The Annotated Three Pines – How The Light Gets In

From Pg. 6
But this was the snow of her childhood. Joyful, playful, bright and clean. The more the merrier. It was a toy. It covered the fieldstone homes and clapboard homes and rose brick homes that ringed the village green. It covered the bistro and the bookstore, the boulangerie and the general store. It seemed to Constance that an alchemist was at work, and Three Pines was the result. Conjured from thin air and deposited in this valley. Or perhaps, like the snow, the tiny village had fallen from the sky, to provide a soft landing for those who’d also fallen.

Louise’s Thoughts:
How well I remember the snow of my youth, in the Laurentiens of Quebec. Exactly as Constance has described. They’re becoming rarer now, so I wanted to capture not just the event, but the feeling. Such peace. Everything white, and clean, all sounds muffled. People sometimes ask why I live in a climate that can be so harsh. Besides the obvious answer that it is home, I also love four distinct seasons. And very few seasons are as distinct as winter. As beautiful. And, as brutal.

From Pg. 2
She’d spent hours sewing it. Time she could have, should have, spent wrapping Christmas gifts for her husband and daughters. Time she could have, should have, spent baking shortbread stars and angels and jolly snowmen, with candy buttons and gumdrop eyes.
Instead, each night when she got home Audrey Villeneuve went straight to the basement, to her sewing machine. Hunched over the emerald green fabric, she’d stitched into that party dress all her hopes.

Louise’s Thoughts:
In this scene I needed to do several things. A certain mis-direction (’nuff said), create a contrast between the Christmas treats and her obsession, and of course, the mystery. Why was this dress so important to her that she was willing to give up so much for it? We find out later, why. And what sort of person Audrey really was. (’nuff said).

From Pg. 17
She’d arrived a self-sufficient city woman, and now she was covered in snow, sitting on a bench beside a crazy person, and she had a duck on her lap.
Who was nuts now?
But Constance Pineault knew, far from being crazy, she’d finally come to her senses.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Ha. Again, the ongoing themes of perception and perspective. Who’s to say what is crazy? Who is mad? Is bonding to another living creature the act of a lunatic, even if that creature is a duck. Or Ruth? And again, the theme of home. Of that miraculous, magical moment when we look around and realize, this is where I belong.

From Pg. 10
It was the mad old poet, but it was also the Virgin Mary. The mother of God. Forgotten, resentful. Left behind. Glaring at a world that no longer remembered what she’d given it.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Ruth. The description of Clara’s painting of Ruth as Mary first appears in A TRICK OF THE LIGHT. I wish I could say it was planned, but it wasn’t. I simply wrote it. It seemed right and appropriate. When I talk to emerging writers about the process I try to stress that we all do it the way that works for us. There’s no right or wrong way to write a book. But for me, I have to plan each book just enough so that there is a momentum forward. Themes I want to explore. Like belonging. Like madness. But I’ve learned I need to hold onto those themes, onto the characters, lightly. So that there’s room for inspiration. For those grace notes. I consider first writing about Clara’s painting of Ruth just such a moment. When despair meets hope.

From Pg. 15
But Isabelle Lacoste had been in the Sûreté long enough to know how much easier it was to shoot than to talk. How much easier it was to shout than to be reasonable. How much easier it was to humiliate and demean and misuse authority than to be dignified and courteous, even to those who were themselves none of those things.

Louise’s Thoughts:
I think you might know that I belong to a 12 step programme, and what Isabelle describes was one of the first things my sponsor taught me. (Though it took a while to sink in!) Just because someone pushes, doesn’t mean I need to respond. No one else gets to dictate my reaction. Only I do. It gets worse…if I want to consider myself a decent person, I need to act with decency. Huh? Easy enough to do when people are being nice. A whole other thing when the effluent is flying, in my direction. Rage might be justified, but it’s rarely necessary or constructive. Isabelle knows this, but it’s one thing for the characters to know, a whole other thing to act that way.

Discussion on “The Annotated Three Pines – How The Light Gets In

  1. Michelle Penland says:

    As a psychologist, I am so impressed with your portrayal of the psychological makeup of your characters. They are absolutely real people to me. I love how you engage all of our senses. Three Pines seems so real and I would love to live there and meet all of these wonderful people.

  2. Alice Briggs says:

    I’ve recently begun rereading all of the Gamache books and am halfway through #2, A Fatal Grace. Just before see this month’s reflections on How the Light Gets In, I saw the reference to Leonard Cohen’s lyric in the earlier book. Gamache is admiring Clara’s Three Graces for the first time when he sees the words on her art.
    I love going back in time through the books to appreciate and enjoy how the many friendships were forged and tested over time!

  3. Diana Ings says:

    Louise Penny quickly became my favorite author when I read “Still Life”. I was blown away by her genius and insight into the human soul and psyche. One thing that distinguishes Louise Penny’s books for me, is that I gain an education with each book. I have new insights into philosophy, music, and art from reading her books. Her books always send me searching for a particular artist, poet, or particular type of music with which I am unfamiliar.
    “How the Light Gets In” is my favorite book, and I really enjoyed the annotation of this book.
    I am looking forward to August when “A Better Man” becomes available – of course I have pre-ordered it!

  4. Dorothy Boerboom says:

    As a member also of a 12 Step group, each book has spoken to me in one way or another of the philosophy behind the 12 Steps. Sometimes subtle, sometimes not, always new wisdom with each rereading. To say nothing of the brilliant crime plots in each book! I do so treasure her work.

  5. Beth Kampschneider says:

    I love all of the Three Pines books, but this is my favorite. I could not start reading it fast enough after how The Beautiful Mystery ended. I was so moved by this book. I could list several of my favorite quotes but suffice it to say many of them are near the end and involve Armand running! This book rocked my world! I’m grateful. ☺️

  6. Colleen Ginter says:

    Best insights yet Louise. Especially the first one about the snow. Your shared personal life experiences bring so much life to your insights. I need to read this title again. You so easily bring me to a place of nostalgia and fond rememberings.So many thoughts..in common.

  7. Carol says:

    Who killed Constance I read the book twice and still don’t know

    • Mary says:

      Carol: I don’t want to name the killer…it might spoil it for someone. BUT Constance’s killer was the same person who killed the first quint! ;-)

    • Kathie Warner says:

      I had to reread as well… and still am unsure… the younger sibling is what I found on here… their younger brother, but wasn’t he supposed to be their Mother’s younger brother? Not sure that was explained very well and it was such a quick reference that it was him. I was very confused! On to the next book!!

  8. Aldussault says:

    Memories of snow when we were children always call up magic. The way it falls the ability to catch a large flake with my tongue. My hands freezing but I was not ready to go in because the night was magical.

  9. Vance Ginther says:

    These pericopies show how insightful and eloquently you can put phrases and ideas into your words. You do more than just tell a story. Some times I feel like we are together in the story.

  10. Teresa Offord says:

    This is my FAVORITE booking the series (so far). Thank you for your explanations and insights. So excited for the release of the new book!

  11. Carol says:

    I love how lyrical your writing is! This is my favorite title of them all based on one of the best lyrics ever! “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Beautiful!
    I simply must go back and read this one again while I wait patiently for “A Better Man!”

  12. Beky says:

    Another member of a 12 step program once said to me, I don’t wish the reasons on anyone, but I wish everyone could experience recovery.” We all need to recover from something, dont we?

  13. Linda rose says:

    Deeply human, beautiful.

  14. Vicki Phelan says:

    I so enjoy reading your commentary AND the replies of the other readers. I wholeheartedly agree with their thoughts and love all your books.
    Thanks so much.

  15. Robin says:

    Thank you thank you for sharing this with us, How the Light Gets in has always been my favorite book, living in California and only visiting snow makes your descriptions of the falling snow just beautiful to me. “The mad old poet” I always found her interesting but I started to love her in this book.
    I read a book review of Still Life And have been hooked by your writing from that time forward and I always bless you for giving us that wonderful village of Three Pines to go to when we need a rest from our busy hectic lives.

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