Place – Book 11: The Nature of the Beast



“You feel you’re letting down a friend,” said Reine-Marie.

“Partly, but I run a bookstore,” said Myrna, looking at the row upon row of books, lining the walls and creating corridors in the open space. (The Nature of the Beast, Chapter 4)

Founded in 1998, Brome Lake Books is a little village bookstore with a lovingly curated collection of new titles and old favorites for the discerning booklover. Local authors and books on the area are featured in their own section. A special area in the bargain basement is dedicated to raising money for the community hospital through second hand book sales. Wooden shelves made by a local craftsman line the walls. Lower units in the middle of the room are fitted with casters for smooth movement along the hardwood floors (you do have to be prepared for those impromptu dance parties). Large bay windows overlook the park and the river in the heart of the loyalist village of Knowlton.


A reading area is dedicated to Louise Penny with a little wood stove and a mantle above to display Louise’s books, Three Pines café-au-lait mugs and a decanter of licorice pipes. On the wall is a framed copy of the Three Pines Inspirational map. A braided rug made by a friend’s mother with two cozy arm chairs and a little coffee table complete the area. Lining the top of the bookshelves are samples of Louise Penny’s books in various languages.

Brome Lake Books - Three PinesOwners, husband and wife, Lucy Hoblyn and Danny McAuley may be found puttering around the store on most days. Daily they walk to work with their three year old Portuguese sheepdog, Watson, or the big hairy carpet as he is often called. Watson is the official greeter at Brome Lake Books and he has many friends that stop by for a friendly wag. Their three boys Angus (age 18), Adam (age 15) and Benjamin (age 9) have all grown up with the bookstore and have inherited a love of reading; the very best gift a parent can give.

Last April, Brome Lake Books moved into the next door building and were overwhelmed by all the generous help that they received. Thirty friends, neighbors and customers turned up to carry boxes and boxes of books and heavy shelves. A book club prepared a sumptuous picnic lunch for all to share. One of the happy helpers was none other than Louise Penny herself. Everyone was smiling and jovial then someone starting singing their A,B,C’s as it helped put the books in alphabetical order. It was a very Three Pines day.

One of the great pleasures at Brome Lake Books is having the chance to meet and correspond with the many fans of Louise Penny. Whether it be Arleen from Texas, Diana from Nova Scotia or Andrea from Australia, Louise always has the best fans. Louise inspires us to be kind, caring and thoughtful people. Her books are more about love and community than murder; more about art, poetry and food than crime. More about living than dying. Vive Gamache, Vive Louise!

“So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me, and reminded me that there are good things in the world.” ― Vincent van Gogh

Place – Book 10: The Long Way Home



Baie Saint Paul in the fallThe dot had a name. Baie-Saint-Paul.

Saint Paul. Another one who’d seen something unlikely on the road. And whose life had changed.

“We’re on the road to Damascus,” said Armand with a smile. “Or Charlevoix anyway.” It was an area so beautiful, so unique, it had attracted visitors for centuries. At least one American president had had a summer home there. But what Charlevoix mostly attracted were artists, Quebec artists, Canadian artists. Artists from around the world. (The Long Way Home, Chapter 21)

Louise has described the Charlevoix Municipality and specifically Baie-Saint-Paul as “an area so beautiful it almost defies reason” and by simply looking at these photos you can see why. So stunning, in fact, that the region was a favorite locale of the Group of Seven, a.k.a. the Algonquin School, a collective of landscape artists who immortalized the area and spawned the first major Canadian national art movement.


Established as a part of New France in 1678, the village is situated in a valley at the mouth of the Gouffre River and bordered by steep cliffs. Baie-Saint-Paul’s geography made it isolated and nearly inaccessible for almost 150 years, until a road was built in 1812 connecting the settlement to Quebec City.

An odd and unflattering historical side note: Baie-Saint-Paul first came to international prominence in the 1770s when Dr. Philippe-Louis-François Badelard named a local ailment he was researching the “Baie-Saint-Paul maladie.” The condition, it turns out, was a strain of venereal disease and his conclusions became one of the first medical studies published in Canada.

On a more entertaining note, Cirque du Soleil was founded in Baie-Saint-Paul in 1984 by former street performers, Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix.

Today, its quaint narrow streets make it a premier destination for tourists and it has one of the highest concentrations of art galleries and craft boutiques in all of Canada. The surrounding countryside offers kayaking, bicycling, bird-watching, and miles of hiking.

Louise mentions both Auberge La Muse and the Galerie Clarence Gagnon in the acknowledgments of The Long Way Home and notes that she took some “artistic license” in describing them.

The “real” Auberge La Muse is a beautifully appointed Victorian Hotel that offers amazing getaway packages including everything from spa treatments to whale-watching. La Muse also houses an eco-friendly restaurant that serves up locally sourced fare and whose philosophy is one of “social, economic and environmental balance.”

The Galerie Clarence Gagnon was the first art gallery to open its doors in the Charlevoix region back in 1975. It is named for the great Québécois painter and Baie-Saint-Paul resident, Clarence Gagnon, who is credited with “inventing a new kind of winter landscape that consisted of mountains, valleys, sharp contrasts, vivid colours, and sinuous lines.” Aside from the traditional buying and selling of works, the gallery also offers appraisals, framing, and restoration.

Oh, and that American president who had a summer home in the region? That would be none other than William Howard Taft, who the locals jokingly referred to as the “Little Judge” on account of his enormous size.

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