Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Review - A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

This Chief Inspector Gamache edition doesn't take place in idyllic Three Pines.  At least not nearly so much.  This disappointed me at first.  It becomes interesting though, as every character is out of his/her comfort zone and it shows.  I like it because it plays well to the central theme of the story - deception.

I have long held that we lie because we are trained to.  This volume explores that issue in wonderful depth and breadth.  Referring to her mother-in-law Clara, for example, says:
Mrs. Morrow fiddled with the stem of her wineglass.
"Did you say that, Peter?"
"No, I didn't, Mother.  I'd never say such a thing."
"Because I know when you're lying, I always know."
This wasn't difficult Clara knew, since in her company they always lied.  She'd taught them that. Their mother knew where all their buttons were, and why not.  She'd installed them.
The interesting thing here is that Mrs. Morrow is in her nineties and her children are well into adulthood.

As in all of Penny's work the story, though outwardly about murder, is really just a vehicle to examine human nature.  I grew up thinking I was truly a sinner as I was clearly a liar. It took a long while to realize why I lied.  And while that may sound like an excuse; I still subscribe to the notion that Woe, is unto the liar, who shall be thrust down to hell.  Not some future Hell, but an immediate and  present one of fear and a profound lack of authenticity.

Early in the book, Thomas Morrow describes a plant in Africa that pretends to be a stone, so it won't get eaten:
"It's cunning," said Julia.  "A survival instinct."
"It's just a plant," repeated Marianna.  "Don't be foolish."
Ingenious, thought Gamache.  It doesn't dare show itself for what it really is, for fear....
Thomas said, "Things aren't as they seem."  Gamache was beginning to believe it.
And so, to survive we lie.  Makes me wonder, in my own parenting.  How often did my children feel they had to deceive me in order to "survive."  Of course I wouldn't have killed them.  But did I make it too dangerous for them to truly represent themselves for who they really are?

I think my own in-authenticity has truly been hell, right here on earth.  It is hard for a plant to flourish and grow while pretending to be a rock.  Louise paints such a clear picture of the consequences of deception as to motivate me to emerge from hiding.  Trouble is, as with the Morrows, I've pretended to be something I'm not for so long, I've lost track of who I really am.

Penny uses Gamache to quote:
"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n."
"A poem by John Milton," said Mrs. Finney, sitting upright next to her husband.  "it's about the devil being cast out of heaven."
"That's right said Gamache.  "The fall from grace.  The tragedy in Milton's poem was that Satan had it all and didn't (wouldn't?) (couldn't?) realize it."

He was a liar from the beginning, the Father of lies.  And of course the worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves.



Booklogged said...

Want to know what I think? I think that was a wonderfully insightful book review. This is the next in the series for my re-reading and I can't wait. Tickles me because I am not the type to re-read any book but Penny writing is so delicate and intricate and yet so bold and masterful. One could easily read these and thing they were just a good cozy mystery if they weren't paying attention. That's why re-reading them is a must. Thanks for adding your wisdom to that of Penny's in this review.

carol said...

I love this series and how each book delves into moral and spiritual issues in addition to just being really excellent mysteries.

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