Still Life, Part 1


I recently heard Louise Penny interviewed by her publisher, and, knowing Louise now, it came as a surprise to hear her say she identified with Agent Yvette Nichol. However, here’s the final paragraph in the Acknowledgements in Still Life. “I went through a period in my life when I had no friends, when the phone never rang, when I thought I would die from loneliness. I know that the real blessing here isn’t that I have a book published, but that I have so many people to thank.” I never knew that lonely Louise. She herself is an example of the duality she writes about. I see her much more as Clara Morrow, and, she has said that as well. (Doesn’t an author put herself into many characters?) Clara is a kind woman, who really wants to belong. I only know that Louise Penny, the warm, kind woman who reaches out to others.

I first read Still Life in 2006, and met Louise in 2008 at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona. I saw a woman who reached out to every member of the small audience. I’ve repeated this story often. There was one teen in the audience, dragged there by her mother. She had headphones on. Louise started by asking her age, and when she was told thirteen, she asked if she’d read Rick Riordan’s mythological series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. That teen was at every subsequent appearance I attended at The Poisoned Pen.

I know the Louise Penny who loves gummi bears. (Did you catch those references in Still Life?) I know the friend who always found time to squeeze in a short visit when she was in town, and I found how she listened with her heart. I know the Louise Penny who wrote me after my husband died. “I am devastated for you, as is Michael. . . . Oh, Lesa . . . our hearts break for you. How are you? Would you like to come up? Spend quiet time away and we could look after you? . . . When you feel like it please write and tell us how you are. Michael sends his love and grief, as do I. Actually, we don’t send our grief—you probably have way too much of that already. We send light. And peace.”

I know the Louise Penny of light and peace.

I know the Louise Penny who created Three Pines. She may have needed it as a refuge at one time. Fortunately for all of us, she created a place that can only be found by people who are lost. Three Pines has sheltered many lost souls.

So, welcome to Three Pines and Still Life.

Recap (through Chapter 6)

Welcome to a small village not far from Quebec, Three Pines. It’s fall in an idyllic village with a used bookstore, a bistro with wonderful homemade food, a bakery, a Bed and Breakfast, and a general store. It’s also the village where the Chief Inspector of Homicide for the Sûreté du Quebec, Armand Gamache, is called when Miss Jane Neal is found dead.

Before we meet anyone else, readers meet the victim, Jane Neal, and the investigator, Armand Gamache. We learn a little about each in just a couple paragraphs. Jane was unmarried, seventy-six, and her death was not natural. She was kind and gentle. Gamache is in his mid-fifties, “at the height of a long and now apparently stalled career”, and, even though he was head of homicide, he was always surprised by violent death, hoping it was wrong.

Still Life is more than a murder mystery. Penny has said her books are not really about murder, but what murder dislodges in a community. And, the first half of this book introduces the community. We meet Clara Morrow and her husband Peter. They are both artists, but Peter is a success, while Clara is unknown in the art world. We learn that beyond marijuana, Three Pines had no crime. “No break-ins, no vandalism, no assaults. There weren’t even any police in Three Pines.” So, Jane’s report of an unspeakable action perpetrated by some boys came as a shock. She recognized the boys under their masks, and called out their names.

The Friday before Thanksgiving, we meet a small group of friends at a dinner at the Morrow home. Ruth Zardo is swigging Scotch. Olivier Brulé and Gabri Dubeau are the two gay men who own the Bistro, victims of the hate crime witnessed by Jane Neal. Myrna Landers, “huge, effusive, and unexpected”, is the owner of the bookstore, Ben Hadley is Peter’s best friend. Jane is celebrating the acceptance of her picture, Fair Day, for the local exhibition. When she tells them the picture was painted at the closing parade of the county fair, they all remember it was the day Peter and Clara had to tell Ben his mother, Timmer, had died while he was in Ottawa. Despite that sad recollection, Jane invites them to have drinks at her house after the opening of the exhibition.

It’s into this village that Armand Gamache brings his team. Yvette Nichol is a young agent, on her first case, desperate to make a good impression. Inspector Jean Guy Beauvoir has been Gamache’s second-in-command for more than a decade, a man who hears Gamache’s command, “Tell me what you know”, as the beginning of the hunt. Isabelle Lacoste is the agent who, walking to the site where Jane Neal died, promises her Chief Inspector Gamache would find out who killed her.

These two groups of people are brought together under the watchful eye of Armand Gamache. It’s important to know all of these characters, people who continue to show up in the series. It’s most important to see Gamache, and recognize his style of investigation.. “I watch. I’m very good at observing. Noticing things. And listening. Actively listening to what people are saying, their choice of words, their tone. What they aren’t saying.”

It doesn’t take the team long to discover that Jane Neal was killed, shot by an arrow. In a meeting of the villagers, Peter, Ben, and Matthew Croft reveal how many of them are familiar with bows and arrows, how many of them hunt, and that Jane Neal was known to confront those who were doing wrong, from Croft, who was caught hunting illegally, to the three boys who attacked Gabri and Olivier. But, Jane Neal’s death still bothers Gamache. “And that’s the puzzle, thought Gamache. Why? Why an arrow and not a bullet?…An old-fashioned wooden arrow with real feathers used to kill an elderly retired schoolteacher. Why?”

The investigation immediately swings toward looking for someone who shot that arrow, even while Gamache is interested in other aspects of Jane Neal’s life. Who inherits her estate? Naturally, the heirs are always suspect. And, Jane’s niece, Yolande, is an angry, hard woman. Who else might have reasons to wish her dead? Her painting, Fair Day, had just been accepted for Arts Williamsburg, because it was brilliant. Were other artists jealous? Clara pointed out that only a small group of friends knew the painting had been accepted, and they were all close enough for Jane to invite them to her house. So, who had the bows and arrows, the ability to kill Jane Neal?

The investigation leads to the Croft family. Matthew Croft, who hunted illegally, was once caught by Jane Neal. The police find Matthew’s wife, Suzanne, trying to hide something from them in the basement. And, then, there’s fourteen-year-old Philippe, one of the boys Jane caught attacking Olivier and Gabri. While the police wait for the results of lab tests, suspecting they found the home of the killer, Gamache decides to try out other theories. He doesn’t like to close a case too early. “Just to be on the safe side.”

Favorite Quote

Ruth Zardo quotes poet W.H. Auden. “Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table.”

Discussion Questions

1. Louise Penny has said she modeled Armand Gamache on her husband. How do you picture Gamache?

2. Other than Armand Gamache, who is your favorite character in the first half of the book? Why?

3. People in this book have secrets, even Gamache. What secrets surprised you?

4. What is your reaction to Agent Nichol’s behavior?

5. Is it a flaw in Gamache that he has a desire to help people, and that he’s too compassionate?

6. Ben Hadley tells Gamache the story of the three pines. Do you think the trees and village still serve a similar purpose for those who seek refuge?

Lesa HolstineLesa Holstine has been a mystery reader since she was a child when she discovered The Happy Hollisters and Nancy Drew. And, she's been a fan of Louise Penny's work since she first read Still Life in 2006. Today, she continues to review mysteries and other books on her award-winning blog, Lesa's Book Critiques. She's the author of the chapter "Mystery Fiction" in Genreflecting: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (7th ed.). She's been a librarian for over thirty years, and reviews books for journals, as well as her blog. Holstine also discusses books and authors on Twitter @LesaHolstine.

Discussion on “Still Life, Part 1

  1. Pam says:

    I always read the acknowlegements and one just has to read Louise’s to get an understanding of just what a remarkable woman she is.

    • Suzanne C says:

      I don’t see the chief Inspector as someone we are familiar with but vision him as 5’11”, in good shape with broad shoulders squared back and salt and pepper groomed hair.
      I like Yvette Nichol for her need to succeed and impress the Inspector plus please her father. However her desire to impress is backfiring.
      I see the chief inspector’s character has not flawed but needed in his profession to gain information.
      The story of the three pines is interesting and I suspect comforting. And interesting given the last election.

      • Jane Fricker says:

        I started reading the Gamache books with A Fatal Grace, and in that book, Beauvoir already had a down on Agent Nichol. It was interesting to me, in going back and re-reading Still Life, how much I wanted to like this young woman, and wanted her to be able to succeed. It was therefore frustrating to see her, in almost every instance, make choices that weren’t right for the team. She was deaf to the gentle suggestions given to her by Gamache. Although there’s more than one character who meets the description of being blind in this particular book, she’s the main one.

        • Susan Weber says:

          You are so right about Agent Nichol. Such a complex character – you want to like her, to root for her to succeed but she is so frustrating.

  2. Cherie says:

    I can see her connection to this young, rather isolated and complex Agent. No character (or person) is purely good or purely malevolent. Yvette has depths to her character that we will all continue to discover throughout the series: perhaps that’s an analogy to the author as well. We continue to discover the depths and evolution of her art with each book, too.

    • Barbara says:

      I agree with you, Cherie. I started this series with Bury Your Dead before realizing it was a series and then went back to read the preceding novels in order. In reading Bury Your Dead first I already had a strong bond with Gamache and trusted his instincts. This included his instincts with Yvette. I know that Beauvoir questioned Gamache’s reasoning when it came to Yvette but I knew that Gamache saw, as you and I do, that Yvette has layers to her personality and although she is a broken soul there is always the possibility of repair. Gamache has true insight and most always it is safe to continue into the ‘rabbit hole’ with him.

      • Barbara N says:

        I too started with Bury Your Dead, set in Quebec City and not Three Pines, on recommendation from a friend and could not wait to get into the other books, but unfortunately did not read them in the proper sequence but am doing so now with the book club. Each book stands on its own as a murder mystery but the stories are so much richer in building on the characters and the village. What a fun ride!

      • Ruth says:

        I started with Bury Your Dead and then learned it was a series, too. My thoughts and reactions are nearly a mirror of yours. I wonder if that is what has happened to other readers who started with the same but not necessarily Still Life.

      • Bronwen says:

        I began reading at the beginning on the very enthusiastic recommendation of my daughter-in-law and, once started, couldn’t stop except to note memorable quotes as they arose. I then reread the whole series while waiting for the last book to be published. I’m delighted to do it all again and am thrilled that there is another book to enjoy at the end. This time, our little reading family has been joined by my daughter and we are having so much fun calling each other with updates along the way.

      • Fiona Bryden says:

        Firstly, have I missed something? What am I supposed to complete in the ‘website’ box?

        And now I just want to recap on Barbara’s comments but cannot see them. I find this continuous thread to be rather unmanageable. I had thought that it would be possible to discuss something but I cannot understand the threads. Maybe this if my age?

        Maybe it requires more effort on my part!?

        So back to Yvette. Do I really think that all people have redeeming features? I have met some real stinkers in my life and I struggle to believe they have anything about them that I would chose to try and penetrate their unpleasant outer shells to find something redeeming beneath.

        Yvette is not only portrayed as unthinking and abrupt, but also without compassion or any ability to look at herself and see anything other than what she chooses to see. One wonders what the Surete thought they were hiring.

        Even by the half way point, just when one thinks Yvette may be taking on board a suggestion by Gamache, she does the opposite, or appears “blind” to his suggestion. Is this a parallel to the blind in the forest? The blind that prevents the deer/victim from seeing a danger but allows sight to the hunter/killer. The blindness of people who cannot see the pain, guilt etc. in those close to them. The blindness of the parents’ (the Crofts) who cannot see, or choose not to see, the changes in their children and address the issues.

        I have so enjoyed rereading this book and looking at it from a study perspective. I have an awful tendency to get stuck into a book and rush through it to get to the conclusion. Then I am disappointed that it is over! Thank you for this opportunity to delve deeply into the text.

        I wonder how the comments are received by the editors and Ms. Penny, and how this feedback may change their perception of the characters, events and development of the series and story lines? I would be interested to know how I am wrong in my interpretation and how I am correct? Or does it not matter – it is all about my interpretation of the story.

        Penny draws extremes of character to really enable the reader to comprehend the evil. “It was as thought I wasn’t human.” Olivier p.21 describes his experience at the hands of bullies. “That’s the necessary step… …they dehumanise their victims.” Myrna describes how bullies operate. How true this is. I find this every day in my workplace, the dehumanisation of coworkers by the manager, which she somehow believes makes her destruction of them more acceptable.

  3. I can see this is going to be a fascinating discussion with readers who care so deeply for the characters and for the author. I’m going to learn so much by reading comments from other readers.

  4. Michele Allen says:

    When my friend introduced me to these books, Agent Nichol was the one used to pique my curiosity. Lonely, awkward, insecure, she was the gateway. But then, Inspector Gamache, Clara, Myrna, Olivier and Gabri, and, of course, Ruth, drew me all the way in.

    • Meg R says:

      A sister introduced me to L.Penny’s series and gave me book #7 or 8. I was hooked & then went back and read all of them in order written – in two weeks! (Needless to say nothing else productive done four fourteen days!) My first reactions to Nichol were not positive ones at all and I had a very difficult time understanding her inability to acknowledge any perspective or suggestions other than her own – but then – don’t now about others, but have to admit traces of those characteristics in myself in my early twenties too! Thank goodness for family, friends etc. mature enough to overlook our own shortcomings until we recognize them! I’ve been really curious to see what will happen with Nichol as the series continues. Will she mature and grown beyond her limited experiential range – or continue to adhere to only what she knows.

      • Shirley says:

        I, too, was introduced to Louise Penny by my sister and I fell in love with the character, who really are real and her style of writing, like a conversation. I had trouble with Nichol, perhaps because I saw traits in her that I had to confront in myself. Once I realized that, I could accept her with all her warts and blemishes. She dislikes herself and cannot seem to come to terms with who she is, what she is and why she is. It’s wonderful going through the books again.

  5. Anne says:

    I feel for Nicole, as she is new in the job and therefore insecure in that position. She also feels she needs to be successful in order to impress her family from whom she doesn’t feel is totally backing her. Of course, things go wrong. I have no understanding for Inspector Beauvoir’s behaviour towards her.

    • Lori D says:

      Beauvoir is protective of Gamache, as well as jealous of his mentoring Nichol, much like an older sibling’s reaction to the new baby in the family. Jean Guy is likely also seeing some of his own darkness and insecurities reflected in Nichol’s attitude, and that’s an uncomfortable view.

      • Michele H. says:

        Beauvoir is definitely protective of Gamache…but so am I! I feel so frustrated when he leaves himself vulnerable to the evil intentions of those he comes in contact with. Louise possibly sees the broader view in that she may have developed future story outlines…but I cringe when Gamache leaves himself susceptible to Nicole’s deviousness, not to mention his best friend in the Surete. Oh, Gamache, dear friend, Watch Your Back!

        • Beverly Brazier says:

          Her name is Yvette, it is not? Not Nichole. Yvette Nichol.
          A perfect Baie des Chaleurs name. I feel I know this woman. As I feel I know them all. These characters are wonderful.

          • Kathy McCreedy says:

            I’m just stumbling onto these comments I April of 2021, and am hopeful there is some chance someone can explain what is meant by Yvette Nichol being a “perfect Bais des Chaleurs name”. I’ve tried looking up the reference and have gone down a lovely rabbit hole but I didn’t find the answer! Thank you!!!

        • MT says:

          Does he really leave himself susceptible? I always felt like he saw everything. All possibilities of her (Nichol’s) behavior.

        • Terry says:

          I think both Gamache’s and Clara’s openness and apparent vulnerability are so based in their cohesive sense of self. They both have a very strong sense of self and the need to live life respecting those around them. And both know that to do so means leaving yourself open and vulnerable. But neither can or will chose safety over their core beliefs.

          • marilyn says:

            I agree that Gamache and Clara are very similar in many ways. As I begin this second reading, and I am now on book #3, I begin acknowledging that Gamache and Clara are the two main characters. Both have a lot on the line, both are seemingly easily duped, and both have people working against them.

        • Lillie N says:

          I am delighted to know that I am not the only person who feels protective of Gamache. I want to shout at him to protect himself.

      • Susan Weber says:

        Well said Lori! Definite “sibling” rivalry there.

    • Roz says:

      I agree with you Anne. I can see in Nicole many people who are very insecure in their lives. They tend to be very sensitive and defensive as she is when the Inspector rebukes her even very slightly.
      The fascination of the different people in the Village is just so interesting and you can sometimes see one of our own friends there, especially Clara.
      I too started reading Louise Penny with one of her other books when I was looking for a new author and then found it as a series which I just HAD to follow.
      I love Inspector Gamache, his nature, understanding of his employees [fellow workers] and his strength. You can see why he is respected so.

    • mliss says:

      I agree. The unprofessional & mean way Gamache treated her was unacceptable to me & I’ve been surprised that it didn’t bother more readers. Seems whenever she appeared, he turned into a different character.

  6. Linda says:

    I love Ruth from beginning to end because she is so like Gamache. You may disagree and think me odd given their seemingly disparate personalities and actions. However, both of them have compassionate hearts and the ability to listen to the depths of others secrets.

    • Michele Allen says:

      I would not have thought that. I’ll have to look at that relationship again. Gamache certainly connects with her on a level that surprises her, maybe even startles her.

      • Meg R says:

        I think Ruth relishes being the resident crab/ cranky old broad of Three Pines. She just makes me laugh!

        • Cheryl says:

          I’m in love with Inspector Gamache and have been from the moment I picked up Still Life. The relationships that he has with the residents of Three Pines comes from the big heart he has and is willing to put out there for all to see. I am ready to pack up and move to Three Pines…awwwww, what a life that would be all my friends in one place.

          • Meriem says:

            My book club members and I are all ready to pack up and move to Three Pines! Louise has created the perfect place filled with interesting characters sure to keep you entertained for a long time.

          • Roz says:

            Me also. I have always pictured him as a tall man. Strongly built and with a kindly. partly craggy face. Tall and cuddly and in his coat walking through the small park, very imposing.

            I also just love Jean Guy Beauvoir. He seems to be like a son but still a colleague to the Chief Inspector. He is very dependable always keeping to himself what the Inspector says or asks of him.

            I would love to live in Three Pines, not because of refuge but because of the togetherness that exists there, much like a huge family group.

          • Kathy McCreedy says:

            I’m reading your comments in April 2021 and just wanted to say I’d love to join you if you do head up there!
            What a wonderful collection of people and the locale seems positively dreamy to me!

        • Diane in Texas says:

          I’m new to this whole series…
          Ruth is reminding me of WEIZER in the movie ‘steel magnolias’, a southern classic.
          if Gamache is styled after mr. michael, I would say that I really like mr. michael! very smart, thoughtful, doesn’t speak down to those he needs info from, always paying attention to what is going on.
          I am enjoying the antics of the bistro owners.

          • Pam says:

            Perfect analogy, comparing Ruth to Weizer in Steel Magnolias. I hadn’t thought of that but now…..that’s exactly how I would imagine her! Cranky and loveable :)) That will be my picture from now on!

          • Brian says:

            I’d like to offer a different thought … Gamache doesn’t speak down to anyone. The true test of any person’s character is how that person treats those who can do nothing for him or her. :-)

        • Lydia Sadler says:

          I like Ruth because she speaks her mind, but she can be harsh at times. Her relationship with Gamache is unusual, but interesting

        • Carole Brown says:

          Ruth is one of my favorites. She reminds me of a Greek chorus or seer. Metaphors, cryptic utterances cloaked in swear words. Her seeming hatred and disgust with people masks a searing sensitivity and understanding of human nature.

          • Bronwen says:

            I agree. My favourite is also Ruth. I particularly love her relationship with the bistro boys and I love the way her character unfolds: always surprising, always deep, always revealing a complexity of layers. I love her ability to speak her mind…but I also love the way everyone just accepts her as she is. Her relationship with Gamache is just wonderful: in so many ways polar opposites and in so many other ways at one.

          • MB says:

            I do love Ruth too, and I think the Greek chorus or seer analogy is apt. She is so paradoxically estranged from the rest of humanity, yet has such deep perception and understanding of it. I would dearly love to see a book in this series that focuses on Ruth. I’d love to learn more about “Who hurt you, once, / so far beyond repair / that you would greet each overture / with curling lip?”

          • Karen Gast says:

            I love the image of Ruth as the Greek Chorus. Perfect! I’ve always been drawn to Ruth and her purposeful crankiness. It’s her “cover”, her way of hiding her true self. Or perhaps it IS her true self? That’s hard to discern, but I think her sarcasm and biting comments are a way of keeping others at a distance so she doesn’t reveal any weakness she wishes to conceal.

        • Helen (Peggy) Nickerson says:

          I agree! Ruth is the “spice” in the series for sure. A true curmudgeon with a heart of gold….

        • Lesley says:

          Ruth is a hoot and only gets better with time. I AM Gamache as I read, so not feeling FOR him, I am in love with Jean Guy Beauvoir. I think I grew up with him (in Montreal). His thoughts make me laugh out loud. And Louise Penny has brought the townships, all the fun we had, and Brome Lake duck, back to me. I am also a poetry-o-holic so there is another reason Ruth and Gamache resonate. Listen to me – this sounds like they are real! Congrats to Ms. Penny!

        • Vickie says:

          I’m glad to see that others love Ruth. She is unexpected. Nothing is boring with her around. And she writes glorious poetry, which Gamache loved before he loved her.

      • Lori D says:

        They both have hope, but have experienced despair. Gamache openly pursues hope in spite of it. Ruth has about given up on it in her world view, but has found it in her small tolerant community. Her sarcasm is a shield, but her poetry is a window to the view behind the shield.

        • Debby M says:

          Lori, I think that’s a perfect description of Ruth –
          ” Her sarcasm is a shield, but her poetry is a window to the view behind the shield.”

        • Michele H. says:

          Lori D. – I agree about Ruth. She is definitely a “salty” character. But what would most good recipes be without even a pinch of salt to leven the recipe. Her character/persona is the levener in the mix and provides great interest in the storyline of each book. Where would we be without people like a Ruth to make life interesting?

          • Marnie says:

            I love all the characters and the character of the town, but I look forward to Ruth on each page. I chew on her words and giggle at her vases of booze. I think, and hope, we all have a little Ruth in us. A little poetry, a little wry humour, some stubbornness, some independence and still the caring for neighbor and friend. Her talent attracts a man like Gamache; she has a talent. She is a major part of the place, even though she would deny it. She marches to her own drum, but is seldom on the bench alone.

        • Sara Z. says:

          That’s a really meaningful comment about Ruth.

          • Suzanne says:

            I agree with that description of Ruth … she may be very harsh and rude in her comments but she is rarely alone on her bench……..

          • KMcD says:

            I agree, what an observant and appropriate description of Ruth! She is rarely alone on the bench. Of all the villagers she is my favorite. There is so much fun and so much depth to her. That is why I was not surprised that Gamache was friends with her from the first.

    • Aganita says:

      Love is not a word that comes to mind when I think of Ruth, but I am influenced by having read all of the series. I am fascinated and curious about her, and hope to learn more as the series progresses. I often think about which characters I would like to spend time with at the Bistro. Gamache, of course, but also Claire and Myrna . I want to know more about what eroded Claire’s confidence. Of Olivier and Gabri, I prefer Gabri.

    • Barbara says:

      Too true Linda. I hadn’t thought of Ruth in that way on a conscious level but I see what you mean. Ruth is very intuitive as is Gamache and under that hard exterior Ruth has true compassion. Ruth is my favourite secondary character and I look forward to every time I get to visit with her.

    • Melissa says:

      So true, Linda! They are very much alike, while being so different. Examples of different roads taken in life and how it changes us.

      • Linda says:

        Yes, two roads to the same destination. I think maybe Gamache may have found some of his insight and hope in Ruth’s poetry.

    • Hope says:

      Wow, Linda — Ruth and Gamache seem so different in their approach to people that I’ve never thought about the ways they are like one another, but I think that’s a brilliant point.

    • Katie says:

      The other strong connection between Gamache and Ruth is poetry and appreciation thereof. Ruth may be cantankerous and swear like a sailor, but that’s just a protective front. Inside she is really a good-natured, caring person.

      • Margaret says:

        I agree, Katie, Ruth is all those things. But I think she is also lonely…partly her own making, of course.

        • But think what one must give up to be liked. I suspect that all original thinkers must be lonely (as opposed to, but not excluding those also talented). Once a truly original idea or insight has incubated long enough to allow its expression, the deeply original thinker will soon, if not immediately, move on. That, in itself, invites loneliness, however well or poorly disguised.

          • Regina says:

            Your comment “…think what one must give up to be liked.” has created a huge ‘a ha’ moment for me. Thank you.

          • Michele H. says:

            With Ruth, there is a difference between living alone and loneliness. She certainly does not have a problem imposing herself on others-but on her own terms and when she is in the mood to do so. So has her own agenda more often than not. Her intelligence and introspectiveness in regard to her poetry, is an alienating factor in her ability to interact with others. She is “curmudgeonly”, to use an old-fashioned word…and I see a bit of her in myself as well. I think it is part of the gift of story telling and development of characters, to reveal to the reader elements of her or his own personality.

          • KMcD says:

            “But think what one must give up to be liked.” Phyllis, thank you for that comment and it is so true. Often it may mean a core belief or joining in behavior of peers that you really don’t want to do: smoking, drinking, etc. Doesn’t just happen to teenagers. Rose has gladly gone pat that and does as she pleases and does not expect approval or participation of anyone else. And below that exterior she is a very caring and compassionate person, it is this true center that those around her and Gamache and Jean-Guy respond too.

      • Marnie says:

        I do love the four-letter words. The surprise from a little old lady and another layer of character. Wish I used them more myself, sometimes they are the right answer!

    • Ann says:

      Linda you nailed it. I hadn’t thought of it before but you are correct. They are very much alike. Ruth is my favorite character, and for me she looks exactly like Linda Hunt (actor).

    • Beverly Brazier says:

      It’s so hard not to read into this discussion what we know from the later books, in particular How the Light Gets In. I love Ruth.

      • Helen DV says:

        I, too, find it hard not to be influenced by the later books. Ruth is someone I love. She can be cynical and bitter….but she is absolutely honest and has such depth of insight and understanding. Her poetry opens her soul despite her best efforts to keep others at bay.

      • Tina Branco says:

        I agree Beverly ….it’s really difficult to hold the discussion and my view of characters to what we know only from the first book. I hadn’t read STILL LIFE in several years, and was really surprised for instance to discover that Yvette Nichol appeared at the very beginning. And there are certain facets of Ruth’s personality that I find exceptionally endearing but they’re not visible here. Such a terrific job Louise has done in growing her characters in each book.

    • Helen o. Hartman says:

      I, too am very fond of Ruth, her deep feelings –we’ll hidden. Given the deeply compassionate man that he is, of course ganache would bond wth her. I also love Clara, and loathe Peter.

      • Diane says:

        I also dislike Peter and find it hard to understand why, at times, Clara almost idolizes him. I have a hard time emotionally giving him a break. I find that I am impatient with his neediness and the way he only sees people as they relate to him.

        • Michele H. says:

          Peter is a selfish needy person and I think it is very easy to dislike him. Most likely, many of us have come across such a personality, whether male or female. I find that Peter purposefully and determinedly snuffs out the light that Clara has inside her. As an artist, he is all too aware of the talent that his wife displays, but cannot find it within himself to let it shine for fear that she is really better than him. Despicable person!

    • Katherine Butler says:

      Linda, I agree with you completely about Ruth and Armand, and I believe that is why they each respect the other throughout the series (notwithstanding the vituperative expletives Ruth hurls at him and others — she is a genuinely good soul).

    • marilyn says:

      I also love Ruth and have from the beginning–a poet myself, I enjoy her lines and her clear, if rough and rude, assessment of situations.

    • Duffy Grove says:

      I totally agree with the comparison of Gamache to Ruth.

  7. Joanne Merrill says:

    My favorite character in Still Life is Myrna because she is a mystery. She is what I picture Louise to be like, thoughtful, funny, quiet yet very social, and definitely interested in people. Even Gamache turns to her for her insight, although I can’t remember if he does in this book; I’m not even half way re-reading it. Myrna may not write books, but loves them and always has just the right book for the right person.

    • Deloris says:

      I too like Myrna. So much of her character is hidden it seems to me, just like she always has something hidden in the bouquets she brings to others. She is insightful and unassuming and has a great deal of offer Three Pines, it’s citizens and Inspector Gamache.

      • Diane says:

        Myrna is a rock – self content, wise in human behavior and sweetly vulnerable at the same time. If I could choose to be any of these wonderful characters, I would choose to be Myrna.

    • Linda says:

      I love Myrna! I also want her book store which is almost a character as well!

      • Suzanne says:

        I too would love to have this book store either as the owner and close to home to enjoy the books and the company.
        Everyone’s comments are so great to read. I found Louise Penny’s first book as I am drawn to debut novels and of course I was hooked.

    • sally tibbetts says:

      I also love Myrna…she seems subtle and quiet, but I don’t think she misses much. Being a great reader, she is also a great observer of happenings around her. She has some darkness in her too which serves her well in understanding the interactions of those fascinating characters that frequent Three Pines. She has total trust in Gamache and their friendship is solid.
      And I see Tom Selleck (sp?) as a possible Gamache….

      • Eva says:

        I hadn’t pictured Tom Selleck as Gamache, but I now that you say that, I can picture him in that light. Up to now, I have always pictured Gamache like a middle-aged Sean Connery type, but either way, I see Gamache as handsome, brilliant, polite, and strong. I personally relate most to Clara and Myrna, and I’d love to have Gabri as a close friend! Reine-Marie is the type of person that I aspire to be, and I think that the books are just so much richer for having Ruth in them. I had forgotten until I started re-reading the series how Jean-Guy evolves over the course of the books. Nichol is an intriguing, though sometimes aggravating, character. I don’t think I’d want her in my life, but I admire Gamache for trying to help her. Every book has made me want to move to Three Pines, but since I hate cold weather, I will happily continue to reside there in my imagination through the books! I started re-reading the series before I found out about this “book club,” and I am very excited to be able to read what other fans of the series think of it.

        • evcloyd says:

          George Clooney

          • Jane MacNab says:

            I had just had George Clooney pop into my mind for Gamache, when I scrolled down to your comment. So two votes for George! my favorite character is Jean Guy, but that is based on having read all the books and the way his very human fraility is exposed.

            I think I’d like to find a Three Pines over this side of the country (B.C) as the climate is warmer and I’m not too steady on the snow any more!


          • Sara Z says:

            George Clooney may be too ‘pretty’ for the role. Maybe Gamache should look like Sean Connery but act like Patrick Stewart? :)

          • Duffy Grove says:

            George Clooney for me too. He could well do the quiet comtemplative Gamache. And he’s about the right age now.

        • Karen Taylor says:

          Not surprised that so many readers want to live in Three Pines! I wonder what age group you might be in. I’m in my late sixties and have wanted to find a Three Pines forever. It’s a lot more interesting than just some small town! In 2011 I was on a tour of Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island/Cape Baddeck and saw Bury Your Dead in the window of a book store in Halifax. Loved it and the author and promptly deprived Barnes and Noble of the preceding books when I got home. I don’t know how many times I’ve started over with Still Life, and I’m happy to be doing it again now. Seems to me the chance of finding really good mysteries this time of year is about as slim as finding a good television show. Look forward to The Long Way Home very much. I think it’s brilliant to have Gamache retire to Three Pines!

          • Eva says:

            Karen, I was also wondering as I read the comments about the age demographic of those of us who love the idea of the life in Three Pines. I am 53, and I wonder if I would have been as drawn to these books in my 20’s or 30’s as I am now. I think I probably would have been, especially knowing that Montreal is close enough to run to when I needed an urban fix.

          • Jane MacNab says:

            I’m now 78 and was introduced to Louise Penny by my friend who is even older. I have another question for the. “Club”. . I have 4 of the books in paper, which I prefer because now I can write comments in the margin, but the other 5 are on my Kobo, which has the advantage of instant delivery and is light and easy to take with me, but I can’t lend it to anyone. What do other people prefer?f

          • kym hansen says:

            I am 54 and have been reading these books for several years. There aren’t too many books I reread, but I can’t seem to get enough of these characters and this town. There is something magical and comforting about all of it. I have lived in many small towns and many large cities in several different states. I would choose Three Pines over all of them.

          • Wanda says:

            I am 66 and have wanted to live in Three Pines since the middle of this book. Every character is someone that I would enjoy knowing.

          • Duffy Grove says:

            Gamache and his wife belong in Three Pines.

      • Louise Burton says:

        I agree with Tom Selleck as Gamache. Handsome, kind, insightful!

        • Tillie says:

          Do not see Gamache as Selleck or any other typical leading man type. Rather, I picture him like the protagonist in the British Midsumer Murder series, whose name escapes me at the moment.

          • Diane says:

            I also think he looks like the detective in the Midsomer Murder Series! The actor’s name is John Nettles.

        • Valerie says:

          I love Tom Selleck in the Jesse Stone series, but I’m picturing Gabriel Byrne as Gamache. :)

      • Karen says:

        I’ve never taken part in a discussion like this. I have read all the books from the beginning and am deeply involved with Ruth and Gamache in particular. I have always pictured Gamache as the actor Francois Berleand.

      • colene says:

        I think Tom Selleck has a bit of the empathetic character we’re looking for, but he’s too tall! And he is too American in his physical presence. We need a leading man who can manage the necessary “Frenchification,” I can only think of Gregory Peck (my all-time male movie idol). He would be perfect, always impeccably dressed, and could possibly manage the physical grace, ingrained courtesy, and gentle ability to listen and care that Peck possessed. And btw, I think Gregory Peck was married to a French woman.

        As for current actors, if he could manage the humility of Gamache, Johnny Depp would have the right physical stature and ability to do the job.

    • Terry McLaughlin says:

      Here’s a funny story. Myrna discusses the book Loss with Gamache in which the author discuss life as being filled with change and loss and until we accept this we cannot be free. I went on line to find the book only to discover that it is a Louise invention. Damn that woman is good!

    • Ruth says:

      I’m another Myrna fan. She is so solid and reliable as well as intuitive. When I think of being someplace fictional, it is sitting in front of the fire in the Bistro in Three Pines and having a conversation with Myrna. She has such depth and I’d love to know what book she would recommend for me.

    • Michele H. says:

      Myrna, more than Clara, is the character I would most like to be friends with. She is down-to-earth, considerate, confident, loyal, intelligent and someone you can enjoy being around.

  8. Lori says:

    For me, Gamache looks like British actor Martin Shaw( I love Gamache’s calm, unwavering strength, and his ability to find the truth. Be it the truth of a crime or the truth of what lies in someone’s heart…like Agent Nicole’s.

    • Julie says:

      For me, Gamache is the English side of the actor who plays Hercule Poirot so flawlessly, David Suchet. Having seen him in a few other movies, and hearing his English accent, I think he would be so perfect to play Gamache! Every time I read about Gamache’s kind brown eyes, David Suchet pops right up in my imagination. I am completely in love with Gamache (don’t tell my husband!) – he epitomizes all that is good in a man.

      I love that he is so welcoming of the “misfits” that no other department wants. He sees himself as their savior a bit, I think, which of course, is his fatal flaw, because he can’t save everyone. I do like Nichol, very much. I hope for her a breakthrough when she realizes what Gamache is doing (has done) for her, and embraces it rather than struggles against it.

      Beauvoir is probably my favorite character – so rigid and helpless in some ways – unable to reach out and help others (at least, just yet).

      If only I could reside in Three Pines – the perfect place – so peaceful and beautiful, and so close to Montreal if you need a jolt of urbanity!

      • Sherry Tuckett says:

        I, too, see David Suchet when I read about Gamache. I don’t think of his Poirot character, but of his warmness, his intelligence and his ability to communicate a world of emotion in a raised eyebrow. I think Gamache has those qualities.

        • Loulou says:

          . When I first met Louise Penny, it was at Les Correspondances d’Eastman. I already knew that she’s a great author but also a special person. That day, I asked her to dedicace that first book of Gamache I had just bought (French version) and I remember telling Ms Penny that I had just retired and that her book would be my first book to be read in my new life. She congrats.. me and she was so nice and cheerful. Since then, Louise Penny and Gamache became very closed friends to me as I have read all her books, first in French and now in English. Gamache, as you said, is the English side of Poirot and David Suchet. Even though, Poirot had been my favorite for years, I think now Gamache is taking his place in my heart more and more. I fact, I think that chief Inspector reminds me more of Inspector Dagliesh (Ruth Rendell) on PBS Mysteries. Dagliesh was very sensitive, love poetry and is a poet himself. Sorry if my comment is long.

          • Michele H. says:

            Excellent comparison of Dalgliesh to Gamache! I’ve long followed P.D. James Inspector Dalgliesh.

      • Denise says:

        I’ve always seen him as played by David Suchet as well–I think because he is able to project kindness with gentle humour, which is actually quite sexy.

      • Barbara Kidder says:

        Yes! Da I’d Suchet is exactly who I picture, mostly because of his beautiful, deep brown eyes. he was such a different character as Poirot, but he is almost as I picture Gamache in my mind,

      • Tina Branco says:

        David Suchet or Martin Shaw…definitely a British actor of great urbanity, warm brown eyes, and immense warmth. And don’t we wish we had a smell of sandalwood and rose water that would arise from the pages whenever Gamache arrives.!

      • Diane says:


    • Christine Hagen says:

      I, too, have always had Martin Shaw in my mind when I think of Inspector Gamache. Strong, gentle when needed and patient, a thorough investigator.

    • Shirley says:

      I don’t know that actor but he does look a lot like what I pictured Gamsche looking like.

    • Connie Confer says:

      The good Inspector reminds me in his moral strength of Foyle of Foyle’s War

      • Leslye G says:

        I agree with the comment about the character Inspector Foyle (played by Michael Kitchen) from Foyle’s War being similar to Armand Gamache. They are both thoughtful, highly intelligent, soft spoken and nobody’s fool. They are careful observers, of people and circumstances.

        • Karen Cheney says:

          These comments are fascinating to read. I would agree that Gamache is very much like Foyle. I Love that series. One thing I like about Louise’s books is that she does not feel it necessary to fill it with sexual scenes. Life as I know it does not encompass sexual encounters. It seems to me that some authors feel compelled to write these scenes in order to sell their books.

        • marilyn says:

          Either Martin Shaw or Michael Kitchen would be perfect. What I find the most intriguing about Gamache is the scent of sandalwood–so Eastern–so mysterious–gives his character another dimension that one can only guess at.

      • Margaret says:

        Yes! When I read my first “Three Pines”-beginning at the beginning, Foyle aka Michael Kitchen was my immediate thought for Gamache.

        • Linda says:

          Yes!! My husband and I have Foyle’s War on DVD and are watching those. I picture Gamache as Foyle……only taller!

      • Ruth says:

        I only recently had the chance to see Foyle’s War and had already read all of the published Gamache books. I, too, immediately saw the resemblance between the two men. Both of them have very highly developed moral standards and aren’t really swayed by the opinions of others. It’s fascinating that neither of them become defensive even when directly insulted. That takes a strong sense of self and a lot of compassion.

      • Sue Nations says:

        That is who I picture as Gamache.

      • Karen Gast says:

        Michael Kitchen (?) who plays Foyle might indeed be a good Gamache, but I’ve always seen–mostly heard–Armand Assante because he’s able to convey wisdom and sadness with his eyes and, of course, he could do the French with a lovely, natural lilt.

        • Miriam says:

          Michael Kitchen is a good choice but I love the idea of Michael Gambon or Geofrey Rush as well. They both have the size and heft. The attributes of strength, wisdom, patience and deep understanding are well within their range to show.

          • Linda E says:

            Dear Miriam: I am delighted to see someone who thinks Michael Gambon could play Gamache. I especially liked Gambon in The Maigret Series.

        • Wanda says:

          The man who is Gentley is the PBS series by the same name seems to be Gamache.

    • Terry says:

      I certainly can visualize Shaw as Gamache. Suchet is so slight I never considered him. But I may also be too swayed by his portrayal of Poirot. Perhaps the mature Peter Davison with his soulful eyes would be a good choice.

      • Carol says:

        I’ve always pictured Michael Gambon as Gamache–the Gambon of the Maigret series. Just rediscovered Maigret on AcornTV and still love the series as much as I love Gamache.

    • Kristien Graffam says:

      I was introduced to Louise’s books through our local senior book club and was hooked from the start. Somebody else mentioned reading all the books in two weeks time and I think it took me a little longer (sometimes I had to wait for one to come available at the library) but not by much.
      When I try and picture inspector Gamache, the late George Baker comes to mind. He portrayed Ruth Rendell’s inspector Wexford in the televised Ruth Rendell Mysteries. In “Still Life” my favorite characters are, apart from inspector Gamache, Jane Neal and Timmer Hadley. There is one character that made me uneasy from the start and that is Peter Morrow. There is something about him that I don’t like.

      • Tina Branco says:

        Wow….it’s so good to hear that someone else is uneasy about Peter Morrow. At this stage of the reading, i.e., #1 STILL LIFE, I just don’t like him, but can’t put my finger on why. It will be interesting to see how his character develops.

        • Caroline says:

          Peter is so jealous of Clara, and sooooo needy, that’s what i don’t like about him.

          • Kristien Graffam says:

            You are right. He is jealous. And why? He is the successful one and Clara obviously adores him. I’m afraid he will hurt her. And she will not see it coming.

        • Helen o. Hartman says:

          He makes my skin crawl!

        • Natalie says:

          Yes, I agree – I am waiting to see what happens with Peter Morrow. He does give the feeling that something is not right and in a couple of stories I have wondered if he is the murderer!

      • Miriam says:

        Peter is just too needy and his jealousy is frightening. Is this a case of “near enemies”? This time with attachment masquerading as love?

      • Susan Weise says:

        I do most of my “reading” from audio books because I have a long drive to work each day. I really never thought about what actor might look like Gamache – I wonder who sounds like Ralph Cosham, the narrator of the Three Pines mysteries. He makes me feel safe and warm and hopeful. It’s wonderful being read to each day.

        • Berniece says:

          I also enjoy the re-reading of the books through the audio medium. I have read all of the books, some quite awhile ago, and now are re-listening to them on CD’s borrowed from the local library and many facts I have forgotten are like brand new. The stories really come alive in the reading and are like talking with an “old friend”.

          • Derby Jones says:

            I also have read all of the Three Pines books on audio. Ralph Cosham’s voice is an integral part of the experience of reading these books for me, and his voice is the voice of Gamache in my head. I was amazed to listen to an interview with he and Louise Penny and to learn that he does not read the books ahead of time, that his performance is his first reading of the books, and that he is finding out what happens along with the reader…

    • Candace says:

      Yes! English actor Martin Shaw is how I picture Gamache in my mind!

    • Lowell Klock says:

      I agree–Martin Shaw would be perfect as Gamache. Not Nathaniel Parker!

    • Louise Patten says:

      I totally agree with you. Martin Shaw looks exactly how I pictured Gamache!

    • Andrea Pretli says:

      Oh yes Lori, I definately see Martin Shaw as Inspector Gamache! He has been one of my favourite actors for years, and I love him as ‘George Gently’ the British detective, firm but kindly. I wonder if Martin could do a French accent?

    • KMcD says:

      AHhhhhhh, I love George Gently! Lori, you’re right, he would be a perfect Gamache!

    • Meredyth R Phillips says:

      I have been pondering who would be the best Gama he for years now, and Martin Shaw, as well as Michael Kitchen, rank high in my estimation.

  9. Diana Schafer says:

    Nichol has been one of my favorite characters from the start. In fact, every main character and most secondary ones are fascinating. I find Jean Guys remarks about the anglais wonderful. His character really develops in the series. I wonder how much of book 8 was in her mind when Louise began Still Life.

    • Sara Z says:

      That is a good point I had also been wondering about. Does anyone know if Louise had roughly sketched out the plots – or rather, the characters, as their personality drives the plot – for the entire series? I’m seeing so much foreshadowing.

      • MB says:

        Agree, Sara – I’ve read the entire series and now, coming back to Still Life for a re-read, I’m amazed at all the foreshadowing and hints of things to come. My copy of Still Life is now thoroughly dog-eared, between instances of foreshadowing and just plain beautiful writing! I would love to hear how far in advance Louise had plotted the series, or at least the development of the characters.

  10. Michele Allen says:

    I have to say, in answer to the question about who your favorite character is in the first half of the book, it’s Jane. I remember the first time I read the book that I felt sad that I wouldn’t get to know her. I think Gamache feels the same way. And I find it telling that it isn’t just the nasty, hateful people who are murdered, but the ones that people love and even admire. Just like real life.

    • Nancy Cooley says:

      Michelle, I appreciated your comment about Jane Neal. In Still Life I was saddened by the death of her character and even later the mention of her name brought a feeling of regret…wanted to know her better. But I also like your combination of Clara/Myrna as a bit of Jane carried on throughout the series.

      • Louise Webb says:

        I love Claire’s character best. Sensitive and a true friend to all in the community but hasn’t met her full potential. Rather under appreciated by her husband and compared to him is not considered a major artist…and struggles with her insecurities. However she is a loving character and cares and worries about other people’s feelings. I felt she was. Wry much like the author. Wry much an old hen looking after everyone bit herself. Very typical of a female.

        • Linda says:

          Claire to me is a touchstone. She’s like that one true friend that when everything goes wrong will catch you when you fall. Waiting in patience till you are ready to be reminded of what is normal, good, and true.

      • Katie says:

        It is a while since I read Still Life but what fascinated me about that book was that Jane’s paintings told the story of her life and gave the clues as to who murdered her. I still remember her paintings on the walls of her house. For a long time I thought it was her niece that murdered her, for the house, or maybe the niece’s husband. I have to admit I was surprised to find out who the murderer was. Peter also is a character who always makes me uneasy. It is a puzzle how Clara could have married him. No surprise when they separate.

    • Meriem says:

      I also felt sad that we would not get to know Jane better and was fascinated by her paintings.

  11. Alice Osborn says:

    I’m having my book club read this, because I want them to get the beginning of the books, so they can continue with the people. When I read a new Gamache book it is like having friends that I really like have come to be with me. We have to talk about the people first at the book club.

  12. Portia says:

    I think Loiuse draws on that time when she felt so terribly alone to show her readers how each of her characters reacts to the feeling of having nowhere to turn and no one to look to for help, as well as, especially with Clara and Agent Nichol, to wanting, but not being, accepted.

  13. Kim Bodnarchuk says:

    It was Jane Neal who quoted Auden. Which was really quite appropriate and ironic, given the circumstances. Jane was portrayed to be like Clara and Myrna – spiritual and intuitive – at least to a degree.

    As for Agent Nichol, she is young. She appears stalled, at least for the present, in an adolescent mode where she is fighting with herself. She wants approval, but she doesn’t want to be seen looking for it. The moments when she tries hardest are the ones where she betrays herself. She is outwardly adolescent (hair, skin, uncomfortable in her clothes and her skin). Assigning blame is a reflex….and she often assigns it to herself. Her internal voice tells her constantly: you are not enough…not smart enough, not special enough. She has not yet learned to be gentle with herself – to be her own best friend.

    Clara is Nichol with maturity, grace and self acceptance. The struggles are still there, but she has found her core. I love Clara because she isn’t perfect but, for the most part, she accepts her imperfections with gentle humour and grace. Favourite.

    Ruth is another favourite. Unlike most people who put out a “perfect” image to hide a rotten interior, Ruth puts out a “rotten” image to hide goodness. Ruth volunteers for the fire department and she, despite pain of arthritic knees, spends the whole day cleaning to help her friends.

    Gamache is who we want to be. He understands that exterior and interior often don’t match. He watches. He listens. He is intuitive. Mostly, he is unapologetic for all of it. He understands that what others think of his methods does not matter and that kindness can be disarming for the very reason that others perceive it as weakness.

    • Meg R says:

      Kim, posted as I was typing. What wonderful observations about Nichol, Clara etc. as progressions of development. I think this group’s going to be fun! Fair warning – my “K” key sticks & sometimes doesn’t type so – ‘know’ sometimes appears as ‘now’.

    • Risa Lindquist says:

      Yvette Nichol holds a lot of promise. She is lost within the labyrinth of her father’s lies. This over shadows anything she may feel instinctively or anything Inspector Gamache may attempt to teach her. Nothing good comes from a faulty foundation.

      LOL Agent Nichol, with her combination of arrogance and insecurity, will never be a favourite of mine. I think she may remind me a bit of myself.

    • Kim Bodnarchuk says:

      I forgot to mention Isabelle Lacoste. I love how important it is to her to let the dead person know that their killer will be found. Someone cares enough to do that for them. I would like to meet her too.

    • Deborah Wall McGraw says:

      Ruth is the character I am most intrigued by. She is gruff and determined to be seen that way yet little hints of care keep nudging us to look at her more carefully.

    • michele bond says:

      well said, Kim!

  14. Meg R says:

    I have a request and an initial observation as I’ve read “Still Life” again last week.

    1. Request: May we stick to events/info in this novel & designated chapters for each week’s discussion only – and not bring in things from later chapters or books?

    2. Two images jumped out at me forcefully this time – a.) Gamache, with cracking knees, kneeling over Jane’s body in the second and third paragraphs of Chapter 1 and b.) Myrna’s observation of Ruth – painfully turning from the other villagers as she got on her knees to help scrub the duck shit.

    Struck me that these two – no longer physically spry individuals – humbly have no qualms about ‘getting down’ to the ground to face and help clear up the debris of evil’s actions. Not sure what if anything that means yet. The two images just stuck with me for a whie

    • Meg,

      I’m sure that St. Martin’s had that in mind, not getting too far ahead of the book so new readers will still have the opportunity to discover the books.

      I love your observation about Gamache and Ruth, creaky knees, and getting down on the ground to clean up the dirt of evil.

      And, I’m enjoying all the comments.

    • Karen Cheney says:

      I think a real strength in this series is that the people are so real at least for me no longer young. They are struggling with challenges that those of us beyond middle age are facing – aging bodies. children grown – a world that does not value our knowledge and experience.

      • Helen o. Hartman says:

        Karen, I

        • Helen o. Hartman says:

          I have now forgotten what I started to say. But I do love the books, and have read them a number of times, My eyesight is no longer very good, so I am addicted to my iPad. After all, I am 89.

    • Penelope York says:

      I very much hope that the discussion can be held to the chapters under discussion. Many of us have read and retread and are rereading these complex novels. Let us please restrain and contain ourselves.
      The images of Gamache and Ruth on their arthritic knees speak “Louise Penny” character development efficiently and eloquently without referring to future events. Peevishly yours, Pen.

    • Sara Z says:

      Yes Meg, I’m glad you mentioned the creaking knees. I was struck by that too. I find that kind of subtle parallel repeated often in the books. It is one of the features I’m enjoying most in the re-read because I’m not as involved in the plot/mystery, so I can notice more of the characters’ defining features.

    • Caryn says:

      I appreciate your request as I found it very difficult when attempting to join in the discussion not to refer to later books. The world of Gamache and Three Pines exists as a whole history so far to me, and my thoughts and responses spring from that whole. Several times I have begun a reply to various thoughtful comments here only to end up cancelling them rather than to jump ahead in the literary history we are re-travelling.

  15. Gail Detwiler says:

    I absolutely love Clara Morrow! My favorite books are the ones in which she appears. She is Everywoman; she’s creative, loving, warm, compassionate, but also imperfect. She has crumbs in her hair, which is sometimes untidy, and then there’s that stain in her clothing wher she dropped part of her last meal. If she’s anything like me,and she is a LOT like me, she also runs into the corner of furniture because she’s preoccupied with other things and not truly watching where she’s going. (Oops, there’s another bruise!) Her heart is large and open. I know so much about her (and all the characters) at this point that it’s hard to limit myself to just what readers know in Still Life. Her insecurity, vulnerability, and dependence on Peter at this point is so touching and like so many other women in the world. She and I were immediately good friends!

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