Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reading The Beautiful Mystery


After reading and raving about A Trick of the Light, I wanted to read more books by Louise Penny. And The Beautiful Mystery's back cover blurb hooked me...

No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as "the beautiful mystery."
But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery's massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Surete du Quebec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. But before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.

The book opens with this Bible verse:  'And man's foes...shall be they of his own household.' (p. 13)
It's a clue. But to what? Intrigued, I read on...

I read on for the language...

'They followed one of the golden ribbons, deeper into the forest. Deep into Quebec. Toward a body.' (p. 18)

'Autumn came earlier here. The further north, the earlier the fall. The longer the fall, the greater the fall.' (p. 18)

'It was like walking into joy.' (p. 24)

'The darkness Gamache had expected to find inside the monastery was not in the walls, but in the men.' (p. 24)

'[L]ook at every body with an open mind. Not so open that their brains fell out, but open enough to see and hear the unexpected.' (p. 26)

'His long elegant hands like a mask over his face.' (p. 40)

'With an effort, the Chief Inspector banished those horrors. Let them glide right past, as though they were water and he a rock.' (p. 66)

'The world had found them, and slipped through a crack in their thick walls. A crack produced by a crime.' (p. 71)

'He lay there, listening. Imagining the monks in their cells, all around him. Like bees in a honeycomb.' (p. 106)

'The community of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loupe is like a living chant. Each of us individual notes. On our own, nothing. But together? Divine. We don't just sing we are the song.' (p. 116)

'The voice was flat. It would skim and skip forever across this lake. Making barely a mark.' (p. 340)

'He unhooked the thought from his flesh and could almost see it drift away.' (p. 354)

And I received more than an intriguing mystery. 

Louise Penny shared her insights...

on addiction...
' "I've seen that look before," said Gamache. "When you sing. Not just you, but all of you."
"It's joy, I suppose," said the abbot. "When I even think of the chants I feel freed of cares. It's as close to God as I can get."
But Gamache had seen that look on other faces. In stinking, filthy, squalid rooms. Under bridges and in cold back alleys. On the faces of the living, and sometimes on the dead. It was ecstasy. Of sorts.
Those people got there not through chants, but through needles in the arm, crack pipes and little pills. And sometimes they never came back.' (p. 144)

on slipping away...
' "People die in bits and pieces... They lose their sight, their hearing, their independence. Those are the physical ones. But there's others. Less obvious, but more fatal. They lose heart. They lose hope. They lose faith. They lose interest. And finally, they lose themselves." ' (p. 277)

on the church...
'While many continued to search for God, they'd given up looking for Him in a church.' (p. 26)

Beauvoir 'went to church as rarely as possible. Some weddings, though the Quebecois now preferred to simply live together. Funerals mostly. And even those were becoming rarer, at least in churches. Even the elderly Quebecois, when they died now preferred a funeral home send-off.
It might not have nurtured them, the funeral home. But neither had it betrayed them.' (p. 72)

'The Catholic Church wasn't just a part of his parents' lives, and his grandparents', it ruled their lives.' (p. 99)

on the nature of our modern lives...
'Had peace and quiet become so rare that when finally found they could be mistaken for something grotesque and unnatural.' (p. 108)

Louise Penny wove fascinating research into the story...

research regarding the Gilbertines...
'The Reformation, the Inquisition...It was a dangerous time to be a Catholic...
[I]n Europe priest's holes were built into homes. Tunnels dug for escape.
Some had escaped so far they popped up in the New World. And even that wasn't far enough. The Gilbertines had gone even further. They disappeared into the blank spot on the map.
Vanished.
To reappear more than three hundred years later. 
On the radio...
Then, thanks to the Internet, finally millions of people listened to...recording[s] [o]f monks chanting' (p. 76 - 77)

' "The Church considered [the Cathars]...free thinkers, too independent. And gaining in influence."...
"So the Church killed them?"
"After first trying to bring them into the fold...Many were mutilated first, and sent back to frighten the others, but it only hardened the Cathar resolve"...
"The Inquisition would've done that to the Gilbertines?"...
"It's not a certainty...But Dom Clement was wise to leave. And wise to hide." ' (p. 314)

research on the Gregorian chant...
' "A whole mythology has grown up around them... Probably because we know so little about them. We don't even know where Gregorian chant come from...
Pope Gregory had nothing to do with the chants. Marketing, that's all. Gregory was a popular pope, so to curry favor some astute priest named the chants after him...
There's also a theory that if Christ heard any music, or sang any music, it would've been plainchant." ' (p. 330 - 331)

' "Scientists have even begun studying the chants... [T]hey hooked up probes to volunteers...It showed that after a while their brain waves changed. They started producing alpha wave...Their blood pressure dropped, their breathing became deeper... [T]hey also became...more alert...While the scientists say it's alpha waves, the Church called it 'the beautiful mystery.' " ' (p. 331)

Located in the back pages is A Reading Group Guide and the first two chapters of Louise Penny's newest release How The Light Gets In
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In my email in box:  
Gertrude Stein Award in Fiction contest
Check it out. You could win $1000

Bayou Magazine offers the winner of their Poetry and Fiction contests $500

You can't win, if you don't play. So enter today...

And...

The Crime Writers of Canada wants me to remind you that if you register for Bloody Words before January 1, 2014, you'll save. So what are you waiting for? Register today...

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Next post:  Is your poetry in need of a home? Read tomorrow's interview with Leaf Press.




2 comments:

Laurie Buchanan said...

Say no more. I'm all in - Hook, Line, and Sinker!

Leanne Dyck said...

: ) Wishing hours upon hours of reading pleasure in 2014, Laurie.