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. Phoebe Burns says:

    Thanks for doing this! It’s been awhile since I read Still Life. I always picture the Bistro as one big room, a fireplace at each end with a meeting room in the left rear corner, off the kitchen. And the bookstore on the right with the entrance to the left of the fireplace. Feels like home to read these remembrances.

  2. Dennise Worboys says:

    well what a lovely look back to the first book…..although I read Bury Your Dead first…I quickly went back to the beginning and got caught up with previous books…thank you for giving me the world of beautiful Quebec and Three Pines especially….looking forward to any future books you write…have read and enjoyed them all ..Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your journey on facebook over the years…x

  3. Dorothy Young says:

    This is a wonderful way for your readers, both old and new, to connect with Three Pines, your wonderful characters and with you. Merci beaucoup ❤️

  4. cynthia fister says:

    Oh, your passages and comments take me back to the first few minutes of opening your first wondrous book and falling in love with the story/characters/scenery immediately! And Gamache: his wisdom, his flaws, his humor, his positive insight into the world in which he lives proves him to be a character never to be forgotten. And once you live in Three Pines, during the duration of reading one of your books, you feel you DO live in Three Pines. Most of us are “lost” in one form or fashion and most of us emotionally understand what Three Pines is all about. Thank you, Louise, for such lovely, well-written, intriguing and thought-provoking books. I recommend your books to anyone who asks about a great read!

  5. Laurel says:

    It must be interesting to reread what you have written over the years and to see the organic shifts and changes of the characters and Three Pines. Ever evolving, just like real life. Love the series.

  6. Garry Miles says:

    I was taught the 4 “truths’ from a wise manager that I had back in the late seventies and have applied them my whole life. To me, they are a sign of strength and admitting to one or more of them has shortened many confrontations and allowed us to resolve many issues much more quickly.

  7. Mary Catton says:

    I have reread all of the Three Pines books at least twice and find something new each time. I love this idea and definitely will follow it! Thanks!

  8. Kathleen Clements says:

    I’ve just read this and I want to thank you so much, Louise for the annotations! Having joined the “Three Pines Friendly” group, this will add to the ‘discussions’. We keep “auditioning” actors for the various parts….LOL. Many of the group have or are re-reading your books. I’ve just begun re-reading ‘Still Life’ again, so this is perfect! Hugs from Lethbridge, Alberta.

  9. Anna Orlow says:

    What fun this is! Thank you so much for sharing..

  10. Sandy andert says:

    I loved your thoughts about what you chose to write. It reminded me that your writing creates such wonderful images for me as I read. Thank you

  11. Judy Bickel says:

    Just an additional way to extend and enrich Three Pines with all its unique characters for all of us. Many thanks!

  12. Nora Clemenger says:

    What a wonderful idea! Thank you for generously sharing your time and memories.

  13. Love this! It’s interesting how you changed your mind about the beginning of the first book, and I’m happy to be reminded of “I’m sorry, I don’t know, I need help, I forget.” This makes me want to go back and read the whole series again.

  14. Harriet Rynkiewicz says:

    It is so wonderful to discover what you were thinking back then and how you view it now through so many books worth of Three Pines, a place only people who are lost, find.

  15. Leslie Hackney says:

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your process. I feel like I have found a great friend! I look forward to reading your next story with excited anticipation!

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