The Annotated Three Pines – Still Life

From Pg. 1:
Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round. Miss Neal’s was not a natural death, unless you’re of the belief everything happens as it’s supposed to. If so, for her seventy-six years Jane Neal had been walking toward this final moment when death met her in the brilliant maple woods on the verge of the village of Three Pines. She’d fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.

Louise’s Thoughts:
First line of first book. This wasn’t how it originally started. Still Life first started with Jane waking up and making breakfast, but then I realized I wanted to start with both her death, then get to know her life. And I also wanted very clear, immediate sense of place and season.

From Pg. 27:
‘Three Pines … Three Pines,’ he repeated, as he tried to find it. ‘Could it be called something else?’ he asked himself, unable for the first time with this detailed map to find a village. ‘Trois Pins, perhaps?’ No, there was nothing

Louise’s Thoughts:
I’d searched most of my life for ‘home’ and when I found it in Quebec, it felt like magic. It was so important to me to bring that sense of belonging, of Fate, of gentle magic to Three Pines, right off the bat. That it was only ever found by people lost.

From Pg. 44:
Sun poured in through the stained-glass boys in uniforms from the Great War, scattering blues and deep reds and yellows across the pine floor and oak pews. The chapel smelled like every small church Clara had ever known. Pledge and pine and dusty old books.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Haven’t gone back to this passage in 15 years. I hadn’t realized I put in the stained glass boys so early in the series.

From Pg. 51:
Once his eyes adjusted to the inside of the Bistro he saw not the one largish room he’d expected but two rooms, each with its own open fireplace, now crackling with cheery fires. The chairs and tables were a comfortable mishmash of antiques. A few tables had armchairs in faded heirloom materials. Each piece looked as though it had been born there. He’d done enough antique hunting in his life to know good from bad, and that diamond point in the corner with the display of glass and tableware was a rare find. At the back of this room the cash register stood on a long wooden bar. Jars of licorice pipes and twists, cinnamon sticks and bright gummy bears shared the counter with small indi­vidual boxes of cereal.

Louise’s Thoughts:
This is so funny! As the series progressed, my image of the bistro evolved. I now see it, and describe it, as one large room, with huge open fireplaces on either end. And yet, so much else is still the same. The long wooden bar. The licorice pipes!

From Pg. 53:
‘A Scotch, please, Marie,’ said Ruth, suddenly deflating and sinking back into the chair. ‘I’m sorry. Forgive me.’

She sounded to Gamache like someone used to apolo­gizing.

‘I suppose I could blame Jane’s death for my poor behavior, but as you’ll discover, I’m just like this. I have no talent for choosing my battles. Life seems, strangely, like a battle to me. The whole thing.’

Louise’s Thoughts:
Again, I see the beginning here, of Ruth, and her evolution. Later in the series she becomes less obviously vulnerable. A person not at all used to apologizing. And yet, the core is here….a woman who sees life as a battle. A woman who does not overtly apologize, but whose amends are more subtle and perhaps, therefore, more powerful. Love seeing this ‘early’ Ruth and knowing who she became.

From Pg. 82:
‘They are four sentences we learn to say, and mean.’ Gamache held up his hand as a fist and raised a finger with each point. ‘I don’t know. I need help. I’m sorry. And one other.’ Gamache thought for a moment but couldn’t bring it to mind. ‘I forget. But we’ll talk more about it tonight, right?’

‘Right, sir. And thank you.’ Oddly enough, she realised she meant it.

After Gamache had left, Nichol brought out her note­book. She hadn’t wanted to take notes while he was talking. She figured it would make her look foolish. Now she quickly wrote: I’m sorry, I don’t know, I need help, I forget.

Louise’s Thoughts:
This brings back memories on so many levels. When asked in events to recite the four sentences, I almost always forget one, as Gamache does here. Those sentences came from the very first time I met Michael. He opened a meeting by reciting them, and I thought….what an extraordinary man. But, on another level, in the book, I knew I wanted some humor, and it just seemed so human, and yet silly, that Nichol would think ‘I forget’ is a sentence that leads to wisdom.

Discussion on “The Annotated Three Pines – Still Life

  1. Carole says:

    I’m so excited to see this new feature on this site! Some ladies I knit with have also discovered the Gamache stories and we are in the process of knitting up a book club. I have a “fantasy league” wish to see a future story spotlight Agent Nichol and Billy Williams! (I’m still struggling to translate what he said on the snowmobile…)

    • L Bandi says:

      My knitting group friends love Louise Penny’s books too!

    • Jane says:

      I taught high school English and over time, have learned phonetic spelling quite fluently. Funny funny and creative.

    • Lynne says:

      I’m late getting to the annotation, but I like it a lot. About deciphering Billy Williams’ language… I am not ashamed to admit that I have read every book three or more times and only recently made sense of his responses to people. When that happened, I was reading while on a bus and when it finally came to me I laughed out loud. Several heads turned my way and I found several fellow passengers laughing with me as I explained what was so funny, as several of them had the same problem and were greatly appreciative of my explanations.

  2. Barbara Masterson says:

    Thank you so much, Louise. This is such an amazing surprise – something to hold us over until August!

  3. Mary Darling says:

    I love that you are doing this. I have always enjoyed the “background” information you have shared, like the research you did on the monks and the chants.

    I find that the writing process is always evolving.

  4. Karen Ann Farmer says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these memories. It’s wonderful to hear your thoughts on our journey through the magical “Three Pines.”

  5. Margaret Duncum says:

    Great idea to annotate. Reading more, more, more is what we’d all like and being able to read them in greater depth gives us twice the books. So, are these just available online or will they be published in some form?

  6. Linda says:

    I enjoyed every sentence of rereading these …….great descriptive paragraphs and deep thoughts. Looking forward to more. Thank you!

  7. Beverly Drummond says:

    Louise, your books always make me feel at home. My husband and I were in Quebec a few months ago and walked past a candy shop. We went in and I asked if they had licorice pipes and they did! Of course, I bought several and imagined I was in the bistro.

  8. Ruth Fenn says:

    Thank you so much!!!! I got up early today because I was excited to finally see the annotations – I’m leading a group discussion on Still Life soon. These will be good insights to share.
    Wish there were more!!!

  9. Patricia Foottit says:

    Once again, I am rereading the series in anticipation of the new book. This is a wonderful addition to any discussion of the Gamache stories. Many thanks, Louise.

  10. Nancy Wright says:

    Thank you for adding this new perspective for your readers. I have read all of your Gamache series & am now several years later, rereading. My first book “The Beautiful Mystery” remains my favorite. A fortunate find in Barnes & Nobel while looking for a different read. The beauty is each book has become “a different read” while still being comfortable with familiar characters who become real to the reader through the series. thank you again for remaining faithful to your readers.

  11. Teresa Hartman says:

    Thank you so much. This is very interesting as well as informative. Three Pines, the characters, the scenery, and all that it entails is so wonderful. Mesmerizing story lines. Love everything about it.

  12. Heather Phaneuf says:

    Louise, a pleasure to unpack these extracts…food for thought. As for me, looking towards the read that explores Reine Marie’s reality and past more. Hmmmmm?

  13. I love this and now I must go back and read Still Life again.

  14. Kathleen says:

    I am looking forward to the next installments of this series. It is fascinating to look back at the origins of the characters through your eyes, and how they have evolved. What a gift to your readers. Thank you.

  15. Sue Oerter says:

    This works perfect – I am rereading the series in anticipation for August’s release. I plan to stay just ahead of your postings for each book.

    Thank you for sharing more of Three Pines with us.

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