LOUISE PENNY’S

Series Re-Read: All The Devils Are Here

INTRODUCTION BY LOUISE LOISELLE:

Paris celebrates love

As an editor, neighbor and friend, I feel extremely privileged to learn in advance the theme or plot element of the novel being written. What a surprise when Louise Penny asked me to participate in the research for her next one to be called All The Devils Are Here, and what a joy to discover that it was set in Paris!

We had agreed, for the on-site research, on a date that coincided with the Paris Book Fair, in March 2019. Louise arrived well prepared. She already had favorite places she had visited with her husband Michael and, thanks to her friend Guy, another regular Parisian visitor, she had a solid plan and some good addresses. She was staying in the Marais, the 4th arrondissement, where her hero Armand Gamache had inherited an apartment. Indeed, Armand Gamache’s family had a special bond with Paris since Zora, Armand Gamache’s adoptive grandmother, and his godfather Stephen Horowitz had met in the City of Light during World War II. Also, we would finally get to know the family of Daniel, Armand and Reine-Marie’s eldest son. 

Louise introduced me to one of the bridges leading to the Île de la Cité and the streets that cross it, while I was able to show her an amazing garden, almost hidden between the Haussmann buildings, which conceals a not very edifying passage in the city’s history of Jews. Then, when I took her to the godfather’s pied-à-terre I had found, the 5, rue Récamier, it was not enough for her to find an address close to the famous Hotel Lutetia, she had to see every room, to look through the windows, to check the emergency exits before making it the setting for a passage in the novel. I know she even forced herself to sleep in the five-star George V Hotel for the sake of authenticity! And when she describes the boeuf bourguignon or the gargantuan steak frites, topped with béarnaise sauce, and the pains aux raisins, she can speak like a connoisseur.

Louise wanted to visit the 36, quai des Orfèvres, the former headquarters of the Parisian police department and a mythical place in literature and cinema. Unfortunately, the building was being renovated. But thanks to author Éric Young, a former undercover policeman, she was able to “interrogate” the former director of the Paris Judicial Police, Claude Cancès, who inspired her for her Prefect of Police, Claude Dussault. Also a writer, he had published several books including the history of the famous address. We met at Hotel Lutetia for a breakfast that lasted until mid-afternoon, so passionate were the discussions and the obvious complicity between the former police director and Louise. 

Louise Penny said that this book is about love, about the young man who creates a memorable moment by proposing in a park, about filial love that often has its ups and downs, about friendships that grow stronger in the face of adversity. There is no place more magical than Paris to celebrate it and the novel is a testament to that.

RECAP

FAVORITE QUOTE

Difficile d’imaginer un endroit moins propice aux manifestations du diable. Mais, réfléchit Armand, où les ténèbres risquent-elles d’apparaître, sinon dans la lumière? Ruiner un jardin… Comment imaginer une victoire plus décisive pour le mal.

“A less likely setting for the devil would be hard to imagine. But then, Armand Gamache thought, where else would you find darkness but right up against the light? What greater triumph for evil than to ruin a garden?”

CONCLUSION

The two solitudes

Hugh McLennan, an English-speaking Quebec professor, essayist and novelist, was one of the first in the 1940s to demonstrate through his publications that themes arising from historical events or the particularities of Quebec society are of universal interest. Today, with translations in over 30 languages, Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series promotes Quebec, its culture, its magnificent landscapes and its unique history around the globe.

While Hugh McLennan’s Two Solitudes (1945) illustrates the antagonism between English and French in Canada, Penny’s plots portray the cordiality between the two nations. In Three Pines, the two languages coexist in good neighborhood. Myrna Landers, Ruth Zardo, Clara Morrows, Olivier Brûlé, Gabri Dubeau and the Sûreté du Québec team are a fine example of this. It is not uncommon in the Eastern Townships, where the imaginary village is located, for the business sign to be in French, but the welcome is always as warm, whether the customers announce themselves with a “Bonjour” or a “Hi”.  

The fact remains that in Quebec, bilingualism is mainly a matter for Francophones. But things are changing and it is not rare to see a new generation of young people who spontaneously switch from English to French and vice versa. 

However, without generalizing, the expression “two solitudes” is still an undeniable reality today. On the cultural level, Francophones have their television shows, their public personalities… that Anglophones do not know and the reverse is also true. Louise Penny is the exception to the rule and reconciles French and English speakers.

As a friend said, by focusing her novels on murder, sordidness, betrayal, but also on mutual aid and, above all, concern for others, Louise Penny is gradually replacing the word “solitude” with “solidarity”.

And this is certainly what charms Louise Penny’s faithful readers. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. All the Devils Are Here takes place in Paris, far away from Three Pines. How did you feel about the Gamaches’ life in Paris? Given the choice, where would you rather live?
  1. Early in the novel, Armand recalls the first time Stephen told him the story of the Burghers of Calais, a group of prominent citizens who agreed to sacrifice themselves in order to save the people of their town. Why is this story so important to Armand, and to Stephen? How does it relate to the events that unfold in the novel?
  2. All the Devils Are Here explores three different types of father-son relationships: the relationship between Stephen and Armand, between Armand and Daniel, and between Armand and Jean-Guy. How did all of these relationships grow and evolve over the course of the novel?
  1. During a tense conversation, Daniel accuses Armand of having two sides: one as a father, the other as a cop. Armand replies: “You seem to think the two are separate. They aren’t.” Do you agree?
  1. In Paris, Jean-Guy Beauvoir takes a job as an executive in the Quality Control department at GHS Engineering, a global corporation. What do you think about Jean-Guy’s decision to take the job and his role in the company? What do you think about his career decision at the end of the novel?
  1.  Among the belongings of the man found dead in Stephen’s apartment, a business card is found with the letters JSPS (“Just Some Poor Schmuck”) written after Stephen’s name—a card that allows the carrier access to all of Stephen’s properties and accounts all over the world. If you had your own version of the JSPS card, who would you give it to and why?
  1. As Armand spends time with his granddaughters, he teaches them the meanings of their names: Zora means “dawn,” Florence, “to blossom,” and Idola, “inner truth.” Later on, what do we learn about the meaning of Armand’s name? What do we learn about its origin?
  1. In order to solve the mystery at the heart of the novel, Chief Inspector Gamache must work closely with his Parisian counterpart, Prefect Claude Dussault. What are some of the similarities you found between the two men? What are some of the differences? How did your perception of Dussault change over the course of the book?
  1. Louise describes Paris as “a city of façades.” She mentions the secret gardens and courtyards hidden behind doors in the city, but also the “beauty. . . heroism . . . and dreadful deeds, both obvious and obscure.” What do you think she meant by this? What are some other examples of façades in the novel?
  1. As curator Professor de la Coutu appraises Stephen’s art collection, he makes an observation: “All the works are either pastoral or domestic. Peaceful. No torture, no death. Not even any hunting scenes.” Based on what we learn about Stephen’s past, why do you think that is?
  1. Although the regular cast of Three Pines characters—Myrna, Clara, Ruth, Gabri, Olivier—are not in Paris with the Gamache family, their presence is still felt throughout the novel. Both directly and indirectly, how do the Gamaches’ friends, neighbors, and colleagues from back home help influence their actions in All the Devils Are Here?
  1. “Hell is empty and all the devils are here” is a line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Stephen’s favorite saying, and, of course, the source of the book’s title. Why do you think this quote resonates so much with Stephen? Why do you think Louise chose this saying as the inspiration for her title?
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