The Annotated Three Pines – The Cruelest Month

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.

Louise’s Thoughts:
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.

Louise’s Thoughts:
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.’

Louise’s Thoughts:
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.

Louise’s Thoughts:
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.’

Louise’s Thoughts:
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

  1. Jo says:

    really enjoy your thoughts on the book quotes- adds a new dimension to the story of Gamache , etal) and insight into the evolution of the characters

  2. Donna Jones says:

    It gives me chills to hear you say you wondered in what direction Jean Guy would develop. Are the character’s personalities in your mind as you write or as you write do they present themselves? Either way, Lord to have that ability!

  3. Harriett Marsh says:

    Glad Idiscovered these quotes and the notes that follow. Just one more reason I love the Gamache series which is permeated with Louise Penny’s genius and humanity.

  4. Beverley Freberg says:

    I came upon your books late in Oct. 2018 on a Lisa Ball Cruise to the Maritimes..I first read Bury your Dead because someone said it was about the history of Quebec cousin in Calgary said start at the very beginning..since then I have read the first 11, starting #12 tonight and oh do I ever learn so much from your our post Cruise travels, we drove thru the Eastern Townships in the midst of your exquisite fall colors…I saw “Three Pines” amongst those villages as we drove thru and I swear I saw Ruth and her duck!!! Meeting you in KC at the Rainy Day Books event was great fun..I’m the Saskatoon gal living in KC and I love reliving your fabulous books in this annotated the poetry!

  5. AlenaJoGleason says:

    I enjoy reading your thoughts about your writings. Looking forward to August when you new novel comes out.

  6. I understand that the seance had to be to lead into the plot of the story but I was surprised that a community that seems serious and good hearted could find nothing better to do on Good Friday but plan an egg hunt, is this why they seem to be led so easily into believing in the occult rituals and spirits lurking in an old house. I think I must be another Ruth Zardo, without the talent for poetry.

  7. Ann Holtzclaw says:

    It’s hard to explain how attached I’ve become to the Three Pines characters but there it is. And such a treasure of emotions in each one.

  8. Bonnie Rick says:

    I found these notes to be much like your reflection on not having read the village description in years… They brought out little in the way of memories or emotions. I had forgotten the seance and holidays. Perhaps I need to re-read this book to reconnect with the story.

  9. Carole Morain says:

    When you started this series, I started re-reading (listening) to the books in order. This one speaks, “Ruth” to me. She is one of my favorites. I love all of the character development, though.

  10. Susan Linkhorn says:

    Great idea to revisit your books & characters. Thank you, Louise!

  11. Ruth Puckett says:

    This is a really inspired idea! I am enjoying this so much.

  12. Isabelle Leoszko says:

    Thanks so much for your books and thoughts. Reading them is really a great help .

  13. Sandy Stone says:

    Nothing is more beautiful than spring in the Great North. Calls to mind Tobert Frost -“Nature’s first Green is gold.” Literally

  14. Paula Mooty says:

    I love the take on your writings-looking back on a published piece sometimes gives one a glimpse into the frame of mind at the writing which is different in the present. I do love Ruth and can see that time is softening her which, to me, is an indication of beginning to see the “light”. Let’s keep her around for a while longer,

  15. Janet Patterson says:

    I love this and I love Three Pines and all its characters; both the blemished and the unblemished!

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