Glass Houses: Louise Penny

Long time readers of these book reviews will know that Penny and I have long enjoyed an intensely deep romance, starting with delight at finding someone interesting and new, progressing through growing interest, moving to infatuation, and climaxing in her best work so far, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY. Since then, our relationship has moved on, grown, less passionate, only making it stronger, more like understanding and cuddling now, spooning, accepting when she forgets to shave her legs or steals the blankets in the middle of the night. By Book #20, we’ll be checking each other’s backs for suspicious moles.

It’s because of this, that I know too much about her, that I feel comfortable giving Penny some advice, because of how much she’s exposed to me. Exposition. Explaining. There’s too much of it here. Show. Stop telling.That’ll re-kindle the romance, then.

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The Nature of the Beast: Louise Penny

The only problem with this book is that it isn’t Penny’s last book, which was simply tremendous.

It reminds me of the time I was enthralled by one of my other favourite authors, Tom Robbins, and his JITTERBUG PERFUME, which is still one of the best books I’ve ever read. I eagerly awaited his next book (which turned out to be SKINNY LEGS AND ALL) and felt disappointed, simply because while it was a good book, it wasn’t as great as his masterpiece.

What I don’t like about Penny’s latest is that is so much less organic than her previous books, which seem to have grown out of the characters. This latest takes a plot Penny is obviously invested in (she reported on it before she became a full-time writer), but this book starts with the plot, which she seems to have worked out before writing it, and the characters are plugged into those plots points instead of the other way around, not doing what they’d do naturally.

In my mind, it doesn’t work as well. The book is good, but it’s not “Gamache-good.”

Jacques Parizeau, rest in peace

The Honourable Jacques Parizeau, former Premiere of Quebec, who came within 1% of leading Quebec to Independence in a 1995 referendum, passed away June 1st. He was 84.

“Monsieur’s” cause of death was a foot jammed in his mouth, ostensibly placed there by “money and the ethnic vote.”

Fun Canadian Facts: Canada not a “Real Country”

New Parti Québécois leader Pierre Karl Péladeau confirmed that Canada is not a real country when he called Canada an “imaginary country” this week. This confirms this little-known fact, which first came to light when Lucien Bouchard, Premier of Quebec stated, “Canada is divisible because Canada is not a real country,” on January 27, 1996.

English speaking toys illegal in Canada

Toys ‘R’ Us in Quebec refuses to sell English-only Daniel Tiger doll
Montreal father says it should be up to parents, not province, to determine the toys kids play with
By Kate McKenna, CBC News Posted: Apr 13, 2015 6:02 PM ET Last Updated: Apr 14, 2015 11:34 AM ET

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/toys-r-us-in-quebec-refuses-to-sell-english-only-daniel-tiger-doll-1.3031253

Nick Messina of Montreal says rules should be changed after a clerk refused to sell him an English-speaking Daniel Tiger toy for his daughter, Carina.
Nick Messina of Montreal says rules should be changed after a clerk refused to sell him an English-speaking Daniel Tiger toy for his daughter, Carina. (CBC)

A Montreal man is criticizing Quebec language laws after a clerk at a local Toys “R” Us told him he was wasn’t allowed to purchase a talking plush toy for his daughter because it only speaks and sings in English.

Nick Messina tried to purchase the Daniel Tiger toy for his one-year-old daughter, Carina, after noticing her eyes “lit up” while watching the popular children’s TV show Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood.

Hoping to buy it as an Easter gift, he drove to his nearest Toys “R” Us, but it wasn’t in stock.

He called another Toys “R” Us in Montreal, and was informed by the clerk that two of the toys were in stock, but that Messina couldn’t buy it because it was unilingual.

Daniel Tiger talks and sings 14 different phrases — all in English.

Messina said the clerk thanked him for letting them know the toy only spoke English, and said it would be shipped back to Ontario.

“I kind of felt a little bit turned off. I felt it was discriminatory against the English-speaking community in Montreal. After all, Montreal is multi-ethnic, multicultural,” he said.

Not giving up, the father tried to purchase the doll online — only to discover the Toys “R” Us website wouldn’t ship the product to Quebec.

English-speaking toys illegal

Messina didn’t know until a few weeks ago, but because of Quebec’s language laws, it’s illegal to sell a unilingual toy unless it has a French-speaking counterpart.

He says it should be up to parents — not the province — to determine the toys they can buy for their kids.

“I don’t understand why, when it comes to the choice of purchasing a toy for our children, that we have to be subjected to these kinds of rules and regulations,” he said.

“It’s kind of saddening.”

Toys ‘R’ Us admits mistake

In a statement to CBC News, a spokeswoman from Toys “R” Us apologized for the inconvenience, but said the toy shouldn’t have been on the shelves.

“Toys ‘R’ Us shipped in error the English-speaking product to one of our Quebec stores and a customer tried to purchase it. Our store did not sell the product to the customer and we apologized for the inconvenience that this caused our customer. We immediately communicated to our store that this product cannot be sold,” said the statement.

Messina’s perseverance paid off.

He managed to buy the doll eventually, on Amazon, for about $50 more than the Toys “R” Us price.

Though it was more than her dad had planned to pay for the doll, Carina adores her new toy.

A long wait for “The Long Way Home”

I’ve said before that Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache detective series is fracking brilliant. “The Long Way Home” came out a few months ago and I’ve been saving it for a time I could savour the reading. That time is now.

Expecting too much can sometimes colour one’s first impressions of what is really good art. I hope I can read this with eyes that aren’t too hungry and just enjoy the meal.

Here are some comments as I go along….

… any other writer using a metaphor of using a moth battering itself to death against a light source would make Gamache’s inevitable return to unofficial police work seem trite and cliche. Penny’s use of language and timing made it profound.