Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

I have a great problem with Louise Penny's A Great Reckoning. I read it twice, and still have no idea how to review it without spoiling the book. And, because I feel as if the book jacket summary is confusing, that doesn't help. A Great Reckoning is emotionally draining, and worth every second spent with the story. It's a superb book, as beautiful as all of Penny's other writings, but a difficult one to discuss.

Once again, Penny combines two storylines, bringing the outside world to Three Pines. It all begins with a discovery in the wall of the bistro, newspapers and magazines. And, a map. It's certainly an odd map. And, Olivier and the villagers gift it to Armand Gamache when he takes over his new position at the Sûreté Academy, where they train young people to join the Sûreté de Quebec . It's a map that will impact Gamache's position, the investigation of a murder case, and four cadets from the Academy. In fact, because of that map, four young people will arrive at Three Pines, that magical village that appears just when people need it. And, those are four needy cadets.

There's really no need to summarize A Great Reckoning other than to say there are two investigations, one into a new murder, one into the story of the map. Gamache is the linchpin  with his connection to Three Pines and the Sûreté Academy. And, because of that map, because of a cadet, Gamache himself is a suspect.

Louise Penny has had an overarching storyline in her books about power, and the corruption of power. In Gamache's new role,"He was judge and jury. The first and final word. And Armand Gamache realized, without great surprise, that it was a role he was comfortable with. Even liked. The power, yes. He was honest enough to admit that." Power.

Penny shows the use and abuse of power, along with the contrast between darkness and light. It's light that finally reveals the secrets and stories of the map. And, of course, there's Gamache himself, the symbol of light, with his kindness, his hope for the cadets, his power.

I read A Great Reckoning twice in the last week. When I read Louise Penny's books, I find myself savoring the words, the phrases. I reread the conversations involving Ruth. Those are often the humorous touches, the dry humor. I look up W.H. Auden's poems, such as "Herman Melville" to read the poem that Ruth and Gamache quote, lines about goodness and evil, the heart of Penny's books. Despite the beauty of the poem, of so many sentences, my favorite this time is from Gamache. "Not every mystery is a crime. But every crime starts as a mystery. A secret. Some hidden thought or feeling. A desire. Something not yet illegal that evolves, with time, into a crime. Every homicide I've investigated started as a secret."

What can I really say about A Great Reckoning? It's the best book I've read this year, the only one I've read twice. It's light and hope and kindness overcoming the darkness and ugliness of the world. It's one man, Armand Gamache, whose smile and kindness can change the future. It's Louise Penny's latest gift to readers.

Louise Penny's website is www.LouisePenny.com

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny. Minotaur Books. 2016. ISBN 9781250022134 (hardcover), 389p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Mason Canyon said...

Great review, Lesa. This is a hard one to review without giving something away. I found it to be her best as well. I didn't see the ending until it was almost there. I knew it couldn't what it appeared to be, but didn't see what else it could be. Penny makes Three Pines such a magical place. Can't wait for the next one.

Thoughts in Progress
and MC Book Tours

Lesa said...

Wasn't it wonderful? I didn't see it either. But, oh, that final chapter that wrapped up so much. Just beautiful.

Kaye Barley said...

Oh, Lesa. Best. Review. EVER!!!!
I too read it twice.
I tend to do that with all her books.
I read them through quickly the first time 'cause I'm dying to know what happens.
Then I read through slowly to just savor the language, the pacing, the dry wit, the amazing insight into character and all the other things that no one, no one, does as beautifully as Louise Penny.
Thank you for this, sweetie and I will see you soon! Wheeeeeee!

Lesa said...

Kaye! Thank you SO much! Best review ever? That's so nice. I read it slowly both times, the first time for the quotes, and what jumps out at me, mostly for the review. The second time for all the elements you mentioned, and to see what I missed. You're right. No one does it as beautifully as Louise Penny. Now you know what my favorite book of the year will be on the panel.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lesa - If I've only read the first 2 books by Louise Penny, would I miss anything if I skipped some and read this one next? Thanks....Deb

Lesa said...

Well, Deb, if you ever intended to go back and read the earlier books, this book spoils all the earlier surprises. However, Gamache is in a new place, so you could read it. But you'll have missed deaths and events, and everything all the previous books built up to - the climax of an important arc in the series.

Reine said...

I'm still reading The Great Awaking and, although I completely trust you have no spoilers in your review, I'm going to wait and comment later, if that's OK. I know you'll be on to many other books by then. My disability gets in the way of my reading hard copies. Holding a book open is a problem. When I worked as a student assistant at the Andover Harvard Library, my supervisor gave me a floppy leather weighted thingy for commencement. It was great, but when we moved to Arizona it managed to hide in one of our boxes. I still hope to find it, because the new ones are not flexible. They look the same but they don't bend.

I want to read the book before I read your review, because I will intellectualize everything as I read it. I know me! I do, however, look forward to reading it when I'm through.

Lesa said...

I agree, Reine. I wouldn't read my review right now either if I were you. I never read reviews of Louise's books before I read them myself. I want it to be total immersion & enjoyment without anyone else's thoughts. I don't blame you a bit!

Reine said...

I've just started my second reading. Very powerful.

I enjoyed your review and think you wrote it the best way possible!

I like Ruth. I think her insight is in her sarcasm and even her offensive comments speak truth that few people will risk in "polite company."

Lesa said...

Thank you, Reine! It's a tough one to write, and I love that book. I like Ruth, too. You and I aren't the only ones to turn around and read that book a second time.