From Pg. 1
“All around. Have you seen the light in the night sky?”
“I thought those were the Northern Lights.” The pink and green and white shifting, flowing against the stars. Like something alive, glowing, and growing. And approaching.
Olivier Brulé lowered his gaze, no longer able to look into the troubled, lunatic eyes across from him. He’d lived with this story for so long, and kept telling himself it wasn’t real. It was a myth, a story told and repeated and embellished over and over and over. Around fires just like theirs.
It was a story, nothing more. No harm in it.
The idea for this book, both the theme of story telling, of the ‘myth-time, and the title of the book, came completely unexpectedly when Michael and I were visiting Vancouver. We went into their splendid Art Gallery, where there was an exhibit on of one of my favourite artists, Emily Carr. She painted in a flowing, near abstract, style, uncannily capturing a sort of dream world in an area called Haida Gwai. As part of the exhibit, there was context, about the oral traditions of the First Nations. As well as a history of Carr herself. In it they described that she was very very close to her father, until a falling out. After that, she never saw him, spoke to him, spoke of him again. And only ever once referred to what had happened, describing it as ’the brutal telling.’ It came to me, standing there, that I wanted to write a book about myth, about the power of stories, and imagination. And perception. These lines are the beginning of a story woven throughout the book.
From Pg. 26
Most murder investigations appeared complex but were really quite simple. It was just a matter of asking “And then what happened?” over and over and over.
Ha – what they’re really saying is that a great investigator listens. Closely. I actually got this idea from my time as an interviewer on CBC Radio, where most of the time the best thing the interviewer can do is get out of the way, and help the person tell an often painful story. And listen, very, very closely.
From Pg. 23
He’d once heard a judge say the most humane way to execute a prisoner was to tell him he was free. Then kill him.
Gamache had struggled against that, argued against it, railed against it. Then finally, exhausted, had come to believe it.
This is something a high school teacher said, almost in passing, to my class. I can’t remember the context, but I do remember being appalled. And revisiting this idea over and over. Until, as I got older and became aware of my own mortality, I came to believe it might be true. This isn’t in any way a call to capital punishment, which I find repulsive. But simply an acknowledgement that maybe not knowing is the kindest way to go. I also liked showing this part of Gamache. That he is not at all dogmatic. He’s willing, and able, to face tough questions, and change his mind.
From Pg. 31
“Can’t imagine what Gamache thinks of us,” said Myrna. “Every time he shows up there’s a body.”
“Every Quebec village has a vocation,” said Clara. “Some make cheese, some wine, some pots. We produce bodies.”
Now, this is facing a slight problem head on. No use pretending that the body count in Three Pines (a village continuously described as idyllic) is in any way normal. Might as well embrace this abnormality, own it, even have some fun with it, then move on. I really hadn’t thought of this when I first started writing the books. As a result, I didn’t want to strain credibility too much, so many of the actual deaths now happen elsewhere. But the investigations are conducted from the village.
From Pg. 33
People lied all the time in murder investigations. If the first victim of war was the truth, some of the first victims of a murder investigation were people’s lies. The lies they told themselves, the lies they told each other. The little lies that allowed them to get out of bed on cold, dark mornings.
The Gamache books are absolutely crime novels, murder mysteries, but the biggest mystery in each is human behaviour. Human nature. And part of that nature is a certain willful disregard for the truth about ourselves. That’s what I love exploring. What motivates us. Thomas Hobbes said that hell is truth seen too late. That’s the vortex around which THE BRUTAL TELLING swirls.
45 replies on “The Annotated Three Pines: The Brutal Telling”
A friend recommended Louise Penny’s Gamache series, The Brutal Telling was my first and I was hooked. Now I listen to the audio versions because hearing the French words is beautiful and instructive. I’m a bibliobimbo and books are my ‘crack!’ Louise Penny has me laughing out loud while my heart soars with delight at how beautiful life and people are.
Love love love the notes!
Just begun this, slightly out of sequence sadly, but oh it is so good. I have also been listening to Leaonard Cohen – how the light gets in. Above the crime writing I love the character analysis and depth of understanding Louise shows through her books. I too love Ruth and her duck
I found this installment of The Annotated Three Pines extremely disturbing, on many levels.
To compare it lightly to Cabot Cove or Midsomer Murders “serial” killers, seems like a defense mechanism. So people die or are murdered regularly…Ha ha…NOT.
Neither is the key, to me, listening, repeatedly. I know I am taking the “enjoyment” out of the quotes and thoughts, but that’s because I see them as defensive protections.
The key, is hearing the grotesque rationalizations…whether from the executioner’s axe, or the brief relief of a reprieve, and then the reality.
I put off reading this one because I wasn’t feeling well, and usually these are a treat to read. Perhaps I still am not feeling well enough to see the points being made…
Thank you for sharing your insights with us. I learned about Emily Carr on a visit to Victoria. Fell in love with her art and read a book about her. What an eccentric, different person she was. I can see her pushing the tram with her monkey in it and her huge dog walking beside on the way to the Butchers for bones. How wonderful it was for me to see her name in your book.
I related deeply to Emily Carr’s « Brutal Telling ». It put in words what my father told me when I was 13. Definitely something precious has been broken that day.
We were lucky enough to have the exhibition “From the Forest to the Sea” featuring the work of Emily Carr at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London in November 2014. Without reading about her in this book I wouldn’t have gone to the exhibition. Thank you Louise for widening my horizons.
Love the author’s reflections and enjoy the comments of readers. However the only similarity to Murder She Wrote is crime. Louise’s writing has great depth and complexity. Her characters are finely drawn and soulful. The mysteries are compelling and completely entwined with the darkness of the minds. Nothing gratuitously light and frivolous. I adore these books for how they pull on my emotions and make me think.
Toured Quebec Provence following the settings of several of Louise’s novels. Loved it and love her writing.
Have read all in order. Am having withdrawal pain! Can’t wait till next book comes out. Great characters. Feel like they are family. Your writing is a true delight
I love reading these! Thank you so much.
Reading a Gamache mystery is always a profound journey. Reading comments enhances
this journey and shares the joy and fascination and knowledge of another. Being a coroner’s daughter has aided me with the forensic texture of the plot and allows my childhood to
Hello -Just found you all. I am relatively new to Louise Penny and Inspector Gamache and I am totally hooked. I have bought the books up to A final Reckoning and am immersed in Three Pines and the family of characters I am getting to know. I finished The Beautiful Mystery last night – superb. Louise research into the story line, the way she shares new information is riveting and I like many of you, eagerly await the unfolding events which allow us to grow with the characters. I read the introduction from Louise about her husband Michael and his influence on the character, behaviour and personality of Gamache and was humbled. Looking at this website I see there are two books I don’t have yet – what joy!
Thanks for comments on The Brutal Telling. I’m in the process of re-reading the entire series and it just so happens, I just finished The Brutal Telling. The reference to the Buddhist belief from the Wheel of Life. Trying to fill a hole that only gets deeper. One of the best descriptions of greed I’ve read. We see it so much in our daily life and I constantly have to be aware of it in myself. Love the books, they make me consider other view points. However, the food sounds wonderful in Three Pines.
Thank you for these preciously intellectual insights.
I love this series of commentaries! And I had a wonderful surprise – I decided to pull my Kindle version of Glass Houses out of my archives to reread it and at the end I found the first three chapters of A Better Man.
Thank you. I thoroughly this. What a great idea!
This is the first book I read after reading a review in the NYT. Who is this Louise Penny person!!! Since I’ve read all your books twice, at least. And I’ve had not only the privilege of meeting you but I’ve been to Knowlton/Three Pines. You are a phenomenon of the most spectacular kind, and this was obvious to me in every conversation I had with the prople of Knowlton. You are revered there.
I’m halfway through your tenth book and eagerly looking forward to our week-long vacation in the Eastern Townships where we hope to visit the different venues you have used in your books. Wow, that’s a long sentence.
Love this book..the descriptions of the treasures…all of it!!
On the execution..in The Tudors series, the executioner from Calais hired due to his quick, consistent, “humane” beheading, told the person helping he would say get my sword(or something to that effect) when it was time, causing Anne Boleyn to turn her head away to look, thinking it was not the time just yet..when her head turned she couldn’t see the blow of the sword coming, the angle provided for a single blow instead of the inhumane “misses” that often happened.
But then my thought..is any of it “humane”?