On August 26, I went to the launch of Louise Penny’s latest book Glass Houses. The launch took place in Knowlton, the Eastern Townships of Quebec, in a huge tent decorated with flags which carried the names of all the books she has written—13 of them. Louise appeared on the stage with her Labrador, Bishop, by her side to a loud round of applause.
Louise among one large group of her fans beneath flags of her thirteen published books
A colleague of Agatha Christie whose world-wide fame is mind-boggling and deserved.
As usual, Louise was full of anecdotes about her life and her experiences traveling from launch to launch internationally and within Canada. She answered all questions and didn’t shy away from sharing personal stories. Her husband, Michael, had died less than a year ago. At the time of his death, she had written the most beautiful eulogy I have ever read or heard from a spouse. They obviously had one of those enviable marriages a couple can have. I am lucky to have one, too, only mine is a second marriage—known to be void of previously made mistakes! Now that I think of it, I don’t know if Louise was married before she met Michael.
The public had the good sense not to ask her about the recent visit of the Clintons, and she did not offer any information about the former president and the ought-to-be first female president of our big brother to the South. (What a crying shame that situation was and still is, right?)
Louise has an incredible memory. She remembered that she helped me, when I met her at the launch of her first book, to find a publisher for my first book. She was interested in hearing that I am working on my fourth book; this one isn’t for children, it’s a novel for adults. She also remembered my grandniece, Jessie, who is now a writer and editor, in Edmonton. The year Jessie stopped reading children and young adult books, I asked Louise to sign four of her books as a Christmas present for Jessie. Every dedication was different; each had a personal message. That’s the year Louise added a new fan to the Penny Army.
There was a bit of a muddle which ended up with me donating two books to two libraries in the Knowlton area, which I hadn’t intended to do. After all, if I want to donate books, it should be to one of our local libraries, right? I had asked the owners of Brome Lake Books, Danny and Lucy, to have Louise sign books in advance so that Francois and I could avoid the line-up and leave as soon as the launch was over, as we had a long drive back. I was told by a store attendant that no books were there for me and I had to wait until the launch to have them signed afterward; which I did. A day later, I received a message that my books were waiting for me at the book store. I offered to pay for them, but Lucy offered to let me have them at their cost and they would donate them. I thought it was a fair compromise.
Being a writer myself, I don’t know how Louise manages to write a book a year and still keep up the quality and mystery in each of them. I haven’t read Glass Houses, yet, though others have told me that it is even better than last year’s. I promised myself to read only books written in French during Canada’s 150th year of Confederation, and I have stuck to my promise. Some were easy reads, others were not. Today, I finished reading Pierre Lemaitre Au Revoir là-haut, a story about two French soldiers who return from WW I with disfiguring physical and crippling emotional wounds. They create a situation that makes the State and the public aware of the debts owed to them and their comrades—dead and alive. It should be a must-read for statesmen who think war is the answer to conflicts.
And now we have to wait for Louise’s next book which she is busy writing the first draft of—perhaps has even finished it already.