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“In the letter she said that her father had said something to her. Something horrible and unforgivable.”
“The Brutal Telling.”
“That’s how she described it.”
(The Brutal Telling)

If you’ve read Louise’s fifth novel in the Inspector Gamache Series, you’ll recognize this scene, in which Clara Morrow explains the phrase “The Brutal Telling”. The phrase was first used by the Modernist Canadian painter Emily Carr to describe a horrific falling out with her father.

Emily Carr 300x185 1Here she is with her Javanese monkey, Woo, who plays an important part in Louise’s book. And as Superintendent Therese Brunel points out, “She adored all animals, but Woo above all.”

Carr was born in 1871 in British Columbia, one of nine children and, by all accounts, had a relatively stable childhood up until “The Brutal Telling” episode. Clara describes the mysterious incident to Inspector Gamache as thus, “She went from being a happy, carefree child to an embittered woman. Very solitary, not very likable.” Whatever terrible transgression took place (to this day, the details are unknown), it propelled Emily to travel to the isolated regions of Canada where she recorded, through her paintings, the vanishing indigenous cultures that resided there.

Carr PaintingThe similarities between the real life Carr and Louise’s Clara are apparent. Both, of course, are painters and in a scene late in the novel, Superintendent Brunel and Clara sit before a statue of Carr where Therese tells Clara, “She looks a bit like you”. This is also the point in the book in which Brunel—while examining Clara’s painting —exclaims, “The Fall. My God, you’ve painted the Fall. That moment. She’s not even aware of it, is she? Not really, but she sees something, a hint of the horror to come. The Fall from Grace.”

The Fall from Grace. . . .

See our previous post on A Rule Against Murder and Milton’s Paradise Lost to see how deftly and deeply these novels interweave with one another. It really is quite amazing!

Oh, and remember Clara’s own description of Emily Carr? “. . . an embittered woman. Very solitary, not very likable.”

Kinda reminds me of a certain rascally poet who also has fondness for out-of-the-ordinary pets. . . .


I am absolutely loving the series, and I have triple checked that I have read them in order. I have. So my question to other fans is when did Beauvoir and Gamache’s daughter get together? He was married to Enid in one book and then suddenly Beauvoir and Ani are already estranged?! What?! When?! I’m so confused by this!

Have read all the books in the series and loved them all. Was just amazed at artwork on TV series. Does anyone know who the artists who work was shown on the Three Pines movie are? I have checked credits of movie on Prime and unable to find any listed.

One of the paintings featured in an episode of Three Pines (I can’t remember which episode – but it is seen in the Indigenous art gallery featuring Indigenous actress Tantoo Cardinal ) I recognized instantly:

titled “Still Dancing” by Jon Labillois
The original painting was donated to the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal

see also this link: tinyurl hw3wshdc

Wow , why would you write that on a post about the 5th book! Especially with no spoiler warning! I just finished The brutal telling , which this post is about , like probably most people who are looking up this post. So rude

What a unique and inspiring connection you have all made with Louise Penny’s books. I, too, began reading them out of order then said, Stop. I began again at the beginning and am doing my best to absorb the story lines and Penny’s weaving of art and words into the mystery. That is perhaps what I love best, followed, of course, by her well defined characters. I accidentally discovered Emily Carr on a tourist ride through Victoria. What a delight again to learn about the statues for Emily and her animal friends through The Brutal Telling. Must have walked right by one in Victoria without a clue. Thanks to Louise Penny I am now reading bio and some of Emily’s books. Art truly does connect us all.

Now I will go back and reread this book and the rest. I saw works of Emily Carr at the Musee d’Orsay – Beyond the Stars, The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kandinsky. A lovely exhibit and it is grouped in a way to reinforces the movement of artists to involve emotion and mystery. I wish I had made the connection at the time I walked the exhibit. Now I can pull up Emily Carr’s work as I reread the book. Yes it is a ways to go to see ( it is in Paris until June 25, 2017) however – if I read it correctly it came from the Art Gallery in Torontoa,Ontario where it concluded January 2017 but likely there are some books describing the exhibit! Here is the link to the French show which has a link to a video of many of the shows works. Musee-orsay.fr. Sorry not a link but the site to go to.

I feel like I need to re-read this book (again) now that I have read this post, and pay more attention to the parts about Carr. Louise’s books are so full and rich, it’s difficult to take it all in on the first or even second read.

Emily Carr is one of my favorite painters. I found out about her as an art student, and I knew she became reclusive, but not why. Susan Vreeland’s book Forest Lover is about Emily Carr. Highly recommend it. Even though it is fiction, like all Vreeland’s work, has a strong fact base. There are a # of biographies on Carr also. This is one of my favorite Louise books because of the Carr reference.

I think we have two paintings by Clara and Paul may have confused them. In Brutal Telling, Brunel is looking at The Fall which is of a ”joyous woman” looking back. It’s Clara’s fear that links her to the painting, not, I think that it’s a painting of Clara herself. In Trick of the Light, it’s a portrait of Ruth as the elderly, angry Virgin Mary.

I love the references and information about Canadian artists in these books. I’ve learned so much! I have a calendar of works by the Group of Seven and love it. And if anyone would like to give a Clarence Gagnon for my birthday, I’d be happy to accept!;) Or perhaps a small sketch by Clara…

This whole post about the Cultural Inspirations for The Brutal Telling has me fascinated. Emily Carr and her story and art have pulled me in much more forcefully than in the past when I’ve read the book (several times!). More tomorrow.

I’m referring to Paul’s post above, saying: “This is also the point in the book in which Brunel – while examining Clara’s painting of Ruth – exclaims, “The Fall. …” Maybe I misunderstood, Paul, I thought you were saying Ruth was the woman looking back, not Clara. Hmmm. I need clarification, I think.

I’m confused. When Therese Brunel looked at Clara’s paintings, “she stopped at one picture. It was of a joyous woman facing forward but looking back.
‘She’s beautiful,’ said Therese. ‘Someone I’d like to know.’
…’The Fall. My God, you’ve painted the Fall. That moment. She’s not even aware of it, is she? Not really, but she sees something, a hint of the horror to come. The Fall from Grace.’
…Therese looked at her more closely. ‘But there’s something else…It’s you, isn’t it? She’s you.’
Clara nodded.
After a moment Therese whispered so that Clara wasn’t even sure the words had been spoken aloud. Maybe it was the wind. ‘What are you afraid of?’
Clara waited a long time to speak, not because she didn’t know the answer, but because she’d never said it out loud. ‘I’m afraid of not recognizing Paradise.’ ” (A Brutal Telling. Page 366)
Therese was not looking at a picture of Ruth, she was looking at a picture of Clara. Wasn’t she?

Yes, I believe so. I just finished listening to this book for the second time. It was so intricate, it needed a second listen. I am still confused about some things in it. What was the final sculpture?

My mother told me she wished she could live in Three Pines. I said she does live in Three Pines. She lives in a small town with a splendid library, an independent bookstore, a cafe run by a gay couple, a few lovely b and b’s, a bakery and a village center with a park.

I live in a small town with a village park, b and b’s (run by a gay couple) a lovely little library, two coffee shops, many restaurants and cafes, two bakeries, an independent bookstore and a Victorian railroad station.

You can look where you live and find Three Pines all around you.

Such warm camaraderie here among folks in the “virtual Bistro.” Folks sharing what has moved them most about visiting 3 Pines and about Louise’s marvelous writings. Not only am I transported to the wonderful village and province when reading these books, I also –literally — was transported for a lovely weeklong visit to the Eastern Provinces last summer, inspired by my having visited telepathically with Gamache et al. Charming and delightful. I am so looking forward to starting the books all over again, from “Still Life” onward

I believe, A Beautiful Mystery, was my introduction to Louise Penny’s wonderful writing. I went on to read the next several in her series, though not right away. As soon as I began, How The Light Gets In, (Leonard Cohen) and then, The Nature of The Beast, I was beyond hooked. I don’t ever want these stories to stop. The characters are so real to me and I’ve loved getting to know them. Having gone back to the beginning with, Still Life, and now, Bury Your Dead, I’m dangerously close to the finish line. Thank God for Glass Houses. Thank you Ms. Penny for the places you take us, for all that your writing teaches us, makes us feel and think about. a wonderful way to learn about history, art, poetry, human nature, acceptance, and on and on.

Chère Louis,
Je lis les péripéties de l’inspecteur Gamache depuis le tout début. J’habite au Québec et j’attends la version en français d vos romans, je n’ai donc pas l s référnces à la culture anglophone ( canadienne ou autre) nécessaire pour apprécier tous vos niveaux d’écriture bien que la qualité de traduction me semble excellente.
Une suggestion: pour apprécier vos références ou clins d’œil à la culture anglophone canadienne entre autre, mettre en apparté, en note en bas de page des informations ou références à l’intention des “fans” francophones. Merci.

I remember hearing years ago, that you learn something from every book you read. No matter how much I may have learned through the years, I always feel like I’m actually a better person when I finish a Louise Penny book. She is brilliant.

I picked up my first novel of Loiuse Penny’s on a hot humid August evening. Reading in bed matched the close almost suffocating humidity Armand felt in his bedroom at the Inn. i was transported to one of my favourite provinces and i slowly became involved with all the characters and genuinely cared what happened to them. a true test for me to return to an author. i have read all the Gamache novels and look forward to more.i compare these novels to the canadian version of Elizabeth George’s british series.

I, too have been a fan of Elizabeth George. I understand why you see a similarly. But, I am more moved by Louise’s work than any other author ever. Perhaps it is finding her late in my life, a time when I ponder what it is all about. I think she expresses in the lives of her characters, perfectly, what gifts we receive from our interactions with others in our way through life.

Enjoy the stories with their wonderful characters so much!!
But I’m learning things about Canada that I never would have otherwise as a delightful addition to enjoyable stories. Like so many, I want to go to Trois Pins. Where oh where do I find it????

Characters that are complex and believable. Relationships that are as real and messy as our own! And wonderful descriptive elements and humor! A sense of morality. What more could you ask for?

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