Friday, February 6, 2015
In which the mystery book group discusses The Long Way Home by Louise Penny and marvels at Harper Lee's news...
We started out by talking about the big news in the book world - Harper Lee and a new book - a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird. Wow! Who would have thought? Of course, we're all excited to read more about the characters from this beloved book. We did talk about the age of the author, the mystery surrounding the discovery of this "lost" book, and also the rumors going around about whether the new book, entitled Go Set A Watchman, is being published at the author's behest or not. I guess we will all have to wait and see. Publish date seems to be July 14th.
We very quickly moved on to our scheduled discussion. Our book for this month was Louise Penny's latest, The Long Way Home, 10th in her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. I'm not going to give much of a summary of the book. Suffice it to say that Gamache has retired from his job with the Surete du Quebec and moved with his wife, Reine-Marie, to Three Pines. He spends his days relaxing, taking walks, eating good food with friends, and not thinking about police work. However, one day, Clara Morrow, another resident of Three Pines, comes to Gamache with a problem. She and her husband Peter had agreed to separate a year ago (which we knew from another book) and take some time to consider their lives and marriage. The year has passed and Peter has not returned. Clara is fearful that something has happened and she wants Gamache to help. This book details a journey that Gamache, Clara, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's former second-in-command, and Myrna Landers, bookstore owner from Three Pines and former clinical psychologist, take to find the answer to Clara's question. Where is Peter Morrow?
It's always interesting and a little disconcerting when this author takes her characters out of the sanctuary of Three Pines. She's done so in several books and some readers like the variety of the settings and some find these books too different. Me, I love all her books, so it doesn't matter to me where she sets these wonderful characters - maybe Mars will be next. However, this fact was brought up in our discussion and some wondered if the "out of Three Pines" books were more formulaic. It was also brought up that the journey depicted here was long, really long. A few of our members had not read other Penny books and so felt that they didn't understand as much about the characters and back story. I do feel that this is a series best read in order and in it's entirety.
There was a lot of art talk in this book. Plus the book's journey has been compared to The Odyssey or even Heart of Darkness. Gamache himself seemed not the same or not as "in charge". We talked about whether his retirement was the reason or if he had indeed had time to heal after the events of the previous book. Clara was the primary leader of the group and, if you've read anything about Clara Morrow, you understand that the journey would be unusual and a bit chaotic. I'm not going to talk about the ending here, but that was of concern to some in the group.
Our final consensus? A couple loved it (me, one of them), a few liked it well enough, some were so-so about it, and a couple more did not like it at all. It was a mixed reaction, which pretty much was what I expected. It's not a usual Louise Penny book. But then none of hers are predictable. We all agreed that her writing is stellar. Her next book will be titled The Nature of the Beast and it will be available on August 25th. Guess where I will be that day?
The group's book for discussion in March - The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters. I can't wait!
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I'm probably the last person to read To Kill a Mockingbird. That's interesting that there's a sequel to it; I'm sure all readers who loved that book will be excited over the new release.ReplyDelete
I've only read the first book by Louise Penny, and I love her writing style! Her plot is well crafted and very suspenseful too. I know I'll get to her other books at some time.
Looking forward to your thoughts on The Last Policeman. :)
Thanks, Melody. I'll be started THE LAST POLICEMAN probably after I finish my next book.Delete
I have to admit I'm a little leery of Harper Lee's new book--it will be so hard to live up to the perfection of To Kill a Mockingbird!ReplyDelete
Although I read The Long Way Home with interest, I wasn't as pleased with it as I have been with all the others in the series. It was very different from the previous books in setting and in Gamache's role. I'm immensely curious about the next book, though! Like any other fan of Louise Penny, I can't get enough of the Three Pines characters.
Jenclair, your feelings about THE LONG WAY HOME are similar to several people at our meeting. And these are the ones who 'have' read all the other books. Clara's role in the quest as leader was not one favored by many. And then the ending. Well, I had my own opinion about why it had to end that way, but I'm not sure I convinced many of the others. :-)Delete
Sounds like a great book discussion!ReplyDelete
It was, Sheila. One of those where people were really having to control themselves so that we didn't all talk over each other. Everyone had something to say.Delete
I love the idea of a mystery book club! Even though it was set mostly out of Three Pines, I enjoyed The Long Way Home much more than I did the previous two books in the series - they were just too much on the "thriller" and not that credible. I'm glad to see Penny returning to a true mystery. I do actually like thrillers, but what I love about Penny's series is the mystery. And Gamache as the mystery solver. I'm looking forward to the next one! And I agree, this is one series that should be read in order if possible. It's the best way to fall in love with the characters, and it's because I'm in love with the characters that I will return to this series again and again.ReplyDelete
I definitely hear what you say, Belle. The characters she's created are so vivid and memorable. We'll just have to be patient until August to see where she will take them next.Delete
I'm not a huge mystery reader but upon the recommendations of many friends I read the first Gamache book last year. I listened to it and loved it! Glad to know there are many more books to read. I'll take my time and probably listen to them as I love the narrator. I heard he passed away a few months ago. Tough act to follow for the next narrator.ReplyDelete
Mary, it's a fine series no matter how you read it. I know that the narrator will be missed so much. He was the voice of Gamache. :-(Delete
It sounds like you have a pretty large group! That must lead to some great discussion! We also try to read books that we can get through the library,but we seldom have more than ten, so it isn't usually hard.ReplyDelete
We do have a large group. I think we are up to 19 or 20 regular members and our meetings are starting to get to the 15 or 16 without fail. Which is meaning that I'm having to look for books in the library system that have 20+ copies. Not such an easy thing when I try to seek out authors that are less well known, i.e. not necessarily NYT bestsellers. The discussions are usually very good.Delete
My mystery book group usually only has about 10-12 people and that seems to be a perfect amount for a good discussion. It's great though once you've been with a group for so long because you also really start to get to know one another and can have deeper conversations of the books I think. Anyway, I really loved the series until about book 6 or so. There was something that changed for me and I am probably one of those who doesn't like it when she moves away from Three Pines. But, I think her characters seem very much like real people - warts and all! So I will go back to this series. I do love Gamache. One of my favorite inspectors.ReplyDelete
I agree with you about the mystery groups, Iliana. We've gotten to know each other and know each ones tastes and preferences. There's a lot of kidding that goes on. LOLDelete
Yes, Gamache is a wonderful character. I'm curious as to where she will take him next.
My husband and I talked a little about the new Harper Lee book, and he thinks that regardless of the controversy surrounding it--whether she wanted it published or not--it would be published anyway--now or after her death, so why not now? Of course, there's the question of whether she really wrote it in the first place. I don't know. I am waiting to see how everything develops. I don't know what to believe.ReplyDelete
I do want to eventually read more Louise Penny. I really enjoyed the one book I did read by her.
I think your husband is correct. And I think that there are aspects of all this - her writing or not - "lost" or not - that we will never really know. Wonder who will inherit from her. The first run on the new book was going to be 2 million copies or so I heard.Delete