The Annotated Three Pines – The Nature of the Beast

From Pg. 30
“Partly, but I run a bookstore,” said Myrna, looking at the row upon row of books, lining the walls and creating corridors in the open space. “So many of them were banned and burned. That one,” she pointed to the Fahrenheit 451 Clara still had in her hands. “To Kill a Mockingbird. The Adventures of Huck Finn. Even The Diary of Anne Frank. All banned by people who believed they were in the right. Could we be wrong?”
“You’re not banning it,” said Clara. “He’s allowed to write and you’re allowed to pull your support.”

Louise’s Thoughts:
Ongoing questions, uncomfortable questions I struggle with but always seem to clear to others, of where the line is. What is taking a strong stand, and what is violating the rights of others? People I disagree with. People whose opinions I vehemently disagree with and even believe might be dangerous? When is it ok to cross the line between vocally disagreeing, and censoring? Mark Twain once said, “Your right to swing your fist ends where my face begins”. This seems like a reasonable and clear definition of the limit of rights. But – we all have different sensitivities. Where something might hurt me, it might not hurt someone else. My “face” perhaps should not be the deciding factor. (Clearly here, I’m not talking about physical abuse, where a fist in the face is not debatable.)

From Pg. 34
If anyone believed in second chances, it was the man who sat before her. She’d been his friend and his unofficial therapist. She’d heard his deepest secrets, and she’d heard his most profound beliefs, and his greatest fears. But now she wondered if she’d really heard them all. And she wondered what demons might be nesting deep inside this man, who specialized in murder.

Louise’s Thoughts:
I love writing the scenes between Armand and Myrna. Their conversations about the human condition, about what drives people to do what they do. Their mutual respect, and complete trust.

From Pg. 53
This isn’t our parents’ generation, Armand. Now people have many chapters to their lives. When I stopped being a therapist I asked myself one question. What do I really want to do? Not for my friends, not for my family. Not for perfect strangers. But for me. Finally. It was my turn, my time.

Louise’s Thoughts:
Now this is a question that, on the surface, should be easy for a person in late middle-age to answer. What do I really want? What gives me pleasure. And yet, I’ve found it’s surprisingly difficult to answer. We’re just so imbued with the expectations of others. Of parents, of teachers, of neighbours, of the broader society. The start of this realization came shortly after I met Michael. We were at the Montreal Symphony, using his season tickets. As we left he turned to me and said, “I don’t think I like going to the symphony.” He went on to say that he’d sat there and realized his parents had taken him, then his first wife had taken him, and he’d never asked the question….what does he want? He was 61 years old at the time, and I was astonished. Then I began questioning my choices, as an adult, and realized how much of it was driven by what others told me I should be doing. What do you want? Hmmmm.

From Pg. 136
But suspicion was inevitable and often turned out to be true. People were almost always killed by someone they knew, and knew well, which compounded the tragedy and was probably why, Gamache thought, so many murder victims did not look frightened. They looked surprised.

Louise’s Thoughts:
One of the challenges of writing the books and, as it turns out, the great pleasures, is getting inside Gamache’s head. Seeing what he sees. Feeling what he feels, or imagining it anyway. What has been his experience? Trying to imagine years and years of investigating murders, investigating people.

From Pg. 168
Clara knew that grief took a terrible toll. It was paid at every birthday, every holiday, each Christmas. It was paid when glimpsing the familiar handwriting, or a hat, or a balled-up sock. Or hearing a creak that could have been, should have been, a footstep. Grief took its toll each morning, each evening, every noon hour as those who were left behind struggled forward.

Louise’s Thoughts:
I wrote this passage, this book, as Michael slipped further and further into dementia. As horrific as that was, there was also some comfort in knowing this pain brought us closer to others. That far from being alone, we were among the majority of people, who’d lost ones they loved. And lived in grief. I was, and am, so lucky on so many levels, including being able to turn that grief into a book. Rather than just writing from the head, I can write from the very core.

Discussion on “The Annotated Three Pines – The Nature of the Beast

  1. Lynne Dillon says:

    I recently saw a tee shirt that had a open ended heart on it. Printed in the middle was “grief… is love unfinished”.
    This resonates with me… I’ve lost many people in my life incluing both parents and an adult daughter. The love remains.

    • Carol Snyder says:

      ” Grief… love unfinished.” This spoke directly to my heart, we lost our youngest son less than a year ago to melanoma that has spread to his brain, bone and internal organs. It was his 3rd time and he didn’t respond to any treatment that was tried. He was only 54. Yes, our grief is surely love unfinished.

    • Candace Sbeglia says:

      I love this comment. Thank you for sharing.

    • Kay says:

      Amen to that. My adult daughter was an occupational therapist. She was murdered when she stayed late at the school where she worked. Unbelievable even now 19 years later. I have found a way to live on but Carolyn is always wit me in my heart. We all have stories.

    • Maria Curtis says:


    • Carmen Fraenkel says:

      True words. Love unfinished. Twenty years, still grieving, still loving…until I too am gone. Thanks for your insight.

  2. Diane Brokenshire says:

    As always, Louise’s words resonate deeply. Such eloquence. I love revisiting parts of her books read and loved. I confess….I highlight and turn corners down on passages I want to revisit. They will never leave my shelves anyway and when they do whoever reads them will have a little insight to what the passages that stayed with me.

  3. Maradel sager says:

    Thank you for your thoughts on the subject of grief, loss, and your deep regard and very obvious love for your dear husband Michael.

  4. Holly says:

    As someone who worked in, was educated in, and loves the woods I’ve been in search and rescues. One I remember vividly was a downed plane in the high mountains of the Adirondacks in NY.
    We searched constantly for ages. Felt we covered every square inch. Nothing.
    Many months later the plane and its victims were found by accident. Right where we had searched. A glint in the sun had alerted the person that found it.
    The woods hide many secrets. Some lovely and magical. Others evil and horrifying. But they are my life…

  5. Alice Briggs says:

    The conversations between Armand and Myrna, Clara’s grief, the evolution of Jean Guy, the internal musings of various characters ~ these are the elements that give your art of storytelling such depth. The intricacies of the whodunnit are skillful, yet your attention to the motivation of characters gives us so much more to enjoy!

    • Jo W. says:

      well said-I believe Louise Penny is very insightful and her books carry much that we all should consider as we move forward on our life path

  6. Gayle says:

    For many decades, I read the books that I was told were good or were good for me. I listened to reviews and discussed books with friends and family. The Gamache series is the first time in my life that I have chosen a book series on my own after reading Glass Houses (a randomly available hard copy). Thank you, Louise, for enriching my life!

    • Sandy says:

      I too read Glass Houses first, after a friend recommended it to me. I was hooked immediately. Every character developed so fully. I found I needed to know more about Gamache. So I started at the beginning. I have never been disappointed. Waiting with baited breath for Aug 27th and A Better Man.

  7. Joy says:

    This book is one of my favorites…so thought provoking, just the right amount of intensity, intriguing historical references, and most of all, lots of character growth. It was great to spend a full book in Three Pines, and to learn more about our favorite people. There are some poignant scenes between Gamache and Beauvoir that demonstrate how close they have become, and a couple passages that staggered me with the skill with which they were written.

  8. Pat Sweeney says:

    Zeroing in on the what do I want section, i thank you for it. I’ll be 71 in Sept and during just this last year have been trying hard to train myself to knowing it is now ok to do what pleases me for me. Not what my parents told me and not what my grown children tell me I should be doing. It’s never too late to trust in yourself.

  9. This annotated series is rich, revealing, and evocative. Yet part of my pleasure is situated in reading what other readers write about their personal responses both to the books and to the annotations. Many layers to absorb and think on.

  10. Karen I Ford says:

    This was a tough book to read because it hit me on many levels. It always amazes me the insight Louise gives us in these annotations.

  11. Karen Nelson says:

    Writing from your very core. It resonates and gives value.

  12. Sybil Nassau says:

    The loss of both parents to Alzheimers in the 90s and a husband to a brain tumor (originally thought to be dementia- I knew better) , this book especially resonated with me the most. Like others, I often dog ear pages to read again, paragraphs to read out loud and characters to cherish like old friends. Each book is a treasure, a story waiting to unfold and reveal even more about the people who inhabit Three Pines- which of of course represents small towns everywhere. Bless you and may the Almighty keep you safe and your eloquent prose continue.

  13. Kirsten Norris says:

    You write from your heart, Louise. With wonderful eloquence. It shines like a thread through the words in your books.

  14. Wendy Loker says:

    I believe that Love is not lost or unfinished, it is simply transformed into a spiritual relationship that is eternal. Bodies are finite, love is everlasting.

    • Carol Galat says:

      Beautifully said, Wendy. We, the people, have been through our share of losses, and yet our love for those lost remains intact, as long as we shall live. Some of us still feel a spiritual connection, if we are fortunate.

  15. Mary Sue Timar says:

    This was the first book I read about Chief Inspector Gamache, Jean-Louis, Three Pines. I never looked back! I
    Immediately looked up the series and purchased the other books by Louise that were available. It’s been a match made in heaven ever since! I have learned so much about
    French Canadian culture. Louise you are a treasure. Less
    Than one month until “A Better Man” or Christmas in August!

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