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. Robin Thebodeau says:

    I Love this new idea!!! It’s so wonderful to see Louise’s thoughts on these passages!

  2. Shirley Moor says:

    This is wonderful, Louise. Brings back wonderful memories of reading your books. Thank you so much.

  3. Bonnie Swanson says:

    It’s fascinating to see how you, the characters, and the scenery have evolved. Still staying accurate but evolving nonetheless. Thank you!

  4. Donna Pabst says:

    Yes! Thank you, thank you! What a marvelous way to revisit your books.

  5. Sue Carroll says:

    Oh, this is exciting! I’ve long wondered how many of the threads you weave through several books are hinted at deliberately, with the longer arc in mind. Tell us more!

  6. Ruth says:

    I do appreciate how the book opens right onto Jane’s death….glad you spoke about that. Also that she not just died, but “met her maker”…. even a clearer sense of place.

    I also very much appreciated your comments on the Bistro!! I noticed right away the two room description and have to say it feels better the way it evolved into the way it is now. Three Pines magic!

  7. I read all of these books in order in a row without stopping for other books between, except the last two that had not yet been published at the time I discovered them. I read them while caring for my father who was in endless rounds of radiation and chemo and slowly dying from cancer. The small town of three pines and it’s people became my companions and my escape to a place no one seemed to find. Life in and out of hospitals and fear is isolating but strangely the three pines crew accompanied me. My favorite Ruth, who had qualities of my favorite Aunt, helped me to stay related to others even while shattered and I used a quotation and image from one of the novels to craft my Aunt’s memorials during that period. I am grateful beyond words for the village where I could go to hide and heal during that season of letting light in through the cracks. I still sometimes head to the bistro in my heart and sit at an imaginary table and watch the characters with each other and over hear and watch them while enjoying the fire and a coffee strangely feeling safe in a place that has seen so much Mayhem. Grateful.

  8. Linda Ogden says:

    I need to go back and reread the series from the beginning. Still Life got me hooked. Reading it and all subsequent books return me to a place of safety and comfort, despite the sadness and death that are woven into each story. Love, humility, and courage prevail.

  9. Peg says:

    How much I have loved each book. To read your comments brings more color to each bit you’ve chosen. I never re-read books. Yet I’ve re-lived Three Pines and environs a dozen times, discovering new/anew nuances and expressions, feeling and details and with each repeated visitI am no longer lost.

  10. Sally Schroeder says:

    Loved the second extract. When I read “my” first Three Pines book, I hurried to our atlas to look for that village! Sounded like heaven. Alas, could never find it, except when I read one of your books.

  11. Diane says:

    It is so nice to start the series again with your perspective on it. Thank you Louise.

  12. Virginia Cowie says:

    Oh, I do love that you’re doing this, Louise! After having read all of the books, so far, looking back on these parts and your comments really clarify some things that I didn’t even know needed clarifying….and it adds so much.

    There are very few books or book series that find I can re-read. However, yours are definitely ones that I can consume more than once.

    Thank you so much!

  13. Beth Gray says:

    How I am enjoying this! Keep them coming! In my mind’s eye, I can imagine the growth of these characters– as levels of consciousness reveal themselves, like shedding the skin of an onion. Just like getting to know a real person. I hope you will comment on the bible verse Gamache refers to so often–life is like that–recurring themes recycling in various forms in your life.

  14. Gillian Cook says:

    Thank you, Louise, for these reminders of your wonderful work. Every summer, I go on a mini-Louise Penny binge and re-read one (or two – or a lot of) the books on my Louise Penny shelf – and always get so much pleasure out of it! Can’t wait to see the new one – but will fill in the time with re-discovery!

  15. Shirley Andrews says:

    I’ve really enjoyed this feature and look forward to more. I am a huge fan and promote this series rather shamelessly. The irony is that I often tell new readers that Still Life is a “slow starter” but once it gets going, the *ride* is incredible. Yet Jane dies in the opening paragraph. Perhaps it’s the character development and the visualization that begins with small steps and accelerates to a compelling speed. I find myself re-reading now, as the fourth Gamache imperative seems to apply more often to my mind. Thanks, Louise

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