Time to share thoughts about Louise Penny’s newest novel, Kingdom of the Blind.
Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny
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Summary: How do you summarize a complex novel like this one? Here’s the gist:
A stranger has named Chief Inspector Armand Gamache to be one of the executors of her will, Still suspended because of an investigation in a case that went wrong months before, Gamache agrees to accept the task as a way to keep occupied. What would seem to be a straightforward duty becomes troublesome, however, when he sees the bizarre terms of the will.
As if that weren’t enough, the case that got him suspended rears its ugly head again and he must track down missing drugs and work to clear his name while at the same time figuring out who murdered one of the heirs.
Read the Acknowledgements For Kingdom of the Blind First
I really wish I had read the acknowledgments before starting the book — they are at the end– because they inform the reading so much. It turns out Louise Penny based her main character Armand Gamache on her husband Michael. In a few sad, wry, warm, stunning paragraphs she reveals how she thought the series was over when her husband passed away. He had been her muse and he was gone.
What happened next is an inspiration to writers. She discovered it is possible to keep writing and even find joy in it. You need to read it in her words, though. Truly a message for the ages.
Throw Out The Rules (Or At Least Loosen Them)
As I mentioned previously, Louise Penny has almost an entire shelf in the mystery section at our local bookstore and her books are very popular. To say she is a successful writer is an understatement. Yet, like another mega-bestselling writer Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling), she completely ignores tight/limited third person point of view and blithely “head hops” from character to character, sometimes from paragraph to paragraph. From my understanding, the narrator doesn’t feel far enough away from the characters to be truly omniscient, either, so probably would be called third person multiple?
In any case, it appears that third person limited POV is good for beginning writers who have trouble moving from character to character without confusing readers, but masterful writers can loosen up third person point of view successfully and readers seem to prefer it.
Setting, Characters, and Plot
Another reason it is apparent she is a masterful author is that Louise Penny has a wonderful knack with setting (especially her descriptions of snow), is fantastic at developing realistic characters who drive the story, and she knows how to build a complex and believable plot. Many authors can are good at one or two of those. Kudos to Penny for being able to conquer all three.
Public domain image by Larisa Koshkina from Publicdomainpictures.net
I guess like so many things, you can break the rules once you know them well enough. Stephen King says something along those lines in On Writing – he’s talking about sentence fragments and unusual paragraph breaks, but it’s the same principle. Now that I think about it, Salem’s Lot is another example of unconventional POV-switching.
Like you, I’ve seen Louise Penny all over the shelves at the bookstore & library. I don’t think I’ve ever read one, though. Next time I’m at the library I’ll pick one up!
Would love to hear how you like it if you do read one. I’d recommend trying to dig up the first, because they are best in order.
Good to know! Thanks.
Looks like I need to see is my local library has one of her books. Darn you … how long can a “to read” list get, anyway?!
You mean TBR mountain, as some call it.
I used my B&N 20%-off-a-mystery coupon to pick up Still Life, Louise Penny’s first book. I’m enjoying it although I do see some first-novel issues, like an early scene where Gamache goes to a cafe to talk to the owner, has a conversation with someone else who confronts him while he’s waiting for the owner, then when the owner shows up they just introduce themselves to each other and then Gamache leaves, as though the author forgot why he went there. I’ve done that kind of thing a million times.
The head-hopping is very noticeable. I’ve been sensitized to it by all the writing advice I’ve read, but I’m trying to decide if it’s really a problem for me as a reader (especially as a reader who’s read tons of older novels that didn’t follow modern conventions). The main effect seems to be on the level of engagement or emotional connection I have with any of the characters; it’s like I’m observing from six feet above their heads rather than looking through anyone’s eyes. I’m about a third of the way through; I’m intrigued by the plot, enjoying the characters, and loving the rural Quebec setting. Thanks for the recommendation!
Shan, Glad you found it.
Experiencing books the same way I did as a reader — before I became a writer — has become increasingly difficult. It is like going to a play and seeing what is going on backstage as well. Some of the illusion is marred, I’m afraid.