LOUISE PENNY’S

Still Life, Part 2

Still Life, Part 2

Recap (Starting with Chapter 7)

While Chief Inspector Gamache’s team waits for the results of lab tests, he turns to the bookstore, and Myrna, for inspiration and answers. While they talk, he asks about the other woman who died recently, Timmer Hadley, and he realizes Myrna knows more than she’s saying. So, he comes away from that conversation with more questions, and a book that forces him to search for answers in a place that makes him confront another fear. He has to climb to the hunting blind, and he’s afraid of heights. But, it’s there he has a conversation with Clara that opens her eyes that someone local is a killer, and their feelings have been festering.

As Gamache waits, he learns more about the villagers. Ruth Zardo is one of Canada’s most famous poets. And, Clara and the villagers have a different view of the deceased Timmer Hadley than Myrna did. They’ve known Timmer longer, as Ben’s mother, a hateful woman who terrorized her son.

And, as the villagers wait, they once again gather at Clara and Peter’s where they deconstruct the crime, and realizing one of them is a killer, they know someone killed Jane Neal on purpose. Readers who want to continue the series should watch the scenes in which the villagers gather because there are glimpses of their true characters in these moments.

When the lab results come in, the team once again visit the Crofts, where Philippe turns on his father, but Matthew Croft’s confession isn’t enough to convince Gamache of his guilt, and he refuses to arrest him, going against orders. Gamache is suspended, and Beauvoir is forced to take his gun and badge from him.

It’s while attending Jane Neal’s memorial service and reception that Gamache realizes one of his officers lied to him, and didn’t check on Jane Neal’s will. And, when the women of the village hold a prayer ritual, they discover another piece of evidence, an arrow that was still in a tree. That piece of evidence exonerates Matthew Croft, proves Jane Neal really was murdered, and it wasn’t an accident, and brings about the reinstatement of Gamache as officer in charge of the investigation.

And, it was the will, leaving everything to Clara, that opens Jane Neal’s house to the police. They find horrific wallpaper and paint in the house, but, when they look beneath it, they discover Jane Neal’s gift to the community. Her paintings on her walls reveal the history of Three Pines. And, Gamache knows that the murderer was someone on those walls as well.

But, it’s Clara, the artist, who is the first to realize who the killer is. And, her attempt to confront the killer leads to a horrifying scene, and a rescue attempt during a hurricane. The discovery of the murderer would change the villagers forever.

Louise Penny, a master storyteller, foreshadows so many of the relationships and actions in future books when she talks about her characters. Remember the characters, their reactions, their feelings, as you read future books. And, remember Three Pines. “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.”

But, also remember Armand Gamache’s last view of Three Pines. “He looked down at the village and his heart soared. He looked over the rooftops and imagined the good, kind, flawed people inside struggling with their lives….Life was far from harried here. But neither was it still.”

Favorite Quote

Matthew 10:36. “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”

Conclusion and Discussion Questions

As we read the other books in this series, it’s important to remember what we’ve learned about the characters. Keep in mind what you’ve learned about Gamache, Beauvoir, and Nichol, as well as about the villagers themselves; Clara, Peter, Olivier, Gabri, Ruth and Myrna. And, remember what Louise Penny said. Her books are not really about murder, but what murder dislodges in a community.

In a 2007 interview with author G.M. Malliet, Louise Penny said, “I think of Three Pines as a state of mind. A village occupied by people who have made conscious choices in their lives. Not because they’ve never been hurt, not because they’re too protected, or foolish, or shallow to know that the world can be a dreadful place. No. It’s for that very reason they’ve all made their choices. They’ve all been hurt. As have we all. But when wounded some people become embittered, cynical, sarcastic. They hurt back. But some, and I sometimes think they’re the ones most wounded, make another choice. They know nothing good comes of giving in to our darker instincts. And so they turn to what Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address called, ‘The better angels of our nature.’ Three Pines is a place where kindness trumps cruelty, where people help each other, and care. Where sharing isn’t a word to be laughed at and even an embittered old poet is welcomed.”

1. What happened to the Three Pines community as a result of Jane Neal’s death?

2. Gamache has a fear of heights, and shows unexpected anger. He also refuses a direct order. Do these flaws make him more human, or indicate weakness?

3. What did Clara mean by having “Surprised by Joy” engraved on Jane Neal’s tombstone?

4. Louise Penny says this book is about choice. What did she mean by that?

5. Three Pines is Louise Penny’s ideal village. What is your ideal village like?

6. Penny uses poetry throughout the book. Is there one poem or line that resonates with you?

Discussion on “Still Life, Part 2”

Hello, I realize that this discussion is quite old, but I’m hoping someone will see this and provide an answer to something which is driving me crazy. In chapter 9, lab results come back to show that Jane Neal’s blood was on the bow found in the Croft’s basement, as well as some of Phillipe’s clothing. Was there ever an explanation given for why these items would be contain her blood if Ben was the murderer? Louise Penny seems like such a careful writer that I can’t believe that this huge plot hole would be left unaddressed, but I’ve looked back over the book and can’t find anything to explain it. Thank you for any passages you can point me to.

Never mind, I found it ‍♀️
Philippe comes across the already dead body, and because he’s just shot an arrow in that direction, thinks he killed her. He takes the arrow, getting blood on his bow, clothes and bike.

Just watched the TV version of “still life.” It’s been a while since I read the book. Does anyone know, why did Ben Hadley kill his mother who was dying anyway?

He killed her because she was planning to change her will to leave him only enough to get by, in order to force him to take charge of his life.

I love this series and eagerly anticipate each book. I recently finished The Long Way Home, and was talking to someone about the series and recommending it…which led me to reread Still Life.
I am very confused by something…maybe someone here can help clear this up for me.
In the part of the book where Gamache is talking to Yolande, about Jane’s death (chapter 3; page 77 in my Kindle edition) it reads “Gamache had seen enough grief in his time to know people handle it in different ways. His own mother, upon waking up next to her husband of 50 years dead in the bed, called her hairdresser first to cancel her appointment.”
BUT we learn in later books that Gamache’s parents were killed in an auto accident when he was a child.
Has this anomaly been addressed before? Or corrected?

Let me say that I did not have time to join the discussion. However, I did reread the book and enjoyed it even more the second time around! However, my family does not understand why I go around the house singing, What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor.
.I marvel at Penny’s way with words and development of characters. Love the section where Gamache is having a discussion with Nicole about choices and observations. A quote: “We choose our thoughts. We choose our perceptions. We choose our attitudes. We may not think so. We may not believe it, bt we do.” Such wisdom.

And then Myrna:”the fault lies with us, and only us.”

So not only do we have a delicious murder to solve, but we have such searching of souls.

Okay, Mr. Tech Supreme!

* – Do we have to re-register to continue on with the next book some where?

* – Kudos to you for paginations and helping to make site more accessible to readers & responders. This one really appreciates your efforts to make this more user friendly. Sending you 3 gold stars for your forehead! – Meg

One can infer that Lacoste found a gay equilvatent of Playboy magazine that nasty Bernard had taken from Phillipe Croft and was keeping to blackmail Phillipe.

This time I read Still Life on my Kindle, because my eyes needed the large print. All of the characters came to life immediately, as if I could meet them in person. That is, except for Nichol, who didn’t seem real (to me) for the first half of the novel… And the environment was so real I could see it, hear it, even smell it. The art, too, was right there, in front of me.

Plus: Isn’t it interesting that each time we read a novel, we see something in it that we didn’t see before? Nichol’s character has me thinking deep thoughts…….

My pleasure, Jane! I enjoyed all the comments. I’m with Diane, who said she loves the humor in the books. It’s not always obvious, but it’s there. What can I say? I just love this series.

Thanks, Lesa, for leading this discussion. I loved re-reading Still Life and all the comments from others in this group about the book.

Gamache’s flaws make him more human. I’ve loved him from the start 🙂 He is a great leader who is decisive and holds people accountable for their actions. We all have flaws.

I think Peter lives a still life with his introspective work and his hidden resentments of Clara’s work.

There’ve been several comments on the choices of many of the characters, but I think the key decision that underlies Gamache’s whole professional situation is his choice regarding Arnot’s deadly activities in the North in previous years. That whole situation underlies not only this book, but reveals gradually in subsequent books. It is important to recognize and be alert to the consequences of choices … like Peter’s treatment of Clara, Olivier’s greed, Ruth’s faith and love, even bad clothing choices — really underpin the whole series. Choice is an essential and commonly shared experience for the characters, us as readers, and I’m sure for Louise and her publishing team too.

I agree that there is a lot of foreshadowing in this book. In some of the later books, I became more and more disenchanted with Peter and the way he treated Clara. I think in this, the first book, we get some of the early signs that theirs is a marriage that has some fault lines in it. I’m wondering if anyone else felt like Clara was having to do most of the heavy lifting, emotionally, in that relationship. Also in this reading, I picked up on the fact that Ruth’s last name is not the one she grew up with. We still don’t know(or I can’t remember) if she changed it for privacy purposes, or if she was married at some point. If she was married, is she a divorcee, or widow? No one seems to have that information about her private life. Very mysterious! Will Louise Penny at some point clue us into the truths about Ruth’s personal life?

You know I loved the novel and I love the whole series. But I have a quibble. If a house had been painted and wallpapered all through within the past week, would you not SMELL that the minute you walked in? That has been bothering me since the first time I read this book. It is rare for Penny to show such a big logical cohesion mistake, but this one (particularly the description of other aromas in the house) really got to me as a ‘nope, no way’ issue.

I read Still Life so long ago that this re-reading was truly a treat. What struck me as I was reading was the seeds of the development of each of the characters as we now know them. I don’t know about you but I feel I do know them and that they are friends with whom I want to have a café au lait. I wanted to be truly present to this reading–there were so many “wow” moments for me (wow there is already the revelation of Gamache and his flaws/human-ness!, wow there is Ruth in all her bitterness and heart! wow there is an inkling into Peter and Clara’s relationship!)–so I had to work hard to concentrate! Ha! But Lesa’s comment on keeping all these character “clues” in mind going forward with our reading is a really good point.

Choice. We make so many different choices every day. It is the human condition…where even making no choice is certainly a real choice. The Three Pines villagers certainly have the choices of everyday life placed before them: Peter-to become emotionally committed or to continue to be self-absorbed, Yvette Nichol to choose to see that the solution lies within herself or not, etc. And they are faced with choices they never expected to have to make: about trust, about relationships and assumptions, and about acceptance and now a choice as to how to move on. I can see why Louise says this is a book about choice, though I don’t think I would have realized it without it being said. I think I am even more impressed with Louise’s writing having read this much more deeply this time–her ability to paint the reality of all the choices, all the emotions and life.
The humor is such a big piece for me. It just makes the characters become even more alive. My first guffaw came on page 13 in my edition when Clara was described as the “Carmen Miranda of baked goods” as a walnut took residence in her hair. I have a friend like this. And by page 18 Ruth enters and the bantering begins and I wait for the next laugh in the middle of the action. I love Louise’s sense of humor!

I also gallopped through on my first read. I was happy to see the “Surprised by Joy” explanation
The use of the Leonard Cohen lines also sent me in search of his past recordings which I listened to years ago and had not thought about in quite some time.
I think of “L.C.” as the “Canadian Bob Dylan”.

I haven’t addressed any of the questions posed, but I’m still pondering the poetry, especially now that I know it was written by Margaret Atwood. I’m wondering which came first–the poetry or the opportunity to use it? I’m thinking particularly of the often-quoted “Who hurt you, once, / so far beyond repair / that you would greet each overture / with curling lip?” Wonderful image, wonderful concept that fits so well with the personality and the story. Did Louise see an opportunity to use that phrasing for her own novelistic purposes or would she have asked Atwood to fashion something around the idea? Can one ask a poet to do that? Fascinating!

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