The Annotated Three Pines: Glass Houses

The Annotated Three Pines: Glass Houses

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From Pg. 7
The Crown made “remote” sound disagreeable, as though the further one got from a major city, the less civilized life became. Which might be true, thought Gamache. But he’d seen the results of so-called civilization and he knew that as many beasts lived in cities as in forests.

Louise’s Thoughts:
This was exactly our experience when Michael and I moved out of Montreal and into the ‘hinterlands’ south of Montreal. Honestly, you’d think we had to check our brains at the city limits. Many of our friends predicted we wouldn’t last a year. Twenty years later I’m still happily in the country, with more friends, more culture, more of a rich social life than we ever experienced in the city. Not that Montreal doesn’t have magnificent art and music. It does. But what people in cities might not realize is the richness of life in the country. And that the city, for all it has to offer, can be pretty damn grim. I wanted, in this passage, to cheer for the countryside and those who choose to live there.


From Pg. 13
And then there was his manner. While around him people partied, this figure stood absolutely still. Soon people stopped speaking to him. Asking about his costume. Trying to work out who it was. Before long, people stopped approaching him. And a space opened up around the dark figure. It was as though he occupied his own world. His own universe. Where there was no Halloween party. No revelers. No laughter. No friendship. “What did you think?” “I thought it was Death,” said Armand Gamache.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Now, this section was tricky. To create dread, without slipping into melodrama. But it also, if you remember, had another challenge and that was temporal. The time shifting that happens in these passages, where Gamache is both in Three Pines six months earlier, and in the courtroom, in the present. And to do it seamlessly. I didn’t want to fall into the easy formula of having one chapter past, next in the present. I wanted it to feel like it does in real life….where we often have our minds in both places. Standing in the present but reliving the past. Without a border. Slipping back and forth. Took me many drafts to get it right, or as right as I could get it. So the first few lines are in Three Pines, six months past. And the final exchange in the courtroom, in the height and heat of the summer. The other thing I really wanted to do in Glass Houses, something that hadn’t been done in all the previous books, was see Gamache in court. What happens after the arrest? What’s he like on the stand, under fierce examination?


From Pg. 18
We all have, she knew, a place where we’re not only most comfortable, but most competent. Hers was her bookstore. Olivier’s was the bistro. Clara’s was her studio. Sarah’s, the bakery. And Anton’s was the kitchen. But sometimes that comfort was an illusion. Masquerading as protecting, while actually imprisoning.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Ahhhh – how often have I wondered that about my life. Did you ever see The Matrix? It’s a great question…would you choose to stay in a comfortable, stable, but artificial existence – or take the pill and wake up to a dreadful reality? How often do we trade freedom for safety? Not risking. Not pushing and challenging, because then we might fail. But…we might not.


From Pg. 60
She had always been his wife. He’d known that the first moment he’d seen her. He knew her, that first moment. Through the ages. Through the lifetimes. Every other relationship might change, flow, morph into another guise, but his relationship with Reine-­Marie was absolute and eternal. She was his wife. And he was her husband. Forever.

Louise’s Thoughts:
I must believe this, and do. With all my heart, though I don’t expect anyone else to. (Except Armand). That there are certain people we meet in our lives, in all our lifetimes. And while they might take different roles, it’s essentially the same people. But I wanted to illustrate here, especially for people unfamiliar with their relationship, the deep bond between Armand and Reine-Marie. The depth of love both are capable of.


From Pg. 143
“Conscience,” said the Chief Superintendent, looking at her and seeing her smile just a little. “Or maybe cowardice. Some think they’re the same thing. That the only thing that stops us from doing something awful is the fear of getting caught. What would we do, after all, if we were guaranteed not to get caught? If we knew there’d be no consequences. Or if we didn’t care. If we believed the act was justified. If we believed, as Gandhi did, that there’s a higher court than a court of justice.”

Louise’s Thoughts:
This thought originally came to me from Oscar Wilde (not personally, I wasn’t channeling him). He once famously said that conscience and cowardice are the same thing. But then Armand here takes it that next step, and connects it to Gandhi. That’s the uncomfortable ambivalence at the heart of this novel. Gamache is warning that Gandhi, famous for standing up, non-violently, to power, might actually be unleashing here all sorts of darkness. Granting moral immunity to people who can say, with all sincerity, that they were simply following their conscience. If it’s legitimate for my beliefs, why not for yours? When is it all right to break the law?


26 replies on “The Annotated Three Pines: Glass Houses”

This is the fourth Louise Penny novel about Armand Gamache that I am currently reading (out of order), and once again I cannot put the book down! It is certainly throwing my schedule off – lol! I am delighted to come across this discussion group, because I am perplexed about a couple of things: With regard to the figure in question, if it is human, how does it not require food or sleep, and is able to remain so still. Those are not human traits. And I wonder why Chief Superintendent Gamache did not (1) arrest the being for loitering or (2) later take it into protective custody. Either would have been reasonable and possible — especially in the second scenario with Sûreté officers on the scene — and illuminating. Just curious.

P.S. By the way, I am not finished with the novel yet! I am on page 99. Surely my questions will be answered. But I just couldn’t get those thoughts out of my mind. If I were in Armand Gamache’s inner circle, I would be asking him that! Apologies if I missed something. I shall press on!

Reading the second time for our book group, only name we could all agree to use in messages was just Gamache, I had completely forgotten Ruths story. That was a wow moment! So revealing to her heart and mind, i love her even more. Must finish tomorrow and prepare for discussion. I really love checking back to see what Louise had to say about what she was thinking while writing. We will do a third reading and discussion and it all just keeps getting better. How much we need to be aware of in people in our lives !

Very excited to get my hands on the newest installment. I’ve been going back over the series to be sure my head is on straight with the proper order. Breathtaking, each one and the whole set, still. Thank you.

How marvelous! I was already so happy having discovered Three Pines and the profound humanity of its inhabitants; it feels like home, real and vivid and full of contradictions, just the way we all are. And now, Louise, to discover your thoughts behind these most important parts of your novels touches me even more! Thank you so much for letting such important values live in characters who all go straight to our heart, notwithstanding how “good” or “bad” their actions habe been. It feels as cozy living with them as in living in the little Austrian village which is now my home, where, I too, enjoy more love, kindness, culture and exchanges than anywhere else on my path from one country or capital to the next. Thank you for creating such a loving community through your art!

Help! I am having trouble remembering which Gamache books I have read. I don’t usually read the same book twice so any more help you can give would be welcomed

Louise has some very helpful synopses of her books on her website. It had been a while since I read A Great Reckoning so I went there and refreshed my memory before beginning Glass Houses. Also, if you go to gamacheseries you can read her Annotated Three Pines reflections about the rest of her books so far.

Louise, I am so glad you were able to write again after your great loss. It has been one of my greatest pleasures to read your Three Pines books.

There are so many things I loved about this book. The image of the cobrador was so vivid. It haunted me and the characters throughout the novel, especially the choices Gsmache had to make. The courtroom scenes were intense. It all was balanced by the lovely relationship between Gamache and his wife and soul partner. And of course the sanctuary of Three Pines… Can’t wait to visit again

I grew up and lived in a suburb of Chicago. I was spoiled by the ease of hopping on a train and going into the city for museums, plays, etc. After 40 years, I moved to an area 80 miles through mountains to the nearest Target! Shopping became an expedition, but the wealth of art galleries, book stores, and local theater (which did draw entertainment from all over the country) was fabulous. Plus there was a coziness among my new friends very similar to Three Pines. I felt very lucky. Unfortunately family responsibilities drew me away. While reading Louise’s books, I can relive the feelings of that special time.

Louise touches so many emotions in these books. The love between Armand and Reine-Marie is classic. It showcases that mature love that we all hope we achieve in our lives.
I remember when we moved from a very large Eastern city to Montana. My friends wanted to know if our mail would be delivered by the Pony Express. They could not believe we could leave the city for the wilds but we found everything that was important.

I just started Glass Houses yesterday in my summer re-reading marathon of the series. I truly enjoy your insights Louise, as I can more fully appreciate all the details the 2nd time around, as I am not rushing to see what happens next in a new book. I still live in the burbs in the city, but I do often escape to the cottage in the country. I consider myself lucky to be able to live and appreciate both worlds. Thanks for the other wonderful world I escape to when I read your books Louise.

I have found the same when we “retreated to the country” from city life and appreciated reading your thoughts on the cultural perspective.

Three things touched my heart. The deep love seen between Renie-Marie and Gamache. That is forever. I need that since my husband is “in heaven”.
Next the choice of taking risks….. might be wonderful and life changing.
Last- Gandhi. I am old enough to remember him, his photo on the front page of our newspapers. As a child, I loved him, his gentleness. Not realizing at that time the depth of such faith.
Again thank you for this meaningful sharing as you wrote the words.

I love to visit busy bustling places but I love more the returning…the quiet pace I set for myself. I love the late summer deep greens that lead to autumnal brilliance.
What goes into a marriage is pretty new and raw…what grows through love and honesty becomes rich, deep and eternal in the sense that succeeding generations, biological and societal, can witness and carry on.
I’m rereading the series, leading up to the release of A Better Man. It builds my curiosity and allows me to savor Louise’s rhythm and style. Not going to begin “Fall Cleaning” til I’be read it!!

As I read the paragraphs from the novel…..it makes me want to go back and read the book again. Your writing is elegant. Thank you for doing this. The explanations are so insightful.

I moved to the country and never for a moment missed, the multitude of restaurants, or the noise and the traffic and of course the parking.
In place there are trees, there is a lake there is the awareness of the breeze and microcosmic way that all of nature displays itself as a brethren.
I savor louise’s Books, I read something different between her books… it is like a good meal, I want to make it last.

The costumed figure is brilliantly written – his unmoving presence, how quickly he becomes more like a statue than a live person, a reminder of how we might ignore those in our lives who don’t actively interact with us but are always present. We choose to ignore them and yet how important they are – the homeless, the poor, the victims, and significantly also the lonely. Someone else will take care of them…

And how rare the love between Gamache and his wife – we too often take love for granted also. Some never have even a fleeting touch of love.

The love between husband and wife is a strong bond in Louise’s stories. Both are fortunate to have found each other. Like Louise, I have lost my husband – my rock, my best friend, my confidant. But I still feel his strength around me.

I love this part of the books – the relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and between friends are beautiful, complex and real.

I thoroughly enjoy reading these posts. Where Louise’s mind goes and the tboughts tbat get her there. I need to read Glass Houses again. It was not my favourite book but maybe that was me and where I was in my life when I read it. Love like Gamache and Reine marie have is rare… I am blessed to have a marriage like that (39 yr and counting) . Thank you Louise for all your insights and teachings.

You and Louise are lucky Lynne and I’m sure you both deserve to be. Divorce has been made so easy that almost in a fit of pique I let the love of my life drift away. Now he has died and it weighs heavy that I can never try to put things right.

Initially, I found the transition between past and present a bit unsettling, but once I got into the rhythm, I thought it was brilliantly done.

I felt the same way at first. Louise’s explanation for the way she wrote this makes it easier to understand why it was done this way. Going to keep this in mind when I reread the book.

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