Culture - Book 8: The Beautiful Mystery


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“Some malady is coming upon us,” Gamache quoted under his breath. “We wait. We wait.” (The Beautiful Mystery, Page 110, Trade Paperback Edition)

Murder in the CathedralGamache’s quote above, as he points out, is a direct line from T.S. Eliot’s play, Murder in the Cathedral, and he repeats it in Louise’s eighth novel when confronted by an ominous plaque that may hold a clue to murder. Eliot’s play is a perfect reference as Gamache has come to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups to investigate a homicide.

Murder in the Cathedral, as Gamache tells the reader, details the assassination of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Becket, who had a long running feud with King Henry II over the rights of the Church verse those of the Royal Government, was bludgeoned and hacked to death in 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral by way of the King’s command. Becket was later canonized as Saint Thomas and today is regarded as the “protector of the secular clergy.”

Thomas BecketT.S. Eliot, who was also a big inspiration on The Cruelest Month, dramatized Becket’s story in 1935. Rather than betray his conscience, Becket chose martyrdom, and, knowing Louise, she specifically chose the story of Saint Thomas to illustrate her ongoing theme of morals: right versus wrong, principles, and, of course, the conscience itself.

“Gamache sat up in bed. He knew only two things could give a killer a good night’s sleep. If he had no conscience. Or if had a conscience, and that conscience had been an accomplice.” (The Beautiful Mystery, Page 106)

“You’re willing to throw the abbot to the wolves, you just don’t want it on your conscience. Instead you imply, suggest. You all but wink at us. But you don’t have the guts to stand up and say what you really believe.” (Page 230)

“Gamache had seen decent young Sûreté officers turned into cynical, vicious, strutting thugs. Young men and women with little conscience and big guns.” (page 294)

Culture - Book 7: A Trick of the Light


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“There is strong shadow where there is much light”
(A Trick of the Light, Page 10, Trade Paperback Edition)

Jean Guy Beauvoir quotes these words to Annie Gamache at the beginning of Louise’s 7th novel. When asked where the phrase originates, Beauvoir says, “Some German guy said it.”

Johann Wolfgang von GoetheThat “German guy” is none other than Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the quote originally appeared in 1773 in his play, “Götz von Berlichingen”. Goethe’s drama focused on the life of Gottfried von Berlichingen, a Knight who fought in the Crusades, lost his arm to cannon fire, and wore a prosthetic “Iron Fist” thereafter.

While the quote itself (“There is strong shadow where there is much light”) seemingly fits perfectly with the title of Louise’s book, like all things in Penny’s work, there is deeper meaning.

iron fistGoethe uses Götz as a symbol of an individual with integrity—be it a free spirit, a rebel, an artist, etc.—trying to live within a dishonest society. Sure sounds a lot like our dear Chief Inspector Gamache, no?

Chief Inspector Gamache had a great deal of respect for artists. They were sensitive. Often self-absorbed. Often not fit for polite society. Some, he suspected, were deeply unbalanced. It would not be an easy life. Living on the margins, often in poverty. Being ignored and even ridiculed. (Page 90)

Goethe’s play was the leading work of the Sturm and Drang literary movement, which was significantly influenced by the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and exalted nature, feelings, and humanity. Three key factors in A Trick of the Light and the canon of Three Pines.

“With all the force, the power, the energy and the beauty of NATURE” (Page 140)

“He’d ask her all about her day, her life, her likes, her FEELINGS” (Page 189)

“…but believed in family and friends, culture and HUMANITY” (Page 127)

Oh, and Goethe’s supposed last words on his death bed; “Mehr Licht!” which translates as “More Light!”

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