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. Candy Cuthbert says:

    I love this look back with your thoughts. It is fascinating to see how the characters developed! I don’t remember Ruth’s open vulnerability, but I do see it in her still. And someday I want to find licorice pipes!! They sound delightful. Looking forward to more insights from the earlier books in the series.

  2. Alice Briggs says:

    This is great! It’s wonderful to stroll back with you to the genesis of Three Pines and
    the beginning of my knowledge of the village and its special residents. I look forward to your reflections on passages in the other Gamache books!

  3. AlenaJoGleason says:

    I enjoyed walking back through Three Pines characters. Found your comments interesting. Am looking forward to more.

  4. Karen Grace says:

    Yes, these “translations” are a balm for those of us eagerly awaiting the next Gamache installment!
    Will you let those of us “locals” (from VT) know when there will be a book release event(s) in Quebec?

  5. Karen Hill says:

    A great way to revisit the world of Three Pines. I think I’ll join the others and start re-reading them.

  6. Deborah Sedberry says:

    I too am rereading the series in anticipation of the next book. I feel at home in Three Pines

  7. Margaret Page says:

    I want to live in Three Pines!

  8. Loving this feature!! Great idea, thank you

  9. AnneMallberg says:

    The annotations you’re doing are so very interesting! Can’t wait for the next book!

  10. Judy Ferril says:

    It is such a joy to understand some of the writing process. as well as some of the surprise moments, of such a magnificent author. In addition to a peek into your perspective, it also gave me more to ponder on the actual characters.

  11. Julia Bishop says:

    It is such a joy to read your books and realise you have a happy life in Quebec. Although English, I lived for a while in Toronto (1953 -56!!)and have family there. I have returned to England and am saddened by the animosity I experience when I meet someone from Montreal and mention Toronto. My daughter, who is an excellent French speaker, when trying to order anything over the phone from Montreal, is met with “desolée” and the prompt replacing of the telephone. She, like me, clings to Three Pines for comfort!

  12. Elizabeth says:

    How wonderful! Thank you for sharing your insights. I am so looking forward to the next book!

  13. Elaine McCoy says:

    Dear Ms. Penny,
    From the comments, you have an obviously huge readership. I, too, am a fan. I admire the shine of your prose and the intelligence of your character development. And, of course, we all love the Three Pines gang!
    I am a little perplexed, though. Again, from the commentary, your readership seems overwhelmingly female. I would have thought, the character of Gamache seems to me such an exemplary man that male readers would be interested in him and his exploits. (My spouse surmised that makes don’t read female authors. ???)

  14. Karla Hornbrook says:

    Wonderful! It gives me great pleasure to read you insights. I have watched you evolve as a writer and I have loved the journey you have taken me on. I have also shared your stories with lots of my friends, so we are a big family almost living in Three Pines! It is a place I love to visit with every book!

  15. Diane says:

    I am so looking forward to returning to Three Pines. Your annotations reminded me of how much I loved it there. My husband was a very casual reader until I shared Gamache and company! We both await the next book! Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *