The Annotated Three Pines – A Fatal Grace

From Pg. 13
Back home Peter stared out the window, willing himself to get up and do something constructive. Go into the studio, work on his painting. Just then he noticed the frost had been shaved off one of the panes. In the shape of a heart. He smiled and put his eye to it, seeing Three Pines going about its gentle business. Then he looked up, to the rambling old house on the hill. The old Hadley house. And even as he looked the frost began to grow, filling in the heart with ice.

Louise’s Thoughts:
I deliberately started writing A FATAL GRACE in the winter, knowing it would help to be surrounded by all these details of a bitterly cold Quebec. The snow, the ice, are obvious….but details like the creeping frost can be forgotten. This also sets up, early on, the continuing theme in the series, of contrast. The heart filled with ice.

From Pg. 13
‘Oh, yes. Each has a purpose. For instance, a Rasta man is great when he’s hard, but not a book.’ Clara had laughed. They shared a disdain for hard books. Not the content, but the cover. Hardcovers were simply too hard to hold, especially in bed. ‘Unlike a Rasta man,’ said Myrna.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Ha – had forgotten this passage. Myrna – what a scamp. But must say, I have not changed my mind about hardcovers. Love owning them…but I read in bed, often lying on my side, snuggled in. A hardcover can be a struggle.

From Pg. 22
Normally Ruth’s slim volumes of poetry were slipped to an oblivious public following a launch at the bistro in Three Pines. But something astounding had happened. This elderly, wizened, bitter poet from Three Pines had won the Governor-General’s Award. Surprised the hell out of everyone. Not because she didn’t deserve it. Clara knew her poems were stunning. Who hurt you once so far beyond repair that you would greet each overture with curling lip? It was not always so.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Ahhhh – love this poem. It’s by Marilyn Plessner, from a book self published by her friend after her death. I’m so happy I made, by some miracle, Ruth a poet. Again, contrast. The embittered elderly poet, with such insight into the human heart (sometimes filled with frost), and human condition. Later in the series, as you might know, we find out who hurt her once, ‘so far beyond repair…’

From Pg. 154
The bistro was his secret weapon in tracking down murderers. Not just in Three Pines, but in every town and village in Quebec. First he found a comfortable café or brasserie, or bistro, then he found the murderer. Because Armand Gamache knew something many of his colleagues never figured out. Murder was deeply human, the murdered and the murderer.

Louise’s Thoughts:
This is something I believe – that forensics are vital, of course, and Gamache does not ignore them, but honestly, writing about blood spatter patterns or DNA does not interest me. The emotions of the killer, and the emotions the dreadful act uncovers, are what drive the books. And drives Gamache. But I knew, even as I wrote that, that it is deeply unusual to have a main character, a cop, who is endlessly interested in people. Who cares.

From Pg. 166
‘She’s a librarian and she was saying in her experience when people use capital letters it’s because the letters stand for something. Your title is I’m FINE with the FINE in capitals.’ ‘She has brains, your wife. She’s the first to notice that, or at least to ask. FINE stands for Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Egotistical. I’m FINE.’

Louise’s Thoughts:
I belong to a 12 step program, which saved my life, and I’m FINE is one of the phrases you often hear ‘in the rooms’, though I did change it slightly to fit Ruth. I love how many people respond to this phrase,and recognize themselves. As I recognize myself! One of the great joys of writing Ruth is her degree of self-awareness. She’s embittered and angry and loving and brilliant. And she can laugh at herself. She is FINE. And so am I. You too?

Discussion on “The Annotated Three Pines – A Fatal Grace

  1. Sylvia says:

    I am a black person who longs to live in 3 Pines. This makes me wonder where your character of Myrna came from. Your decision gives me joy and a sense of inclusion within this wonderful community of friends.

    • Deb says:

      Sylvia, I’m not black but the presence of Myrna also gives me immense pleasure!! I AM a therapist, and I did grow up in a largely black neighborhood in San Francisco. I love that Myrna is in three Pines!

  2. Wendy Margree says:

    The description of frost on windows brings back such vivid memories of growing up in northern Quebec and waking up to frost ‘scenes’ on my bedroom window and picking them apart with fingernails. Can’t wait for A Better Man to continue the series!

  3. Brenda says:

    Love re-visiting your books through these quotes and your thoughts.
    Thank you!

  4. Jane Moore says:

    This new insight into your books makes me so happy! Thank you.

  5. Cathy Ezrailson says:

    Oh how this hit me between the eyes!
    “ Who hurt you once so far beyond repair that you would greet each overture with curling lip? It was not always so.”

    But it took me back to childhood where I was so constantly bullied after moving at the age of 9 to a rural area. I hadn’t known the unspoken rules, I was so vulnerable that I began to greet each overture with a look of fear and “I’m sorry” on my lips.

  6. Dave Lovetro says:

    I have made the drive east from Montreal to the small town of Magog in Quebec on the shore of Lake Magog. Reading about the people and sites around Three Pines is very reminiscent of that small town and it’s people. And even a bistro reminiscent of Olivier’s establishment. Sometime wonder if your lovely Three Pines is modeled after that town and it’s surrounding area?

  7. Pat Walworth says:

    I’m rereading all the Gamache books , hoping I’ll read them all before A Better Man is published. I do this every year, and every year I’m amazed at how much Louise Penny can put into every chapter, and sentence. There are no “skip-overs” to these books!
    Has anyone figured out what Billy Williams is saying? I got “Whale oil beef hooked,” but everything else is still a mystery.

  8. Mary Foree says:

    I started reading the Three Pines series when I visited my sister several years ago. She and I had a long car ride, and she put “Still Life,”(audiobook) in for us to listen. I was hooked immediately, and I rapidly went through ALL of the rest of the series. (I LOVED Ralph Cosham’s voice and was so sad when he passed away.) If I remember correctly, I finished the series just before “A Great Reckoning” came out. Each time Louise publishes the date of her latest novel, I listen to the entire series again! I’m hopelessly hooked on Three Pines! ♥︎

  9. Cindy says:

    Love, love, love these books. I came at it a bit sideways when I got ‘A Great Reckoning'(still my favorite) from the library. It was so brilliantly written that I immediately put all the books from ‘Still Life’ onward on hold at the library and had them strewn about my bedroom and was able to do lots of cross referencing and backtracking. Bliss! I’ve re-read them so many times that Aaron, my librarian, always says ‘You know you’ve read this one, right?’, Then he laughs!
    I’m sorry people took Louise Penny’s comments as negative. I don’t see it that way at all. It’s all in what you read into it I guess(sigh). I’m thrilled with the ‘insights’. Always love an inside scoop.
    Again, love, love, love!!!

  10. Carol Galat says:

    What I appreciate about “The Annotated Three Pines” threads is realizing there are many others out there, Louise Penny readers, who have also become familiar with these books, and find such depth in the characters. My cousin, whose Mother was born in Canada, recommended the books to me, and I thanked her yesterday during a visit. I read them in large print from the local library, or on a Kindle. I have spent vacation time on an island in the middle of Blue Sea Lake in Canada, and heard the call of the loon across the waters. I think of Ruth now, when I hear that call–sounds sort of like a maniacal old woman cackling in a high-pitched “ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”
    Get a bunch of loons together, and you’ve really got something!

  11. Carol Galat says:

    P.S. Blue Sea Lake is located in Quebec.

  12. Sharon Paddock says:

    Louise,
    I have loved your Gamache series from the very first pages. Now I am rereading some of the books to keep me from being too impatient while waiting for the newest book. Thank you and please keep writing.

  13. Ann Joyce says:

    I keep saying that I wish I lived in Three Pines. I love the real and human touch you give to all the characters in your books. Thank you for taking the time to write these memoirs. And, please keep writing!

  14. JL says:

    I’m so glad you are revisiting your own words.
    For years I have written down, in a blank book, words, phrases, and complete paragraphs from books I’ve read.
    There are many from your Gamache books that have made me think and want to keep those words.

  15. Karen Flo says:

    I want to repeat a request I made a while back.

    I think you should make a map of Three Pines.

    Screen print this map on canvas tote bags (book bags), head/neck scarves etc.

    If that is a possibility, I would be honored to buy the very first book bag from you!

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