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. Mary F Wilson says:

    Love this! Thank you! Will you draw a map of Three Pines for us?

  2. Concetta Martinez says:

    Gamache’s 4 rules to wisom has stuck with me, since the first time I read them. I find this quote to be inspirational, as well as an instructive tool to living life well and honorably.
    “I don’t know, I need help, I am sorry, I was wrong” especially that last one.

  3. Stephanie Consoli says:

    Thank You, Louise for the great insight into the characters you created. This adds so much to the background of your process. I am starting Still Life again today and will hopefully complete the series before the next book. Thank You for your gift.

  4. Grace Crosbie says:

    Such a treat to read the author’s thoughts! The Three Pines area and Gamache and friends are living in Louise’s brain and now living in her reader’s brains. Her characters are so real and vulnerable and crazily perfect. Who cannot love Ruth and her duck or Clara, covered in specks of paint from her art? I have read every book since a good friend of mine recommended Louise Penny. Looking forward to August.

  5. Nancy Swenson says:

    This is perfect. I read all of the books last year and now have moved on to other authors until the next book comes out. Upon reading this I was immediately taken back to Three Pines and the wonderful characters in your novels. Love reading the snippets and reading your thoughts as you look back.

  6. Debra Donnelly says:

    How wonderful and interesting to get to know a writer’s mind ! I think the process is fascinating. Thank you for the peek into your world.

  7. Bonnie Rick says:

    These are wonderful and beautiful! For vision and other reasons, I only “read” your books through sound recordings (CDs and audiobooks), which is why narrators are so important to me. On my tablet, I can enlarge the font to see your thoughts, memories, and musings. Adore this addition to the books. Enriches my love and experience with the world you have so carefully and skillfully created. Thank you!

  8. Trish Hawarny says:

    Love this idea! Will these posts be available for awhile after published? This makes me think I need to re-read the series. Referring to the posts would be great! Thanks!

  9. Linda says:

    I have come to truly love Ruth. Yes, she is irrascible, ornery, profane; I am myself occasionally. One of the stand out scenes (farther on in the series) for me takes place at Jean Guy’s lowest point when, sitting beside him on a bench, Ruth places Rosa in his lap. Rosa is her dearest “possession” yet she knows the duck’s healing properties are just what the man needs. I still tear up when thinking of that scene and, indeed, am doing so now – silly old fool that I am! Although I enjoyed Still Life enough to re-read it a couple of times, I have observed that Louise’s writing becomes even better with each successive Gamache book. And it doesn’t hurt that Armand Gamache is the “living” embodiment of my late husband, a former cop, both by physical description and by temperment.

  10. Charmaine Gabel says:

    Miss Jane Neal met her maker . . .
    Had CC de Poitiers known she was going to be murdered . . .
    All of them? Even the children?
    Oh, no, no, no, thought Clara Morrow . . .
    Running, running, stumbling, running.
    Armand Gamache sat in the little room . . . closed the dossier. . . trapping the words inside.
    Armand Gamache slowed his car to a crawl . .
    These are among my favorite of your first lines. You are a genius at grabbing us with the first words. You have me at hello. Thank you!

  11. Jan Pastor says:

    Thank you……..for your wonderful books-which I’ve read all a few times so far. Your thoughts on your characters and how they evolved make me want to keep reading. Just waiting for your newest which is on pre-order.

  12. Kathy Hanson says:

    Love reading these notes on a rainy Northern California morning and feeling myself settling back in at Three Pines! Lovely.

  13. Teresa Offord says:

    I love this! Thank you. I get to relive the books once again. Can’t wait until August!
    My favorite book is How the Light Gets In.

  14. Jana says:

    I’m so glad too you are doing this. I love learning more about each of your books.

  15. Karen I Ford says:

    From the first time I picked up “Still Life”, I knew I had found a book that led me home. I stood and read the first two pages and never put the book back on the shelf. I have introduced Louise’s books to so many people who needed an interesting mystery.
    This look at the beginnings of each really explains the development of the characters. Some I have loved, some I have hated, and some who are still an enigma. Three Pines is more than a fictional place, it is our comfort zone. Louise has slowly introduced us to these wonderful characters and we are the richer for it!

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