The Annotated Three Pines – Still Life

From Pg. 1:
Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round. Miss Neal’s was not a natural death, unless you’re of the belief everything happens as it’s supposed to. If so, for her seventy-six years Jane Neal had been walking toward this final moment when death met her in the brilliant maple woods on the verge of the village of Three Pines. She’d fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.

Louise’s Thoughts:
First line of first book. This wasn’t how it originally started. Still Life first started with Jane waking up and making breakfast, but then I realized I wanted to start with both her death, then get to know her life. And I also wanted very clear, immediate sense of place and season.

From Pg. 27:
‘Three Pines … Three Pines,’ he repeated, as he tried to find it. ‘Could it be called something else?’ he asked himself, unable for the first time with this detailed map to find a village. ‘Trois Pins, perhaps?’ No, there was nothing

Louise’s Thoughts:
I’d searched most of my life for ‘home’ and when I found it in Quebec, it felt like magic. It was so important to me to bring that sense of belonging, of Fate, of gentle magic to Three Pines, right off the bat. That it was only ever found by people lost.

From Pg. 44:
Sun poured in through the stained-glass boys in uniforms from the Great War, scattering blues and deep reds and yellows across the pine floor and oak pews. The chapel smelled like every small church Clara had ever known. Pledge and pine and dusty old books.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Haven’t gone back to this passage in 15 years. I hadn’t realized I put in the stained glass boys so early in the series.

From Pg. 51:
Once his eyes adjusted to the inside of the Bistro he saw not the one largish room he’d expected but two rooms, each with its own open fireplace, now crackling with cheery fires. The chairs and tables were a comfortable mishmash of antiques. A few tables had armchairs in faded heirloom materials. Each piece looked as though it had been born there. He’d done enough antique hunting in his life to know good from bad, and that diamond point in the corner with the display of glass and tableware was a rare find. At the back of this room the cash register stood on a long wooden bar. Jars of licorice pipes and twists, cinnamon sticks and bright gummy bears shared the counter with small indi­vidual boxes of cereal.

Louise’s Thoughts:
This is so funny! As the series progressed, my image of the bistro evolved. I now see it, and describe it, as one large room, with huge open fireplaces on either end. And yet, so much else is still the same. The long wooden bar. The licorice pipes!

From Pg. 53:
‘A Scotch, please, Marie,’ said Ruth, suddenly deflating and sinking back into the chair. ‘I’m sorry. Forgive me.’

She sounded to Gamache like someone used to apolo­gizing.

‘I suppose I could blame Jane’s death for my poor behavior, but as you’ll discover, I’m just like this. I have no talent for choosing my battles. Life seems, strangely, like a battle to me. The whole thing.’

Louise’s Thoughts:
Again, I see the beginning here, of Ruth, and her evolution. Later in the series she becomes less obviously vulnerable. A person not at all used to apologizing. And yet, the core is here….a woman who sees life as a battle. A woman who does not overtly apologize, but whose amends are more subtle and perhaps, therefore, more powerful. Love seeing this ‘early’ Ruth and knowing who she became.

From Pg. 82:
‘They are four sentences we learn to say, and mean.’ Gamache held up his hand as a fist and raised a finger with each point. ‘I don’t know. I need help. I’m sorry. And one other.’ Gamache thought for a moment but couldn’t bring it to mind. ‘I forget. But we’ll talk more about it tonight, right?’

‘Right, sir. And thank you.’ Oddly enough, she realised she meant it.

After Gamache had left, Nichol brought out her note­book. She hadn’t wanted to take notes while he was talking. She figured it would make her look foolish. Now she quickly wrote: I’m sorry, I don’t know, I need help, I forget.

Louise’s Thoughts:
This brings back memories on so many levels. When asked in events to recite the four sentences, I almost always forget one, as Gamache does here. Those sentences came from the very first time I met Michael. He opened a meeting by reciting them, and I thought….what an extraordinary man. But, on another level, in the book, I knew I wanted some humor, and it just seemed so human, and yet silly, that Nichol would think ‘I forget’ is a sentence that leads to wisdom.

Discussion on “The Annotated Three Pines – Still Life

  1. Barbara Gardner says:

    I too, am reading the series again and find myself thinking about the characters as I go about my day. Am eagerly awaiting August 27.

  2. Patricia Farber says:

    The Cruelist Month is my favorite if you can have a favorite, they all are simply wonderful, relaxing and good therapy. After reading I listen to them on CD, and everything fleshes in.
    Thank you for the best series “Ever” and I am 72 so I know.

    Waiting, Waiting for A Better Man…hurray…

  3. Dianne Henry says:

    What a perfect way to relive each book! I am one of three sisters who love Gamache and Three Pines and mystery. We hope to visit Quebec one day and walk in the atmosphere that inspired such a wonderful series….Thank you, Louise Penny!

  4. Ann Smith says:

    What a wonderful idea! Thank you! If I close my eyes I can hear your voice telling us your thoughts . You are a reader’s dream!!

  5. Mary Keller says:

    This is such a nice touch to the novels! So nice to get into what piqued that particular passage in the books.

  6. LuAnn Ianke says:

    I echo all the above comments. I too re-read the 1st 5 while waiting for Glass Houses to come out. This is the one and only series that I actually own and will probably keep indefinitely. I don’t usually re-read book either, at least not on purpose. Looking forward to the new one in August.

  7. Linda Ard says:

    I didn’t realize there are so many of us who keep going back to start the series again. I just thought it was me who will always go back to Monsieur Gamache when I can’t find anything that captures my imagination as well as Three Pines. Now, while waiting ’til August, I’ll just go back to Still Life and start again. Thank you, Louise, so very much.

  8. Julaine Salem says:

    My favorite insight into Gamache’s feelings is on page 34. “ He always felt a pang when looking at the hands of the newly dead….” to the end of the paragraph. Louise always goes deep into her characters. Love it.

  9. LeDoux Hansen says:

    This is my first visit to this page, thpugh not to the books. I find I reread them, every couple of years, and of course, the panorama I see keeps changing each trip. Love to hear the back ground from Louise, and find a group that shares a love of Three Pines, the Gamache series (Clara! Ruth!) and all they stand for. My favorite place.

  10. Maryann says:

    Oh my gosh. This is so awesome. I love reading your explanations and insights of the scenes. It helps to understand how you developed the characters. My daughter has been writing for years, and after many long hours of revisions she is getting published! I am always asking her “why this and why that”. It’s exciting to hear the writers explanations and thought processes. Thank you.

  11. I am really enjoying reading the thought behind the passages. It has made me go back and re-read Still Life with that in mind and it is opening up so many new insights for me.

  12. Dee Grantham says:

    I have the 4 statements found in “Still Life” posted on my refrigerator. This past week I used the first in a eulogy of an older dear friend. As I visited at her bedside in her final hours, a family member shared that Sue was always quiet because she had felt inferior, having received only a high school education. She was a member of a Bible study class I lead and never responded to any question I regularly threw out to the group to stimulate discussion. But then one day she spoke up, not with an answer, but with a question! I then shared with the congregation the first of the four statements for wisdom. Sue’s desire for knowledge was so intense that she reached outside her comfort zone to admit, “I don’t know.” Is that not a model for us all—to risk exposure to our own perceived vulnerability to admit we need help?! This too-long discourse is simply to ask, did Michael get these statements from another source, or was it original with him? Also I love the challenge of looking for the theme in each of her books and note how she so cleverly creates the title for each!

  13. Carol I says:

    I think this is a terrific idea. What a great refresher.!

  14. Katharine Ferguson says:

    I love that you are doing this. I had decided to re-read some of the first books to see how the familiar characters have evolved over the years. I have just finished “Still Life”, so the annotate Three Pines is perfect for me. Thanks

  15. Jackie Peearson says:

    I saw on Facebook that in the first book, Still Life, Gamache’s son is named Luc. Is that true (I have scoured the book to find it and can’t) and why did you change it to Daniel?

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