blanket, have a hot drink nearby, and just lose yourself in it.
Even if it turns out to be not so nice.
Gillespie and I is one of those books that I find difficult to talk about because too much information would spoil it. So I’ll just start with this:
Harriet Baxter is an elderly spinster living in London in the 1930’s. She has taken it upon herself to write her memoirs, specifically about the period she was acquainted with Ned Gillespie, a forgotten Scottish artist and – according to Harriet, an unfairly neglected genius. Part of the reason for Gillespie’s obscurity is that he destroyed most of his work before tragically taking his own life. Harriet describes him as her “dear friend and soul mate,” revealing that she was closest to him and knew him better than members of his own family. She then looks back to the spring of 1888, when she first met Gillespie and his family at the International Exhibition in Glasgow.
And I’ll say no more for now.
At first, this novel reads something like The Remains of the Day – as the story unfolds, the reader notices flaws and quirks that the narrator stays blissfully unaware of. For instance, Harriet considers herself a kind and generous person. But she can be quite cruel in her descriptions of others – Ned’s sister, for example, would be quite a beauty if her jaw did not “put one in mind of a frying pan.” This streak of nastiness running through Harriet’s narration hints at more sinister things to come. If you liked Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger, you will enjoy Gillespie and I.