The Annotated Three Pines – The Cruelest Month

From Pg. 8
There was certainly nothing cool about Three Pines, nothing funky or edgy or any of the other things that had mattered to Clara when she’d graduated from art college twenty-five years ago. Nothing here was designed. Instead, the village seemed to follow the lead of the three pines on the green and simply to have grown from the earth over time.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Ha – haven’t read this description of the village for many years, and honestly? It describes how I see, and feel about, Three Pines to this day. It is natural and organic. No more need to impress or prove itself than an otter or eagle or pine tree has.

From Pg. 59
It was Armand Gamache’s favorite view. The mountains rose graciously on the far side, folding into each other, their slopes covered with a fuzz of lime green buds. He could smell not just the pine now, but the very earth, and other aromas. The musky rich scent of dried autumn leaves, the wood smoke rising from the chimneys below, and something else. He lifted his head and inhaled again, softly this time. There, below the bolder aromas, sat a subtler scent. The first of the spring flowers.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Ahhh – it’s spring here now, as I read this, and while we aren’t quite at the first flowers, how well I know that awe, and wonderment. As the world comes alive. As a city woman, born and raised, moving to the Quebec countryside with Michael was a revelation. The beauty, the peace. The challenges. And how deeply connected to the rhythms and wonder of nature we became. I wanted, and still want, desperately to reflect that in the books.

From Pg. 55
‘One day that ego of yours’ll kill you. That’s all it is, you know. You pretend it’s selfless, you pretend to be the great teacher, the wise and patient Armand Gamache, but you and I both know it’s ego. Pride. Be careful, my friend. She’s dangerous. You’ve said so yourself.’

Louise’s Thoughts:
This is a continuing theme – Armand’s Achilles Heel. People sometimes tell me he’s too perfect, and I think – well, you’re not reading the books very closely. Not seeing the dangers of a good man, seeing good in others, where none exists. His sense that he has an insight – where others see only blindness.

From Pg. 56
It was a strange admission for Beauvoir. Normally so rational and driven by facts, he gave no credence to things unseen, like emotions. He was the perfect complement to his boss, who, in Beauvoir’s opinion, spent far too much time crawling into people’s heads and hearts. Inside there lived chaos, and Beauvoir wasn’t a big one for that.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Jean-Guy probably evolves the most of any of the characters, and this is the beginning of that evolution. Here we see inside him. How guarded, how afraid, he is, of being completely human. I knew I wanted him to grow, but to be honest, at this stage, I didn’t know in which direction. Or how he’d get there. What would have to happen, to break Beauvoir’s mind-set? Of course, later in the series, we see. It had to be an event so shattering, he could not remain the same.

From Pg. 65
Clara turned to Gamache….He spoke to her in English, as a courtesy, she knew. His English was perfect and, strangely, he had a British accent. She’d been meaning each time they’d met to ask him about that.
‘Why do you speak with an English accent?’
His eyebrows rose and he turned a mildly surprised face to her.
‘Is that the answer to my question?’ he asked with a smile.
‘No, professor. But it’s something I’ve been meaning to ask and keep forgetting.’
‘I went to Cambridge. Christ’s College. Studied history.’
‘And honed your English.’
‘Learned my English.’

Louise’s Thoughts:
Now this is a nod to two people. First and foremost, my husband Michael, on whom Gamache is modelled. Michael, not completely coincidently, went to Christ’s College, Cambridge, and loved it. But this part of Gamache’s character also acknowledges someone I interviewed often when I was a journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Jacques Parizeau was the leader of the separatist Parti Québécois. He fought most of his political life to have Québec separate from the rest of Canada. He was a passionate defender of the French language, and most Anglos were wary of him at best, hated him at worst. And yet, he was an Anglophile, and spoke perfect English with a British accent. His love of all things English didn’t diminish his aspirations for his beloved Québec. I found that fascinating. And while Gamache is not a separatist, I thought it would be fun to add this unexpected element to his character – his slightly accented English. And the fact he too loves Québec and went to Cambridge.

Discussion on “The Annotated Three Pines – The Cruelest Month

  1. Karen Lewis says:

    I love these notes.

  2. Harriet Rynkiewicz says:

    Loving this series. Thank you.

  3. Denise Belanger Kilgo says:

    Love reading your after thoughts about your characters. Interesting about Parizeau and the separatist movement..I was born in St. Boniface,Manitoba(a French community) and everyone got along.

  4. Ann F Zeigler says:

    Thank you for your thoughts. As I reread the quotes I know why I enjoy your books. You bring all our senses alive. Plus we truly know the characters and they awake all our feelings. When an author can do these things, she is a great writer. You make us care.
    God bless you for using your gift to entertain and encourage and educate.

  5. So nice to read your thoughts and your feelings about your past writings. It must feel great, it’s like visiting your favorite friends and relatives . Thank you for enriching our life , we will always love you and your great stories of our beloved

  6. Karen I Ford says:

    These notes really open a new world to your readers. As much as I love Armand, Guy is the most fascinating. We want to understand what makes Guy tick. He is the antithesis of Armand. Guy is a tactician with little tact.
    Clara is a bigger enigma. Why has she stayed with Peter? He is so negative about her genius. I see him as a narcissist and perfectionist — not my idea of a great artist as I prefer the Impressionist palette.
    Re-reading the books is such a joy!!!

  7. Colleen Ginter says:

    So fascinating to read your thoughts and the back story behind the characters.
    Really enjoyable

  8. Marlene Burnett says:

    I enjoy all the notes. Thanks very much.

  9. I shouldn’t be surprised that Gamache is modeled on Michael. There is a depth of knowing and great care that is
    revealed through him, and such an intimacy in the relationship with his wife. They are an “old” couple, in the sense of how they flow together and can be as comfortable in silence, as in conversing together. That sense of both comfort and spaciousness in just being in the same room, is something I particularly value and defines a special kind of intimacy.

  10. Elaine Otis says:

    The Cruellest Month is one of my favourite Three Pines Books. It’s been a long time since I’ve read it so the details are fuzzy. Time to read it again. The Hadley House is so atmospheric. There is also an allusion to mental illness that made me wonder. Sometimes psychopathy gets confused with schizophrenia and I was concerned that maybe that line was blurred a little. Is The Cruellest Month a reference to T.S. Eliot? Still, it was a marvelous story as are all the Gamache books. Thank you Louise Penny.

  11. Jacqueline D'Arcy Lemelin says:

    What would have to happen to have Jean Guy change and in what direction? A life shattering event indeed. His character is just as complex as Armande, and that makes their relationship that much more interesting.

  12. Cheryl Lessman says:

    Thoroughly enjoy the notes.

  13. Bonnie says:

    I’ve read all the books twice but as I read these notes I see more layers I would see as I read them again. Thank you for that.

  14. Ken Grant says:

    The continuing development of all characters in the series is what keeps me reading and
    re-reading the books . I continue to marvel at Louise’s insight into the human condition .
    But please – never kill off Ruth , even if she gets to be one hundred and fifty years old .

    • Marg Wiegand says:

      Funny you should say that. Just recently I wondered how the Three Pines folks could continue without Ruth. Time does pass in these books but I think Ruth must last forever.

  15. Barbara Whittemore says:

    I agree, the character development is the heart of my love for Three Pines. I love them all in a special way, and need to know how they are doing. The relationship between Jean-Guy and Gamache is so simple, yet so complex, as to be captivating.
    I love these notes, and enjoy the look behind the scenes.

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