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. Mary Sue Timar says:

    I love you are doing this. Ruth is one of my favorite Three
    Pines residents. Your description of her is so true. Sometimes she is so funny and yet in Glass Houses, she is holding the hands of a gravely wounded Inspector Lacoste.
    Thank you ! I love your books even more.

  2. Mary Foree says:

    I love this, Louise! Just so you know, each time I know that a new Three Pines novel is coming out soon, I reread (actually, re-listen to) all of the series. I’m going to start Still Life again, as soon as I’m finished with my current read. (Right now, I’m listening to “Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens…SO good!) Thank you so much for the gift of Three Pines!!!

  3. Christine Hadley says:

    Thank you for this. I love all the characters in your books. This feels like we are having tea and you are just giving us your memories and wonderings about people we know.

  4. Rosemary Dill says:

    Please explain why you had Peter die.

  5. Jo Wade says:

    This is a very great way to revisit the characters as they will grow and evolve.

  6. Connie says:

    I have never seen licorice pipes. Are they a Canadian thing?
    I have all the books on cd as well. I’m always surprised at what I pick up by listening to them because, even if you want to, you can’t race through the audio version!

    • H J says:

      I wondered the same thing when I started these books. Went right to Amazon and bought some to try!

  7. Kimberly Russell says:

    This is wonderful! I have just discovered the Libby Ap on my phone and have begun listening to library books while at work baking at 4am. I have decided that the first order of business is to listen to all of the Gamache mysteries and just finished re “reading” ‘Still Life’ so it is very fresh in my mind! I can’t wait till ‘A Fatal Grace’ becomes available so that I may continue with book 2! I introduce this beautiful series of books with anyone that requests favorite books to read & everyone that I know that has read them loves them as well. Thank you so much!

  8. Margie Sage says:

    Revisiting Still Life and reading your insights into those passages has been a real treat! Thanks Louise!

  9. Ardella Webb says:

    I, too, am rereading – keep a note in front of book of date I reread. Know there are other authors I have found over the yrs ( all Charles Todd books , example; Anne Perry) but I bought all Louise Penny so can reread , write notes

  10. Linda Thorsen says:

    Oh my, so much to remember. Louise, the first glimpse I had in my mind of Three Pines was an absolute magic moment for! I feel, see and experience it in every novel. The bistro is where we see the meeting of minds and the quack of insight!

  11. Jalia Henderson says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts.

  12. Sarah says:

    Whoa! I’d almost forgotten the licorice pipes. Early on I made sure I had one to enjoy with each new book. Laying in a new supply . . . oh and BTW, I love this new gift!!

  13. Debra Wynter says:

    I just finished reading STILL LIFE about a month ago; your first novel and my first time reading a book you have written. It was a wonderful read. ♥️ Thank you for sharing your astute observations of life through your writing. I enjoyed reading these Annotations, too. You are a Canadian treasure, Louise Penny!

  14. Lisa Roney says:

    Wonderful! The annotations spark fond memories of the earlier books as well as explaining the origin of key passages. This made me so happy to remind me of the ever developing story and my Three Pines friends.

  15. Karen Lewis says:

    Thank you for taking the time to do this. I thoroughly enjoyed your posting!

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