How the Light Gets In (Penny)

How the Light Gets In  (Armand Gamache series, 9)
Louise Penny, 2013
St. Martin's Press
416 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780312655471



Summary
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. —Leonard Cohen

Christmas is approaching, and in Québec it’s a time of dazzling snowfalls, bright lights, and gatherings with friends in front of blazing hearths. But shadows are falling on the usually festive season for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.

Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasn’t spoken to him in months, and hostile forces are lining up against him. When Gamache receives a message from Myrna Landers that a longtime friend has failed to arrive for Christmas in the village of Three Pines, he welcomes the chance to get away from the city. Mystified by Myrna's reluctance to reveal her friend's name, Gamache soon discovers the missing woman was once one of the most famous people not just in North America, but in the world, and now goes unrecognized by virtually everyone except the mad, brilliant poet Ruth Zardo.

As events come to a head, Gamache is drawn ever deeper into the world of Three Pines. Increasingly, he is not only investigating the disappearance of Myrna’s friend but also seeking a safe place for himself and his still-loyal colleagues. Is there peace to be found even in Three Pines, and at what cost to Gamache and the people he holds dear?

How the Light Gets In is the ninth Chief Inspector Gamache Novel from Louise Penny. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—1958
Where—Toronto, Canada
Education—B.A, Ryerson University
Awards—Agatha Award (4 times) "New Blood" Dagger Award;
   Arthur Ellis Award; Barry Award, Anthony Award; Dilys Award.
Currently—lives in Knowlton, Canada (outside of Montreal)


In her words
I live outside a small village south of Montreal, quite close to the American border. I'd like to tell you a little bit about myself. I was born in Toronto in 1958 and became a journalist and radio host with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, specializing in hard news and current affairs. My first job was in Toronto and then moved to Thunder Bay at the far tip of Lake Superior, in Ontario. It was a great place to learn the art and craft of radio and interviewing, and listening. That was the key. A good interviewer rarely speaks, she listens. Closely and carefully. I think the same is true of writers.

From Thunder Bay I moved to Winnipeg to produce documentaries and host the CBC afternoon show. It was a hugely creative time with amazingly creative people. But I decided I needed to host a morning show, and so accepted a job in Quebec City. The advantage of a morning show is that it has the largest audience, the disadvantage is having to rise at 4am.

But Quebec City offered other advantages that far outweighed the ungodly hour. It's staggeringly beautiful and almost totally French and I wanted to learn. Within weeks I'd called Quebecers "good pumpkins", ordered flaming mice in a restaurant, for dessert naturally, and asked a taxi driver to "take me to the war, please." He turned around and asked "Which war exactly, Madame?" Fortunately elegant and venerable Quebec City has a very tolerant and gentle nature and simply smiled at me.

From there the job took me to Montreal, where I ended my career on CBC Radio's noon programme.

In my mid-thirties the most remarkable thing happened. I fell in love with Michael, the head of hematology at the Montreal Children's Hospital. He'd go on to hold the first named chair in pediatric hematology in Canada, something I take full credit for, out of his hearing.

It's an amazing and blessed thing to find love later in life. It was my first marriage and his second. He'd lost his first wife to cancer a few years earlier and that had just about killed him. Sad and grieving we met and began a gentle and tentative courtship, both of us slightly fearful, but overcome with the rightness of it. And overcome with gratitude that this should happen to us and deeply grateful to the family and friends who supported us.

Fifteen years later we live in an old United Empire Loyalist brick home in the country, surrounded by maple woods and mountains and smelly dogs.

Since I was a child I've dreamed of writing and now I am. Beyond my wildest dreams (and I can dream pretty wild) the Chief Inspector Gamache books have found a world-wide audience, won awards and ended up on bestseller lists including the New York Times. Even more satisfying, I have found a group of friends in the writing community. Other authors, booksellers, readers—who have become important parts of our lives. I thought writing might provide me with an income—I had no idea the real riches were more precious but less substantial. Friendships.

There are times when I'm in tears writing. Not because I'm so moved by my own writing, but out of gratitude that I get to do this. In my life as a journalist I covered deaths and accidents and horrible events, as well as the quieter disasters of despair and poverty. Now, every morning I go to my office, put the coffee on, fire up the computer and visit my imaginary friends, Gamache and Beauvoir and Clara and Peter. What a privilege it is to write. I hope you enjoy reading the books as much as I enjoy writing them.

Chief Inspector Gamache was inspired by a number of people, and one main inspiration was this man holding a copy of En plein coeur. Jean Gamache, a tailor in Granby. He looks slightly as I picture Gamache, but mostly it was his courtesy and dignity and kind eyes that really caught my imagination. What a pleasure to be able to give him a copy of En plein coeur! (From the author's website.)



Book Reviews
Penny writes with grace and intelligence about complex people struggling with complex emotions. But her great gift is her uncanny ability to describe what might seem indescribable—the play of light, the sound of celestial music, a quiet sense of peace.
New York Times Book Review


Gorgeous writing…fresh and fully realized.
Washington Post


Penny continues to amaze with each novel. Wrapped in exciting plots and domestic details, her characters are people we want to follow through their very real joys and sorrows.
Cleveland Plain Dealer


All of Penny's talents combine to make the Gamache series worthy of the multiple awards bestowed upon it. But what lifts her work to the highest plane is the deep sense of humanity with which she invests her novels.
Richmond Times-Dispatch


Penny proves again that she is one of our finest writers.
People


Complex characterizations and sophisticated.... The devastating conclusion to the previous book saw Jean-Guy Beauvoir abandon his mentor, Chief Insp. Armand Gamache of the Quebec Surete, and return to substance abuse..... Gamache lands a strange murder case. There’s no obvious motive for why somebody killed elderly Constance Ouellet.... Once again, Penny impressively balances personal courage and faith with heartbreaking choices and monstrous evil.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) Highly recommended for mystery lovers, readers who enjoy character-driven mysteries, and those who like seeing good triumph and evil get its just desserts.
Library Journal


(Starred review.) Penny has always used setting to support theme brilliantly, but here she outdoes herself, contrasting light and dark, innocence and experience, goodness and evil both in the emotional lives of her characters and in the way those characters leave their footprints on the landscape. Another bravura performance from an author who has reinvented the village mystery as profoundly as Dashiell Hammett transformed the detective novel.
Booklist


(Starred review.) The answer [to this mystery] is developed throughlues worthy of Agatha Christie.... Three Pines, with its quirky tenants, resident duck and luminous insights into trust and friendship, that will hook readers and keep them hooked.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Louise Penny has said that Three Pines isn't just the setting for How the Light Gets In; it is a main character and plays a pivotal role. How do you view that character and that role?

2. The title is taken from a verse in Leonard Cohen's “Anthem.” What meaning do the lyrics have in the story—and perhaps in your own experience?

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There’s a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

3. We meet Constance Ouellet only briefly, at the start of this novel, yet by the end we understand a great deal about her life. What do you make of that life? How about Audrey Villeneuve's?

4. How do you view the relationship between Gamache and Beauvoir throughout the book? What do you ultimately think of both men?

5. On her website, Louise says, “If you take only one thing away from any of my books I'd like it to be this: Goodness exists.” How is goodness manifested in this book? What about evil?

6. On page 124, we are told that the birth “was a miracle, but it was also a mess.” What else, in the novel and in life, can be described in that way?

7. On page 200, “Chief Inspector Gamache walked over to one of the maps of Québec tacked to a wall. He smiled. Someone had placed a tiny dot south of Montreal….Written there, in a small perfect hand, was one word. Home. It was the only map in existence that showed the village of Three Pines.” What does this passage—and the concept of home—mean to you?

8. Page 236 describes “the stained-glass window made after the Great War, showing bright young soldiers walking forward. Not with brave faces. They were filled with fear. But still they advanced.” What does this image, along with the events in the novel, say about courage?

9. If you have read any (or all) of Louise's previous novels, what changes have you seen in the characters and in the books themselves?

10. Many readers have said that they wish they could move to Three Pines. Do you feel that way? What appeals to you (or does not) about the place and the people there?

11. If there was another chapter, after the end of this book, what would happen in it?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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