The Annotated Three Pines – The Beautiful Mystery

From Pg. 12
Then Annie walked over to the bookcases lining her living room. After a few minutes she found what she was looking for. The bible her parents had given her, when she’d been baptized. For people who didn’t attend church, they still followed the rituals.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Armand and Reine-Marie are like many of their generation, and those who are younger. While not following any particular religion, they have a profound spiritual life and belief. But, somewhat contradictorily, they find the rituals meaningful and comforting. Church at the holidays. Baptisms, funerals, weddings in churches. Though the services themselves might be led by friends. The hymns. Many of the prayers are repeated by the Gamaches. Armand will cross himself, when faced with a body. These are hardwired into us. And offer comfort and some sense of continuity.

From Pg. 19
At the very end of the bay a fortress stood, like a rock cut. Its steeple rose as though propelled from the earth, the result of some seismic event. Off to the sides were wings. Or arms. Open in benediction, or invitation. A harbor. A safe embrace in the wilderness. A deception.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Again, this highlights the contradictions many modern Quebecois, and others, find in the trappings of religion. That a church, a monastery, a cathedral could offer both sanctuary and betrayal. That the monastery of St Gilbert, and its occupants, are both of this world, and expelled from it.

From Pg. 30
“All shall be well,” said Dom Philippe, looking directly at Gamache. “All shall be well; and all manner of thing shall be well.”
It wasn’t at all what the Chief had expected the abbot to say and it took him a moment, looking into those startling eyes, to respond.
“Merci. I believe that, mon père,” said Gamache at last. “But do you?”

Louise’s Thoughts:
I liked exploring, in more depth, Armand’s relationship with the institution of religion, and the teachings. His clear displays of respect for the abbot and the other monks, while being aware of recent (and perhaps not so recent) history. I also liked how the abbott could surprise Armand, by quoting a mystic. And a woman. And I liked that Armand recognized the quote as coming from Julian of Norwich. Not perhaps surprisingly, I have a bracelet with that quote, which I cherish. It was given to me by my editor, Hope Dellon, to celebrate the publication of THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY. It proved both the truth and a comfort for what was to come.

From Pg. 146
Gamache glanced through the leaded-glass window. It made the world outside look slightly distorted. But still he yearned to step into it. And stand in the sunshine. Away, even briefly, from this interior world of subtle glances and vague alliances. Of notes and veiled expressions.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Here Armand is feeling oppressed, closed in. The peace he had felt at first, is dissipating, as he discovers more and more about the interior life of the monastery and the monks. As he begins to see more clearly what is really happening, and decode what the music really means to them. It’s also an allusion to perception, and how it is affected by where we stand. From the inside of St Gilbert looking out, the world is warped. While to many on the outside, looking at the life of these monks, their monastic life is warped, unhealthy. Unnatural. It reminds me of a quote, one I believe I used in an earlier book. When Henry David Thoreau was arrested for civil disobedience (not paying a tax that went against his conscience), Emerson visited him in jail. Emerson asked Thoreau, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?” Perception. Perspective. Choice.

From Pg. 52
For the first time, Gamache began to wonder if the garden existed on different planes. It was both a place of grass and earth and flowers. But also an allegory. For that most private place inside each one of them. For some it was a dark, locked room. For others, a garden.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Again, the theme repeated in many of the books but perhaps most profoundly in this one, of perspective. Of what is ‘inside’, what is ‘out’? Is the purpose of St Gilbert to keep the the devout monks safe from the sins of the outside world? Or the world safe from the monks? Is it a garden, or a wall? Safety or a prison? Is the music a gift from God to be shared? Or a direct line to a Higher Power, meant only for a chosen few? Again, it reminds me of a quote, this time a perhaps apocryphal headline from the London Times. The homes formed a circle, and in its center was the village green. And in the center of that were the pine trees that soared over the community. Three great spires that inspired the name. Three Pines. These were no ordinary trees. Planted centuries ago, they were a code. A signal to the war- weary.When reporting on a spectacularly dense mist, the headline read: Heavy Fog. Mainland Cut Off.

Discussion on “The Annotated Three Pines – The Beautiful Mystery

  1. Phyllis Hahn says:

    Only clearly understood this one on the second reading, there’s so much character and such deep significance to each aspect, I don’t know how Louise gets go to the heart of every person, situation, and place, just amazes me! And these wonderful notes help even more. Love it, thanks!

  2. Cathy Ezrailson says:

    These passages and Louise’s reflections remind me that my life and my environment does not lie on a single plain – like in Flatland (http://www.math.brown.edu/~banchoff/Flatland/welcome.html )- it is a place/realm/cacophony of many sounds and colors. But, sometimes we get lost, stuck in a place where the way out is obscured for a time. Oh how I identify with the beauty and horror I have seen.
    Thank you, Louise, for reminding me that there is always a path out of where we are, we only have to search for it.

  3. Karen Lewis says:

    Thank you for sharing!

  4. Ardella Webb says:

    A Beautiful Mystery is 1st one my dghter read after I showed her all I had read so far, . That really got her interested , then she began at the beginning with Still Life

  5. Kay Merrill says:

    This one was a favorite of mine also and I don’t exactly know why. Perhaps my experiences singing in several old cathedrals in Western Europe enabled me to appreciate and “hear” the musical portions. Also I love my church (protestant) and what it does for my spirit.
    The split between the two men was difficult to read; however, it’s through difficult times/suffering that we do one of two things: overcome or crumble. The choice is up to us. I will forever question what makes one soul a survivor and another a victim. I believe we all fall into one or the other, and maybe both depending on the particular situation.
    Gamache and Jean-Guy are such beautiful examples of this ever-present struggle. I feel like all of your books present me with new insights into human behavior as such survivor/victim choices are made.

  6. Bev Schenke says:

    I was also disturbed by the split between JeanGuy and his “Patron”. I so hope they return to their easy relationship. But I understand that a story has to have twists and turns to make it exciting. It was definitely a page turner and Louise used her knowledge of addictions and the results with heart and soul. I love summer but can’t wait for August! Thank you Louise for such thought provoking stories with loveable characters.

  7. Jacinthe Boisvert says:

    Out of the blues, while reading the (very interesting) comments, the Chantecler hens came to mind! « Doodaa doodaa »❤️❤️❤️ I loved the old monks who reminded me of granpas’ and old uncles .❤️

  8. Karen I Ford says:

    As a religious person who loves the writings of Julian of Norwich, she is my personal saint when life gives lemons. This was the hardest book for me to read as there are family and friends who have been in the grips of addition, some have been more successful at overcoming the effects. It was so painful to read about Jean-Guy as he slid farther and farther into the oblivion. My heart was breaking for Armand as he watched him and tried to help.

  9. Claire Genett says:

    This was also the first book of the series I read. A friend let me borrow it because I had taken music history classes. I then started at the beginning of the series- and listened to some Gregorian Chants again :)

  10. Ann Py says:

    This was the first book that I read. I was absolutely entranced by the characters and was so taken with the musical aspect that I did a lot of reading on early monastic music. I was a little bewildered by the relationships, so quickly found the earlier books and read them in order, including reading this one again! The experience was even richer the second time!

  11. Stephanie says:

    This book devastated me so much that I couldn’t do anything for the next half hour after finishing it . I found Jean Guy ‘s situation so real that I started to say a prayer for him! Thank you Louise for making characters who speak to us. You understand the human condition .

    • Mary E says:

      When I finished this book I was devastated too. Until then I thought Jean-Guy was there to provide “comic relief” – a somewhat vain sidekick who liked to smell magic markers and make lists, worried about mud on his Italian loafers. For me this was the book where Jean-Guy became a real character and I was surprised at how much I had come to care about him.

  12. Patricia Klein says:

    All of Louise Penny’s novels are about humanity. In a monastery or the outside world, we all have inperfections. “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” hopefully. Gamache’s religion is kindness. Thanks Louise for your wonderful writing. I’m on my 2nd reading of your series.

  13. Marshall, Daniel says:

    I understand the difficulty some readers have with the addiction theme and Jean-Guy’s struggle, but it still surprises me how many regard this as their least favorite book in the series. I love the way Louise has taken her main characters out of the familiar environment of Three Pines and placed them in a totally different, and closed environment, much as she did in A Rule Against Murder, but a place that is even more closed, and not just physically. As an aspiring writer, I see this as a daunting challenge, and one she met with great success.

  14. Paula mooty says:

    Jean-Guy made me sad as he flew away. I was afraid I would never again see and feel the special relationship between the inspector and J-G but…I have persevered and am awaiting the August arrival of “A Better Man”.

    Ganache has many of the qualities of my Father who has gone before us but left behind his teachings of love, kindness and respect.
    Thank you

  15. Sammie morris says:

    My favorite of all the books. I’ve read it four times now. It is a beautiful mystery itself and one with deeper meanings and deeper resolution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *