Yep, I admit it: sometimes I am a binge-reader. Every now and then, I’ll read a book by an author and be intrigued enough by the characters and/or writing style to read another. And then another and then yet another, ignoring all other authors, until I’ve read everything I can read by that one person.
Back in May, several friends happened to recommend Louise Penny to me. So I picked up “A Trick of the Light” from the library but didn’t finish it, in part because it felt a little like I was coming into a much bigger story mid-way in. So I went back to the very beginning and started her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series with the very first one, “Still Life.” After I finished that book, I read the next one in the series and then the next and then the next one after that.
I just spent a week at the beach (the Outer Banks, heaven on earth) and found myself reading and reading and reading Louise Penny’s books on my Kindle. I couldn’t put them down, especially the last several in the series. I was close to obsessed. (It’s true!) And it was all because of Jean Guy Beauvoir, Gamache’s second in command.
Now, no spoiler alerts needed here: I will not reveal any major plot elements to you! But Jean Guy’s character—which was interesting and intriguing to me from the beginning, perhaps because I lived in France once and know, a little at least, the Francophone personality—became ever more complex as the series evolved. Even as I read about Chief Inspector Gamache’s investigations, his thoughtful pursuit of clues, his ability to zero in on the killer, I’d find myself thinking about Jean Guy, especially during the last few books of the series. I almost felt like shouting at times, “But where is Jean Guy? How is he doing?! Please tell me he’s okay!” I kept turning the pages, not just to learn who the murderer was but also to find out what was going on with Jean Guy. I wanted—no, I needed to know!
This entire binge-read experience really brought home the lessons from an online course I took earlier this year through Sisters in Crime called “Adding Emotional Intensity to Your Writing.” (A great course, by the way, and one I heartily recommend if you are a SinC member.) On our drive home from the beach today, I found myself thinking about why it was that I was so sucked into Jean Guy’s life, into what was happening to him, into how he was responding to it. After all, he’s a fictional character; why should I care? And I did care.
I cared because Jean-Guy was Everyman. Continue reading