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. Jean Kruse says:

    This has made me very happy. I have felt so bad I wouldn’t be able to hear any more about Tree Pines.

  2. Barbara Whittemore says:

    Thank you, Louise. It is very kind of you to share these notes with us. I am re-reading and so enjoying the humor in your books, the program you reference so deftly and how they get pushed together with terrible things.
    The result is so addictive.

  3. Pamela Greaney says:

    These annotations are an inspiration; born of inspiration. I have been reading “Three Pines” from the early beginning. Not one book has lasted long enough, tho always completely satisfying. In my long life of reading, these are the 1st characters to have sustaining power in my imagination.

  4. Sheila says:

    Enjoy having the reminders of the early books, the beginnings of the characters, events, settings, and how they evolved. What a good idea. And thanks, for all, from the first to the last…

  5. Oh my just discovered this amazing page on my phone! I am 83 and pretty good at this technology thing but not great love reading all the comments! Thanks to you all!

  6. Katie says:

    Love this site-want more, more, more!!

  7. Lorraine Cranston says:

    Louise, reading your thoughts on STILL LIFE was a gift I most dearly appreciate! Thankyou! Many Blessings to you always in all ways!

  8. Barbara Lobbestael says:

    Thank you for adding this feature. I am rereading the series with as much delight as I enjoyed at the first reading

  9. Jacquie Redgate says:

    Thank you, Louise, for your wonderful books on Three Pines! I have, since I began to read, loved books that take me to a place, to people I can get to know – and love – and be able to return there again, watching them evolve, grow, change. From Little Women , through the Bobbsy Twins and on and on through hot steamy summers, through snowy winter evenings – I read on and on! Now on to international crime novels – love them all, but Three Pines will always be dear to me – wish it were real, I eagerly await your next book and I am listening to all the others again on Thank you again for enriching our lives!

  10. Merci Louise. Idée originale et pleine de générosité. Ainsi, il nous est impossible de quitter Three Pines et c’est tant mieux. Avec mes deux sœurs, nous sommes trois Québécoises de l’Abitibi (dans le Nord-ouest) qui aimons beaucoup lire vos histoires si humaines.
    J’écris moi-même et publie mes textes sur le site web que mon fils a élaboré pour moi, à mon image. Vos annotations me seront précieuses pour continuer et m’améliorer!

  11. Tina says:

    I admit: I keep a diary with quotes from my favorite books. I further admit that it’s filled with A LOT of Louise Penny quotes, from volume 1 through … And I am laughing now and from here on, because so many passages discussed in this new blog are the ones I copied out.
    I love to part of this GROUP

  12. Fran says:

    I love reading your memories about passages in your books. I hope you will continue all the way through. I’ve read all of them, twice over, and there may come a third reading. The second time through is really the best. No longer plagued by who on earth the murderer might be, I’m free to really enjoy the descriptions, the character development, the interplay between Gamache and his crew and Gamache and “people of interest.” I recommend your books to everyone, and so far, only 1 or 2 haven’t immediately become addicted! Thank you, thank you.

  13. Lucy Dixon says:

    These are wonderful nuggets… no, gems… no, jewels! that you are giving us; and since I’ve heard you speak in person, I can clearly hear your voice. Thank you and merci.

  14. Cathy Ezrailson says:

    I didn’t realize that Gamache forgot a sentence. When I read about it I thought Nichol had – or was that later? If Nichol was forgetting one of the sentences – I assumed that she forgot the “I’m sorry!” Given her stubbornness…

  15. Judith Contino says:

    I love this new series. And I love all the books. I’ve read each one at least twice; and The Beautiful Mystery still remains my favorite. It was a pleasure to attend your book reading in New York City in April of 2018. I’d love for you to come to New York City again.

    • Janice Spalding says:

      The Beautiful Mystery is my favorite as well. It started me on my Inspector Gamache odyssey.

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