From Pg. 8
There was certainly nothing cool about Three Pines, nothing funky or edgy or any of the other things that had mattered to Clara when she’d graduated from art college twenty-five years ago. Nothing here was designed. Instead, the village seemed to follow the lead of the three pines on the green and simply to have grown from the earth over time.
Ha – haven’t read this description of the village for many years, and honestly? It describes how I see, and feel about, Three Pines to this day. It is natural and organic. No more need to impress or prove itself than an otter or eagle or pine tree has.
From Pg. 59
It was Armand Gamache’s favorite view. The mountains rose graciously on the far side, folding into each other, their slopes covered with a fuzz of lime green buds. He could smell not just the pine now, but the very earth, and other aromas. The musky rich scent of dried autumn leaves, the wood smoke rising from the chimneys below, and something else. He lifted his head and inhaled again, softly this time. There, below the bolder aromas, sat a subtler scent. The first of the spring flowers.
Ahhh – it’s spring here now, as I read this, and while we aren’t quite at the first flowers, how well I know that awe, and wonderment. As the world comes alive. As a city woman, born and raised, moving to the Quebec countryside with Michael was a revelation. The beauty, the peace. The challenges. And how deeply connected to the rhythms and wonder of nature we became. I wanted, and still want, desperately to reflect that in the books.
From Pg. 55
‘One day that ego of yours’ll kill you. That’s all it is, you know. You pretend it’s selfless, you pretend to be the great teacher, the wise and patient Armand Gamache, but you and I both know it’s ego. Pride. Be careful, my friend. She’s dangerous. You’ve said so yourself.’
This is a continuing theme – Armand’s Achilles Heel. People sometimes tell me he’s too perfect, and I think – well, you’re not reading the books very closely. Not seeing the dangers of a good man, seeing good in others, where none exists. His sense that he has an insight – where others see only blindness.
From Pg. 56
It was a strange admission for Beauvoir. Normally so rational and driven by facts, he gave no credence to things unseen, like emotions. He was the perfect complement to his boss, who, in Beauvoir’s opinion, spent far too much time crawling into people’s heads and hearts. Inside there lived chaos, and Beauvoir wasn’t a big one for that.
Jean-Guy probably evolves the most of any of the characters, and this is the beginning of that evolution. Here we see inside him. How guarded, how afraid, he is, of being completely human. I knew I wanted him to grow, but to be honest, at this stage, I didn’t know in which direction. Or how he’d get there. What would have to happen, to break Beauvoir’s mind-set? Of course, later in the series, we see. It had to be an event so shattering, he could not remain the same.
From Pg. 65
Clara turned to Gamache….He spoke to her in English, as a courtesy, she knew. His English was perfect and, strangely, he had a British accent. She’d been meaning each time they’d met to ask him about that.
‘Why do you speak with an English accent?’
His eyebrows rose and he turned a mildly surprised face to her.
‘Is that the answer to my question?’ he asked with a smile.
‘No, professor. But it’s something I’ve been meaning to ask and keep forgetting.’
‘I went to Cambridge. Christ’s College. Studied history.’
‘And honed your English.’
‘Learned my English.’
Now this is a nod to two people. First and foremost, my husband Michael, on whom Gamache is modelled. Michael, not completely coincidently, went to Christ’s College, Cambridge, and loved it. But this part of Gamache’s character also acknowledges someone I interviewed often when I was a journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Jacques Parizeau was the leader of the separatist Parti Québécois. He fought most of his political life to have Québec separate from the rest of Canada. He was a passionate defender of the French language, and most Anglos were wary of him at best, hated him at worst. And yet, he was an Anglophile, and spoke perfect English with a British accent. His love of all things English didn’t diminish his aspirations for his beloved Québec. I found that fascinating. And while Gamache is not a separatist, I thought it would be fun to add this unexpected element to his character – his slightly accented English. And the fact he too loves Québec and went to Cambridge.
Discussion on “The Annotated Three Pines: The Cruelest Month”
My husband and I recently discovered this series and are LOVING it. One thing we couldn’t quite resolve in this book: who is the person giving directions to Agent Nichol, telling her to stay close to Gamache? Was it her dad?
Wasn’t it Gamache himself?
“Nichol was working for them. [Beauvoir] was glad he hadn’t thrown her into the spring-bloated Rivière Bella Bella, as all his instincts had told him to do. That caul really couldn’t be completely trusted. ‘I knew she wasn’t Francoeur’s spy. Too obvious,’ said Gamache, handing the gun to Beauvoir. ‘I spoke to her almost a year ago, told her my plan and she agreed to play along. She’s a courageous young woman.’ ‘Don’t you mean psychotic?’ asked Lemieux. ‘Not likeable, I’ll grant you, but that’s what I was counting on. As long as you thought I suspected her, you were free to do what you wanted. And I was free to watch you. I told Nichol to be as annoying as she could to everyone, but to focus on you in particular. To rattle you.”
In the 1980s I had a microcomputer consulting business in Montreal. One contract I had was with the Association of English Language Newspapers of Quebec, long since departed. It was to come up with a hardware/software package they could recommend to their members. I had the joy of traveling around the Eastern Townships interviewing the proprietors of the local newspapers – usually at the kitchen table. Reading about Three Pines brought this back very clearly. I feel like I met a lot of the characters long ago. Great job of capturing the essence of the area.
I am loving revisiting each of your books. I’ve read them all and feel as if the characters are friends I haven’t met. Thank you for your back story comments and for all the enjoyment I have had from the Tree Pines series.
I love these annotations. I’ve read all the books and it inspires me to go back to them. I’m an aspiring writer but haven’t had the courage to start yet. I’ll be 74 tomorrow so time’ a-wasting! I can’t wait to read the new book and have preordered my copy. You’re an inspiration, Louise.
I continue to be amazed at how these people ( not characters )are so alive and real to me. I feel I share a kinship with many of them. Being African-American and have a love of books I do have a bit of Myrna in me; also at times an artist . I did have a pet chicken growing up and I admit to being F.I.N.E. at age 80! I also have a gay son whom I love and happy that he has a partner. Louise has managed to make Three Pine as inclusive as the World should be!
This is one of my favorite series. Anxiously awaiting new book.
The notes are so personal and enjoyable for their explanations behind the scenes.
I’m tempted to reread the series just once in REVERSE order to check the characters’ growth…Clara, Ruth and Myrna in particular…fascinating ladies all
Actually, I find that Gamache can be quite roughlesss at times. He is so well porteayed that everyone loves him, but I do not think I would want to be in his way to a good cause.
These notes are really nice to read. Excellent flashbacks to those of us who are pushing in to the last of the books.
There are so many times I found myself saying, “Aha!” THAT’s what (a previous book) foreshadowed and I’m amazed at how often “FINE” enters into my vocabulary, or the four questions or the Matthew verse pop into my head. I know these characters and I relate to them as I might neighbors-understanding where they come from and feeling the pain that brought each one to Three Pines for healing, or, at minimum, comfort and companionship. Ruth will never heal but occasionally the “cracks let in the light,” and you see something new. There was a movie made of the first book and the choice for Inspector Gamache was right on, but everyone else was much too pretty, handsome, or thin. Three Pines have real residents and their bodies reflect their journey. Myra should be, forgive the politically incorrectness, fat. She’s so beautiful inside with her treasure trove of books that she doesn’t have to look like a model. That’s how real people are. I’m 85 and proud of the wrinkles and laugh lines, even the rotundness of my once-skinny frame. I struggle to walk from time to time and not fall on people, but that’s OK. I have friends like Clara, Ruth, Myra, who understand totally and, praises be, a wonderful husband and partner. I’m going to try to start a book club based on these books. I’ve read them through twice and would love to have a “village” with which to share them.
What a lovely idea…a book club that “meets” regularly at the Bistro. I wonder if you and I live close enough to become members of the same club?
I love these books and have persuaded quite a few friends to try my favorite series and they love the books too. I always say to start with the first book and read them in order as part of the fun is how the characters change and grow.
Lol, my daughter in law is from Cambodia. She learned English from a young age and also speaks with a slight, but noticeable British accent.
Thoroughly enjoying these notes and of. Ourse, the whole Gamache series
This is wonderful. How did you come up with the idea! I suspect more authors will wake up to what a great idea this is.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on your writing and the characters. I do love Three Pines and would love to live there. I also like that you introduce us to real places, ur, the Monastery, that wonderful garden only open one day a year. I look up all of these places on my iPad. Keep writing, we love you.
There is no other series like the all-absorbing Gamache series. I read and re-read each one, never becoming bored with Gamache or Ruth, especially! She’s truly maddening but her character flaws keep everybody else grounded and human enough to want her to
just. shut. up. already!
Regarding the village, I saved this description: But Three Pines was a village forgotten. Time eddied and swirled and sometimes bumped into it, but never stayed long and never left much of an impression.
I also saved this one — Gamache is not the only one with an ego! : Beauvoir put his Italian leather jacket over his merino wool turtleneck and, scanning the results in the (side) mirror, noticed he was closer than he appeared.
My wife and I love your books. We love them so much that this fall we are going to Quebec and trying to visit all the locations you describe in your books.
Do you have a guide to places that you describe in your books, or through these annotations can you provide some specific locations? I know the hotel in “Rule against murder” is disclosed in your introduction and we plan to visit there. Looks beautiful on line.
Your books are a gift of imagination. Much more than just a detective story. Let us know some places that Gamache and team would go, and what location stimulated your images of Three Pines? Thanks
I love this and I love Three Pines and all its characters; both the blemished and the unblemished!