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. Barbara Baltz says:

    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.

  2. Millie says:

    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.

  3. Dermod Wood says:

    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.

  4. 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?

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