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. Jeanne Murray says:

    Wow! So much more. This is great. Your thoughts during the writing process puts the extracts from the book in a different prospective to me. It amazes me my first reading of each book is so fast as if I am so parched I need to drink the book in immediately. My second read I get more of the nuances. Then I listen to the audio and just enjoy the narration.

  2. Jane Moore says:

    Oh, I just love this!!! Thank you, Louise.

  3. Kathy Voorhees says:

    These small tastes are just whetting our appetites for your forthcoming book! I am a little protective of all your prior books. I treasure them so much I have only allowed one person, an attorney, to read them, and I am a probation officer. I am happily anticipating your new book!

    • Linda Pearson says:

      Kathy, do what my brother the writer does. He prints: “Stolen from the library of ……..” on the flyleaf of every book he lends.

  4. Diane Brokenshire says:

    This is TERRIFIC. I have the 4 questions posted on my fridge and have shared them with my grandchildren. My 2 youngest, Leo age 13 and Maggie age 11 were talking about them just the other day …. adding follow up actions to the list.

  5. Elina says:

    OOOOH! This is fabulous!

    I fantasize about The Bistro…and the bakery!!!!

    Loving this!

  6. Beky Hazelton says:

    This is extraordinary! What a delight to see how you reflect on character’s changes as well as we refresh our own memories of them. Have read or listened to Still Life several times, it has been awhile. So talented from the very beginning Louise! But how have you found the time to do this?

  7. Carole Carraro says:

    What a pleasant surprise to see this new posting. It seems we are on the same wavelength Louise. I just started re-reading the series and this time I have a leather bound notebook beside me where I am writing the passages that move me, the quotes and am compiling the characteristics of the main characters. I will add your thoughts in my notebook. Thank you.

  8. Donna M Hewitt says:

    Thank you for this new series I spend a lot of my time wondering about the story line and how your characters and ideas evolve .I do have the fire place image in my mind’s eye also smell fresh bread baking .Ruth is the most interesting character she is a conundrum .I look forward to more Thank you. So much for sharing .

  9. Françoise L. Upton says:

    This is great and wonderful to find out your thoughts behind the passages. The first book we read was Bury Your Dead. A neighbor in our country town of Mariposa, Ca loaned us the book so she would get our opinion on the politics of the province. Needless to say we were hooked and had to get all the previous books. We were fortunate to meet you in Menlo Park in 2015 and will be in Knowlton for the book release! Can’t wait.

  10. Rosemary Lawrence says:

    This sounds great.

  11. Noreen Campbell says:

    This is wonderful. Thank you so much. Your writing is brilliant and to get the thinking behind it makes it even better. It is rare to find an author who does good settings, wonderfully complex characters and interesting plots but you do all three. Thank you and please keep writing. I look forward to each book.


    I have read every one of the Gamache books and this is such a lovely addition to them.

  13. Shirley Lewchuk says:

    So very special to revisit these beginnings and see the characters develop through your eyes, book by book. Thank you for these insights.

  14. Joyce says:

    Thank you, so very much enjoyed reading this. Love the four things. Had forgotten about them. Will write them down now.

  15. Susan Davis says:

    Thank you for this. Will keep me going between books!

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