LOUISE PENNY’S

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Postcards

Postcards from Three Pines: A Fatal Grace

“Nice and warm in the house, but bitter cold outside, Merde! Now I have to write a second one. Setting it at Christmas. Pond freezing over- love to go out and skate but typing away by the fire. Actually really nice.”

AN EXCERPT FROM A FATAL GRACE

As people arrived food was taken to the familiar kitchen and too many casseroles and pies were stuffed into the oven. Bowls overflowing with candied ginger and chocolate-covered cherries and sugar-encrusted fruit sat on the sideboard beside puddings and cakes and cookies. Little Rose Lévesque stared up at the bûche de Noël, the traditional Christmas log, made of rich cake and coated with the thickest of icing, her tiny, chubby fingers curling over the tablecloth embroidered with Santa Claus and reindeer and Christmas trees. In the living room Ruth and Peter made drinks, Ruth pouring her Scotch into what Peter knew to be a vase.

The lights on the tree glowed and the Vachon children sat beside it reading the tags on the mountain of brightly wrapped presents, looking for theirs. The fire was lit, as were a few of the guests. In the dining room the gate-legged table was open full and groaning with casseroles and tortières, homemade molasses-baked beans and maple-cured ham. A turkey sat at the head of the table like a Victorian gentleman. The center of the table was saved every year for one of Myrna’s rich and vibrant flower arrangements. This year splays of Scotch pine surrounded a magnificent red amaryllis. Nestled into the pine forest was a music box softly
playing the Huron Christmas Carol and resting on a bed of mandarin oranges, cranberries and chocolates.

Olivier carried the whole poached salmon to the table. A punchwas made for the children, who, unsupervised, stuffed themselves with candy. Thus did Émilie Longpré hold her réveillon, the party that spanned Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, an old Québecois tradition, just as her mother and grandmère had done in this very same home on this very same night. Spotting Em turning in circles Clara wound her arm round the tiny waist.

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Postcards

Postcards from Three Pines: Still Life

“Here in Quebec. Finally started writing. I think I’ll call it STILL LIFE. What do you think? Struggling a bit with fear but inspired by the fall colours. ”

AN EXCERPT FROM STILL LIFE

Three Pines wasn’t on any tourist map, being too far off any main or even secondary road. Like Narnia, it was generally found unexpectedly and with a degree of surprise that such an elderly village should have been hiding in this valley all along. Anyone fortunate enough to find it once usually found their way back. And Thanksgiving, in early October, was the perfect time. The weather was usually crisp and clear, the summer scents of old garden roses and phlox were replaced by musky autumn leaves, woodsmoke and roast turkey.

Three huge pine trees faced [Gamache] at the far end of the green. Between him and them was a pond, a bunch of sweater-clad children circling it, hunting for frogs, he supposed. The village green sat, not surprisingly, in the center of the village, a road called The Commons circling it with homes, except behind him, which seemed to be the commercial district. It was a very short commercial. It consisted, as far as Gamache could see, of a depanneur whose Pepsi sign read ‘Beliveau’. Beside that was a boulangerie, the Bistro and a bookstore. Four roads led off The Commons, like the spokes of a wheel, or the directions of a compass.

As he sat quietly and let the village happen around him he was impressed by how beautiful it was, these old homes facing the green, with their mature perennial gardens and trees. By how natural everything looked, undesigned. And the pall of grief that settled on this little community was worn with dignity and sadness and a certain familiarity. This village was old, and you don’t get to be old without knowing grief. And loss.

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