Welcome to the first post in a blog series that I’m going to call Amazing Authors. My plan is to highlight a few authors that I absolutely love but only if I’ve read most if not all of their work. If I am ever asked about my favourite author, my default response would be J.K. Rowling because her series changed my reading life and Harry Potter is absolutely the series I have re-read the most in my life. However, today’s author has become a VERY close second favourite, and I am happy to chat about her series today.
When we first made plans for our “epic family vacation” this past summer, which included driving from Halifax to Toronto, we were quite excited to visit friends along the way. On the way back, we had originally thought we would visit Brian’s best friend about 4 hours out of the way in Ontario (but worth it). When we then touched based with them and realized that wasn’t going to work out on the weekend we were driving through, our plans opened up and I had a brain wave in which I decided I just absolutely HAD to visit Knowlton, Quebec…home of Louise Penny.
In case you haven’t heard me rave about her before, Louise Penny is a wonderful Canadian author who has experienced great success worldwide with her best-selling Inspector Gamache series. I think it was Modern Mrs. Darcy (or her podcast) that first pointed out this series to me, and I flew through the first 12 books in about 4 months last year. The first few books were not exactly favourites of mine, but I agree with many other readers that the series really takes off around book 4 and the last few have been absolutely un-put-down-able for me. Unfortunately, if anyone asks, I usually recommend reading the series in order, and I know a lot of people who have stopped at book 1 (which is totally your call! You do you!) when they really get better later on. I was overjoyed to have read Glass Houses, this summer’s release in the series, via Netgalley, earlier this year, and it was an amazing addition to the series.
As I started to look for places to stay near Knowlton in an attempt to convince Brian that it was totally worth it to drive a couple hours out of the way to visit a town where an author lives, I realized that the date we were looking at being in Knowlton was the exact date of Louise Penny’s BOOK RELEASE EVENT for Glass Houses. I basically squealed when I realized this and knew that we absolutely had to try to make it work, and we did. We booked a fun campground nearby, and we drove 7 hours from Toronto to Knowlton that day (it actually took more like 8 hours with a brutal traffic accident on Highway 401), and we arrived in a quaint little town that it reminiscent of Three Pines that was gorgeous and packed to the brim with fellow Louise Penny fans.
Since we live in a small-ish city in eastern Canada, there are not a LOT of opportunities to meet famous authors. Similarly, we don’t always host huge bands for concerts (the reason why we travelled to Toronto in the first place was to see Coldplay live), and we don’t have major professional sports (Brian caught a Blue Jays game in Toronto, too). I think I’ve only ever met a couple of authors in my life – one being a local author in elementary school whose event has stayed with me for many years, and another being Diana Gabaldon in Halifax 10 years ago, which was great, but I hadn’t read the entire Outlander series at that point (and I still haven’t finished it), so I was tagging along with a friend at that event. I didn’t really know what to expect out of this event, but it surpassed all of my expectations.
Unfortunately, due to the traffic incident, I missed the first part of the event when Louise Penny spoke to the audience. I did, however, have the opportunity to meet her and tell her how much I loved her series and Glass Houses! They also had tons of volunteers and staff from Brome Lake Books to take pictures.
I was so impressed with Louise Penny; she signed books and chatted with fans for at least 3 hours (I waited for probably 2 hours myself) and took photos too. Since I was waiting in line with strangers (my family was at the campground, luckily for the kids), we all got to chatting about books in general and the Gamache series and a wide range of other topics. While I waited, I was trying to figure out how I could get one picture taken with the author since I was there on my own. Not to worry – I ended up with about 20 photos from a photographer volunteer that I could even turn into a video of the 3 minutes I spent chatting with her. LOL. See? Here are the majority of the pictures of me with Louise Penny:
I can’t fully explain why I love this series so much. Each book has a murder story, and Chief Inspector Gamache and his team end up solving it. That being said, it really limits the books if they are described as murder mysteries because there is SO much more going on in these pages. The characters and the setting are endlessly fascinating. The types of scenarios that Louise Penny comes up with have blown my mind. There is a steady undercurrent of political corruption going through a few of the books in the series, and each book is unique but similar too. Her writing is poetic and showcases a lovely area of my beautiful country. I’ve often wondered if I love the books so much because I resonate with Quebec as a part of Canada, but I don’t think that encompasses my feelings enough.
Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend this series to anyone, but don’t start with Glass Houses. As I said, I feel that the books really start to pick up around book 4 and I would even argue that you could skip books 2 or 3 if you really want to get a sense of the appeal but didn’t love the first book. The author herself says that the books are meant to be standalone novels, but I don’t think you would enjoy any of the richness of the characters if read out of order.
My personal favourites in the series are How The Light Gets In (so intense), A Great Reckoning, The Beautiful Mystery, and The Nature of the Beast (I found this one so creative). Glass Houses is up there too.
Side note: if this is something you care about at all, the books are also absolutely gorgeous (see below!)
You can check out the whole Gamache series here. Some of the books have different titles in Canada vs. the US vs. overseas, but the first one is Still Life. Have you read any of these books? Do you have any beloved authors to share with me? I hope to do a few more of these posts in the future to highlight some authors that might be unknown to people!
PS: All of these thoughts are merely my opinion. Not every book is for everyone. If you have no interest in reading the series, we can still be good friends. 😉