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. Alice Cromwell says:

    Your insights always bring me to my senses.
    How the Light Gets In was life-changing for me! Remains my favorite

  2. Jane Mealey says:

    How the Light Gets In was my first Louise Penny book- from there I went right to Book 1 and have read them all ,some more than once. Now eagerly awaiting the arrival of A Better Man. How the Light Gets In I think is my favourite- maybe because it was my first?
    Love the insights you provide Louise in this Annotated Series .

  3. Pat Sweeney says:

    This is my favorite of your’Annotated Three Pines’. Each explanation of each section you chose, rings with truth and light for me. Thank you so much Louise, you really are an inspiration to me.

  4. Alyce says:

    I love this book, partly because so much gets resolved in it. The discord between characters I love really bothered me. I think Louise’s character development is among the best I’ve ever read. It’s got to be good when your heart aches for a character in a book. All of Louise’s books are fantastic but this one and Bury Your Dead are my favourites.

  5. Oksana Hoey says:

    This was my first book. I was hooked. I’ve read them all and look forward to your next one. I do have one sadness in reading your books. I want to go to Three Pines, to sit on the bench, to meet the people, to eat in the bistro. I have a heavy sadness as I think it can only take place in my imagination. I so want to go there!

    • Bettie Westphall says:

      So do I! To sit in the Bistro with a book I picked up at Myrna’s. To give Gabri a hug, brush the debris from Clara’s hair. Maybe she will invite me to her next dinner so I can meet everyone! It is hard to know which season to choose.

    • Barb says:

      The interesting thing about these books is that everywhere we live or lived has some capacity to be Three Pines- it is a fantasy in a way. Most of us have the capacity to find these places, these people, this comfort in our own lives- a pub, a restaurant, the place we buy take-out, our neighbors, folks we have dinner with, folks we play music with, etc. I grew up in a very small town in Pennsylvania , and although it is not as “funky” or quite as warm, as Three Pines, it provided a sense of comfort and small-town bonhomie when I was a kid and also, for the folks who live there now, it even has a cool brew-pub on Main Street! When I visit my home town now (my parents have passed away) I still think about all of the people who lived and died there over the 200 years the town has existed and it’s Our Town like-history.

  6. Sybil Nassau says:

    Louise became my favorite author very quickly starting with her first book. A lover of words, a turn of a phrase, a particularly carefully drawn character, a plot twist, I savor every word. Often re-read a page or a paragraph out-loud just for the sound of those words The descriptions of the countryside, the crunch of snow under their boots on the streets of Montreal, all inhabit my soul. I can understand why readers go to Quebec to search for Three Pines and a place like the Bistro – it is a lost part of our lives, and many of us yearn to return to such a place. Every book becomes a favorite; I wish my Dad were still alive to enjoy these with me. I hope you continue to write about Gamache and his family. And keep those French phrases… my 4 years of French have finally paid off!

    • Tu Anh says:

      Exactly my feelings and thoughts but so well described and lovely written! Thank you Sybil. Thank you Louise!

    • Marité says:

      I completely agree with Sybil it breaks my heart when I finish one book and the next book is never written fast enough for me. Please don’t ever stop writing this series I love every character and I simply love Louise Penny she is my favourite author I love your books, your insights and everything about this series, thank you! You have spoiled us.

  7. Karen Lewis says:

    Love love love your comments. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Leslie Sloan says:

    Once again I’m impressed with how much you’re willing to share with your public. I am also a friend of Bill and You explain that just beautifully. Thank you once again for your sharing. I can’t wait to see what offerings you have in the new book.

  9. Barbara says:

    I love reading about your ideas when writing! You are so talented, so real, so human!

  10. Phyllis hahn says:

    These insights add so much to my reading, I thank you for your wonderful heart and the ability to share it. Must now begin third reading, with new eyes and open mind.

  11. c d says:

    I found this book hard to read as it struck so close to home. Your ability to draw the process as well as the feeling of the mental breakdown and addictions of all kinds is breathtaking. It remains one of my favourite pieces of fiction.

  12. Marie H-P says:

    “How the Light Gets In” is one of my favorites. I love that Claras’s portrait of Ruth as Mary is a repeating element/ image in the series. Did you ever, by chance, read Colm Toibin’s book, ” The Testament of Mary”? When I was reading it recently, the mental image of Ruth’s portrait sprung to mind, as the book describes Mary’s impressions of Jesus his life, death and her life during and after. I love literary connections.

  13. Karen I Ford says:

    This annotation really helps me understand the women and the discord that is created. Policing with Gamache is more about understanding the dynamics of the unit and how to achieve harmony between such diverse characters. All of these books are a trip into human psychology of chaos and redemption.
    It has taken me a while to love Ruth as I find I can associate more closely with Clara. Maybe because I know more people like Clara than poetesses like Ruth.

  14. Nancy says:

    This book was outstanding – my favorite in the series. I love your books and have re-read them numerous times. Your characters step off the pages and have become like family/friends. In this book, I was distressed by hostile relationship between two of the characters. I read this book right after my old dog died and loved your descriptions of Henri. More than once I found myself choking back tears but then smiling as his actions reminded of my own dogs. Thanks for your insights. I look forward to them. Counting down the days until the next book comes out!

  15. Maradel Sager says:

    Just absolutely lovely….I have no words….except, just wonderful, and thank you for your beautiful thoughts and writing….you may never, ever stop writing….Ever!!

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