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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
46 replies on “The Annotated Three Pines: How The Light Gets In”
It was a wonderful surprise the day when I learned about Louise Penny when it was announced that she & Hillary Clinton were collaborating on a book. Until then I had not heard of Ms. Penny. At age 74, I’d been quite the voracious reader. I was ready to learn all I could about this unknown (to me) author. I looked at the list of her titles & “How the Light Gets In” caught my eye. Once the book arrived reading the first sentence, I was ‘at home’. Since then I have almost caught up with the books.
Thank you dear Louise Penny for giving us Three Pines as an entrancing place to ‘visit’ any chance I get along with such interesting characters. My favs change back & forth as they all have so much to offer. I am so grateful for your books.
this book was my fave to date. As others above have alluded to: gorgeous reconciliations. The dancing scenario, lol! And a different lens for that one unappealing Agent. And finale that which looked destroyed, our hero’s domaine … on another plane … WOW.
Almost anxious about starting the next one, this one was so.very.satisfying. Thanks for such huge payoffs in this book, LP!
Your books have been a saving grace for me. During the end of a 40 year marriage, they bring me a sense of belonging when I feel lost. The people and the village of Three Pines give me hope. Hope is present in each character and shared with me.
I’ve never read mysteries … until now. I’m hooked on Gamache! I’m obsessively listening to each book in the series on audible, jumping from one to the next. HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN is the best yet. As an author (first published at 50), I’m in awe of your skill; I was delighted to discover Annotated Three Pines, which gives insight into your process. I love the “Getting Published” page on your website, as well. I’ve not had much experience being a groupie, but count me in. 🙂
Looking forward to your San Diego appearance next week. I was SO moved that you used Leonard Cohen’s important poem about the shattered bell at the end…and you also used that so-moving poem which Inspector Gamache had quoted earlier [in one of the other books?] about “the end of loneliness” from his wedding. I’ve tried, on-line, to find the entire piece, but failed. Would you mind sending it, or its author and title? It makes me cry to just type those words, they are so beautiful. I can never thank you enough for your books. I feel as if everyone in Three Pines [yes, even Ruth!] is my friend. And your writing is absolutely so seductive and engaging…just takes the reader there. Thank you, merci bien, Madame. Sincerely, Edith
I am also privileged to be part of a 12 Step program. Your books reflect much of the wisdom I have found in the program. Always learn something in your lovely books
I am enamored with the way you make the English language bend and twist to tell your stories. I struggle reading your writing because I am impatient to find out how each tale ends and at the same time I am amazed by the way you describe the characters, the environment, you capture all five senses. I have to say that the meaning of the word FINE has changed for me. I wish that you would write a book of Ruth Zardo poetry, please consider it. Thank you
Waiting impatiently for the next release in August! Love all your characters with their fine points and others not so fine! Thank you!
How The Light Gets In is also my favourite Louise Penny book having read it many times. It is always the one I tell people to pick up to enjoy Louise Penny’s writing.The annotations really bring the words right off the page for me, helping me to see behind them. Thank you, Louise.
I discovered Louise Penny’s books a few months ago and I’ve read the entire Gamache series so quick that I’m looking forward to starting back at the beginning of the series to savor each book. I’m enjoying the annotations for an even deeper understanding of the characters and motives.
Thank you thank you for sharing this with us, How the Light Gets in has always been my favorite book, living in California and only visiting snow makes your descriptions of the falling snow just beautiful to me. “The mad old poet” I always found her interesting but I started to love her in this book.
I read a book review of Still Life And have been hooked by your writing from that time forward and I always bless you for giving us that wonderful village of Three Pines to go to when we need a rest from our busy hectic lives.
I so enjoy reading your commentary AND the replies of the other readers. I wholeheartedly agree with their thoughts and love all your books.
Thanks so much.
Deeply human, beautiful.
Another member of a 12 step program once said to me, I don’t wish the reasons on anyone, but I wish everyone could experience recovery.” We all need to recover from something, dont we?
I love how lyrical your writing is! This is my favorite title of them all based on one of the best lyrics ever! “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Beautiful!
I simply must go back and read this one again while I wait patiently for “A Better Man!”
This is my FAVORITE booking the series (so far). Thank you for your explanations and insights. So excited for the release of the new book!
These pericopies show how insightful and eloquently you can put phrases and ideas into your words. You do more than just tell a story. Some times I feel like we are together in the story.
Memories of snow when we were children always call up magic. The way it falls the ability to catch a large flake with my tongue. My hands freezing but I was not ready to go in because the night was magical.
Who killed Constance I read the book twice and still don’t know
Carol: I don’t want to name the killer…it might spoil it for someone. BUT Constance’s killer was the same person who killed the first quint! 😉
I had to reread as well… and still am unsure… the younger sibling is what I found on here… their younger brother, but wasn’t he supposed to be their Mother’s younger brother? Not sure that was explained very well and it was such a quick reference that it was him. I was very confused! On to the next book!!
Best insights yet Louise. Especially the first one about the snow. Your shared personal life experiences bring so much life to your insights. I need to read this title again. You so easily bring me to a place of nostalgia and fond rememberings.So many thoughts..in common.