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. Judith Blanchard says:

    This is so timely, Louise! In preparation for coming to your prepublication party in August (with three friends, also from Coastal Maine — my second time, their first — only one got a ticket into the tent! A story for another time!) I am re-reading the whole series. Just finished “The Cruelest Month” and on to #4 — with a wee hiatus for “Where the Crawdads Sing,” which I recommend highly! Wonderful to have your quotes and thoughts about writing these enchanting books! Thank you!

  2. Julia says:

    I love when authors reveal their thoughts on their creations. You are my favorite author and I wish I lived in Three Pines to enjoy this lovely spot in my retirement years. The next book is releases on my birthday! Lovely of you for this delectable . You are like a dear friend to so many of us, thanks.

  3. J E Sargent says:

    In 1957, just after I graduated from a NYC high school, I took a bus to Knowlton to visit a family friend who lived there. A grand adventure for a 16 year old girl who had never been anywhere away from home on her own. As I read your marvelous books, I can visualize that charming little town and truly enjoy my visit every time!

  4. Paula says:

    Ahhhh. Now my vague displacement in the bistro makes sense! As all others have commented- thank you so much for this. Your books are so much more than cozy mysteries to us all. Although they are certainly full of cozy and mystery, they prod us to think. They help us empathize or at least sympathize – even with less than likable characters. They introduce us to poetry and philosophy. They make us laugh. They give us a seat by the fire with friends and a drink and good food.

  5. Doreen Hill says:

    I listened with rapt attention as to the interview you gave on Audible following “Bury Your Dead”. I thought “What an interesting woman – I’d love to hear more about her creative thoughts as she wrote the other books.” And here am I, only 2 days later, stumbling on the site and this page! Thank you!!

  6. Pam Borden says:

    Ms. Penny, this is such a brilliant idea! The wealth of “Easter eggs” and geographic and historical references in your wonderful Three Pines series will make the annotations as fun to read as the Inspector Gamache novels themselves. And it’s a great way to keep your die hard fans happy until your next installment! You have a lot of fans on P.E.I.!

  7. Aganita Varkentine says:

    This is great! I have read all the books at least two times and some three times. I am about to listen to all on audio books. In going back, I have noticed many details that turn up later. I am glad to learn Louise’s comments on some of that.

  8. Cate says:

    This is fun!

    Ruth has been my favorite since the start ;-)
    And I always thought Nicho writing down “I forget” made sense. When I was a grad student, I wrote stuff down even if it sounded dumb to consider later!

  9. Sue Craig says:

    The Inspector Gamache series, complete with characters we could identify with, made me feel very much at home. Can’t wait until your next book! Thank you!

  10. Joyce Wolcott says:

    Dear Louise,

    I love reading your thoughts on your writings – what a wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing both with us. Looking forward to the new book!

  11. Tina says:

    …and the fourth sentence, “I’m sorry”. When I think of the bistro, I “remember” one large room and one fire place. This will remind me to be more present when I read and take in every word as I envision what I have just read.

  12. Jane Halsey-Arango says:

    How interesting that Ruth apologizes for something (and actually orders a drink in the Bistro rather than commandeering some else’s).

  13. Pamela Gallaher says:

    I have been reading and loving your books from the beginning. Hard to wait for the next one. Thank you for your new offerings. Love this first one, too.

  14. I have so enjoyed the Gamache Series. I eagerly await each one and it never fails to satisfy my soul. Three Pines sounds so lovely, you can just imagine being there.The characters,we have all came to love. The simplicity and intensity all work together. When asked by someone,how are you ? I reply FINE. Laughing to myself . Thanks for A great series !!!

  15. Leslie Sloan says:

    Thank you Louise for your reminiscing of your books. It enhances the “Three Pines” experience and gets me craving Tim Horton’s. I am looking forward to future installments.

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