Last week, I joined roughly 65 other people in the library of Toronto’s castle, Casa Loma, for an evening of readings and questions with two very successful Canadian mystery authors, Giles Blunt and Louise Penny. It was a very interesting and informative evening. But what really struck me was how settings influence us.
Both authors talked about that, since each uses a very specific Canadian setting: Louise the mythical hamlet of Three Pines, in the eastern Townships of Quebec, and Giles the mythical Algonquin Bay, which bears a strong resemblance to North Bay, Ontario.
But what hit me was actually the setting we were in last night. In the many British authors’ books I’ve read that were set on large estates, there were bodies found in libraries much like this one. It was a large, rectangular room with dark wood floors and walls of books behind glass doors. We sat on straight chairs set in five or six long horizontal rows. But even with the rows of chairs and the very modern (live) bodies in those chairs, I felt transported to the early twentieth century in England.
The chairs seemed out of place, as though the room was merely tolerating them and would throw them out the moment we left. And then the room would return to its roots as a personal library on the estate of a duke and duchess, or a lord and his lady, or at least a pompous country squire.
I wanted everyone to leave so that I could be there alone and soak in the atmosphere just for a few moments. But alas, it was not to be. Maybe next month, when I will be one of the readers along with Peter Robinson, I’ll have a chance to linger after the others have gone… at least until the guard kicks me out.