The Bistro

The Bistro

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Join us here in The Bistro for a discussion on the entire Gamache series. Feel free to ask or answer any questions about any of the books or the series as a whole.

3,656 replies on “The Bistro”

The Bistro is a very quiet place tonight. Good thing Olivier has his villagers! If he had to rely on us to make a living, he would have to close up shop!! But we’ll assume all our village friends are there chatting away about their day. I always come in to visit in the late evening. Then I go to my favourite chair and keep on reading the book I’m into at the moment. It’s called “Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint” by Nadia Bolz-Weber, who is a highly unconventional Lutheran pastor. She is so down-to-earth and real. She’s more comfortable with the street people, the outcast, the marginalized. She writes wonderfully and makes me laugh a lot and also cry a lot.

Sylvia, the Big O is still in use but I live in the west end of Montreal (NDG) and haven’t been to the Big O for years. My husband used to go through the Ville Marie Tunnel to the east end to his work place but is retired now so it’s only occasional trips. Yes, the Bistro is quiet tonight. About the poetry, Louise named another book by an author now deceased but I can’t remember the name of it and don’t know where to look for the reference. It was discussed in the re-read.
Just finished reading Missing in Action (John D Harvie) by a Navigator from Westmount who was a POW during WWII. Am also re-reading A Secret Gift..How One Man’s Kindness–and a Trove of Letters–Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression by Ted Gup. Wish I could get into Myrna’s bookstore at this point. I’d love to browse.

Yes, wouldn’t it be fun!!

I’m glad the Big O is still in use. I was also struck by how close to life all that was. I know the construction industry has been very corrupt for years, particularly when any government money (i.e. taxpayers’ money) is involved. It made me think of the Sponsorship Scandal, which was pretty much the same kind of thing, money given but work not done. Then there have been more recent scandals along the same lines, involving the Quebec government, but I didn’t hear any details here in the Maritimes. Sometimes when Louise writes about something that real and close to home, I wonder if she might endanger herself. Fortunately it’s all fictional, not as if she were writing a non-fiction article, but organized crime might not care about the difference. I found it very chilling!

Corruption. If tax money were spent properly, our countries would be able to achive so much more. I didn’t know that Canada had the problem, too. It is well known that it is rampant in the US.

Barbara, that sort of corruption is worse in some places than others. Unfortunately, Quebec seems to be cursed with it the worst. However, there may well be a whole lot going on right under my nose that I know nothing about!

Nancy, what was going on that someone was trying to pin on the premier, Jean Charest? In How the Light Gets In, when they found the premier pulling the strings in the background, it didn’t surprise me nearly as much as it did the characters. Armand was shocked – it is shocking, but not surprising. I went to live in the province of Quebec in 1952 and left in 1967, living in Sherbrooke, Montreal and Chateauguay during those years. But there’s all kinds of different scandals going on in the Ontario government, which my daughter has told me about. It’s just that the kind of construction fraud seems particularly prevalent in Quebec. Does that seem a fair assessment, Nancy?

Barbara and Nancy, in today’s paper there was an article about the findings of a commission into corruption in the construction industry in Quebec. It was headed by a judge named France Charbonneau and the headline quoted her saying “Quebecers must work together to root out corruption.” That, of course, is a lot easier said than done, especially when the Mafia is involved, as it clearly is. But the issue of cracks in the Ville Marie Tunnel and in the Champlain Bridge in How the Light Gets In was very close to the truth. It wouldn’t surprise me if some involved would kill to keep the public from finding out, but it was really scary to think the Surete would be involved. That book was very disturbing, no wonder with all that happened to our beloved Armand and Jean Guy that we were an emotional wreck by the end! Then the last chapter brought such joy! I think it was incredibly brave of Louise to write about the corruption and make such a case for it going all the way to the Premier. It reminded me of the Watergate Scandal, which in the end went all the way to the President. It makes you wonder how much more wickedness is going on undiscovered!

The poetry in Louise’s books has always appealed to me, and I was very interested when she revealed in the acknowledgements section that many of them came from Margaret Atwood. She named the book, Morning in the Burnt House. I bought it and read it and enjoyed the poems there, some of which I recognized, of course. But there’s one quote Louise uses a lot, more in some books than others, that I can’t trace. It is “Who hurt you once, so far beyond repair, that you greet each overture with curling lip?” Once or twice there’s another part to it, “Then shall forgiver and forgiven meet, or will it be, as always was, too late?” I have always wondered that about Ruth. The quote sounds like Margaret Atwood’s style, but I couldn’t find it in Morning in the Burnt House, so I assume it comes from another of her poetry books. Up until I found out about this particular book, I didn’t know she wrote poetry. But I would like to track down that quote. I tried Googling it, but nothing came up.

Today I read something in our daily paper that brought back horrifying memories! They are building a new bridge in Montreal to replace the aging Champlain Bridge. They were trying to decide what to name the new bridge – someone had suggested they name it after the great hockey star, Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, but apparently his family has asked them not to use his name. But the whole issue of crumbling infrastructure is a huge one in this country generally and I couldn’t help thinking of the corruption over it in How the Light Gets In, and the plot to blow up the Champlain Bridge. It gave me shudders!

I agree Sylvia. The first thing I thought of when reading How The Light Gets In was how close it was to real life. The tunnels downtown always look like they need help. That was also part of HTLGI (isn’t it part of the first chapter?).

Yes, Nancy, when Audrey is driving through the Ville Marie Tunnel on her way to work, she sees all the cracks and spaces and it looks like it might collapse at any moment. I heard that there were cracks in the Big O – the Olympic Stadium – and I have been expecting it to collapse ever since 1976! Somehow it still stands, but I don’t know how much it is used nowadays, as I don’t live in Quebec.

While thinking about politics and Three Pines, I realized we have no mention of barbershops, Beauty Salons, Doctors or dentists, auto repair shops, florist shops or gasoline stations. Does everyone drive to another town for these services ? Maybe I don’t remember and something has been mentioned. Do smaller rural communities have bus service to a town ? I sound like I really am moving there.
Another thought is how does an author decides what amenities to include ?
I just remembered the rush to the Hospital when the 3 ladies had been out on the ice and the man driving was saying all those words we had to decipher. So funny! Remembering names is not my strong suit.
Ok, enough of my musings, Hope everyone has a good day.
Hope you are healing, Millie.
Anna, Good thoughts to you and your Mother.

Barbara, in the early books, two small towns or large villages are mentioned, Williamsburg and St. Remi, and they seem to have various amenities. They are very close to Three Pines, but I’m not sure if they are real or fictional (they serve their purpose either way), and also in A Trick of the Light, Peter and Olivier go to Knowlton for newspapers to get the reviews of Clara’s vernissage. That’s a real town, I know. So although there aren’t many amenities like barbers, hairdressers, doctors, etc. in Three Pines, they are not very far away. I forget where the hospital was, but I’ll find out when I re-read. I didn’t come into the re-reads until The Murder Stone (or A Rule Against Murder), so I haven’t yet re-read the earlier books. There usually aren’t buses between towns and villages because populations are small and it isn’t a paying proposition to have intertown transportation.

Thank you for the kind thoughts Barbara.

I was thinking about all your questions. I just assumed that the Three Piners travelled for many services and shops, that would be fairly normal. It’s access to petrol that concerned me. Even some very small towns here have a petrol station, usually attached to another business such a shop, but not everywhere. I went through these thoughts with my book. I have a petrol station in my town, but I am not sure I have mentioned it in the novel. Maybe in the sequel!

I imagine they would get gasoline in St. Remi or Williamsburg. That’s one of those funny little word things we were talking about a while ago and if books needed to have words changed for other countries than the one they were written in. Here we never use the word “petrol”, but it’s “gasoline” we put in our cars, shortened to “gas”. “Petrol” is used in Britain. In small places, gas stations are being closed because they really aren’t viable.

Just heard tonight on the six o’clock news that the Republicans gained a majority in the Senate, so now they control both houses. This will make life difficult and more stressful for President Obama. He’s probably glad he has only two years to go!

I just posted without intending to. Before and after the meeting today, Sam and I and some friends had interesting discussions on politics and American History. Yesterday was election day for many local and state offices. US Representatives and Senators were elected also. Maybe we will have a little rest from the endless phone calls and TV ads for those running. All of this is to say I don’t know more than the very basics about government in Canada or Australia. I do know more about the election process in England. Has there ever been any mention of the local gov. in Three Pines? If so, my memory fails me.

Only that Ruth is Fire Chief, as far as I can remember!
In Canada, we have a parliament, like in England, but instead of the House of Lords, our upper house is the Senate. Some parties want to abolish it. At this point, our Senate is appointed, not elected. There’s much less of the two houses being controlled by different parties, but it can happen. Our lower house is called the House of Commons. We have more than two political parties, so we can sometimes have a minority government and it may not last four years. The provinces all have a legislature, just one house. The Senate is only in the federal Parliament in Ottawa. The system is quite a bit different than the U.S. system.

Thanks, Sylvia. What a combination of English and US names for branches of government. I understand some people run for office for the prestige and power and some because they truly believe they can improve the nation. Very thick skin is surely a requirement. I can’t imagine what it must do to a child to read or hear a parent insulted and criticized.

Once a month, we attend a program at our Museum of History. This year they have all been on the Civil war in Georgia in 1864 and the impact on Augusta. The Union General, Sherman and his troops were in Ga. for almost half of that year. Then they turned into South Carolina and headed North. A Symposium on the War in 1864 will be held this weekend with meetings on Thurs. and Fri. nights and all day Sat. I have Attended the others starting in 2011 ( the War started in 1861) but I’m skipping this year. Don’t know if I’ll attend the last one next year or not. Today’s speaker said the Confederacy should have have surrendered during the siege of Atlanta and surely when Atlanta was lost. I agree completely. The outcome was fairly obvious by then I think.

Yes, thank you, Paul. I just voted too. I looked back to 2013 and noticed Louise’s How the Light Gets In got over 10,200 votes then, but it was fourth. The top books got well over 20,000 votes. All those other people are missing such gems! But the word gets out, as we tell our friends and she’ll be right up there! After all, they can’t ignore a New York Times best selling novelist!

Trying to vote but can’t remember my GoodReads password, and Yahoo email is weird today so my password reset message is unavailable right now. I’ll keep trying.

Really interesting post Cathryne. There is a lot of sleight of hand with writing, revealing just enough, not too much and employing a bit of distraction. But life is like that. How often have we been distracted by something and not noticed other events unfolding in front of us. It has happened to me. We move through the tunnel of our own lives and we have to be very careful to keep looking around to see what else is going on.
Subplots are good distractors as well. Get the reader thinking about one track while weaving another tale around another character or story.
I think Louise is a master of both. In Still Life there were a number of distractions to lead us away from the killer, or keep us note rested while the search for the killer progressed. These included Armand being willing to be suspended to avoid arresting the wrong person.

These are very interesting observations, Anna and Cathryne. I dive right in and miss all these sorts of things. I forget I’m reading a story, crafted by a writer. I just think I’m right there in the story. I haven’t learned how to be objective about Louise’s books, or any novel. I usually read non-fiction, which is an altogether different kind of writing. I had read so many books about Christianity, the church, the Christian life, etc. that I needed to “come up for air”! That’s when I started reading Peter Robinson’s novels, and then after I heard about Louise’s, hers. These discussions are helping me a lot to get a sense of the art of fiction writing. When I was a kid, I loved the books of Enid Blyton, and thought I wanted to be a writer. I tried once, and knew I had no idea how to create character. I’ve come to think that a person doesn’t so much choose to be a novelist as writing chooses them. It’s a kind of a calling.

I loved Enid Blyton too as a child.
I find it interesting to hear your perspective Sylvia. My daughter is working on literary analysis at the moment and don’t like that it doesn’t let her enjoy the story. It’s best if she reads the story for fun and then to analyse. I felt the same at school. I eventually discovered reading Pride and Prejudice that I understood it more when we analyzed it and then enjoyed it more.
I hope the reread helps you enjoy the books more.

Anna, I do plan to start again at the beginning and re-read them. I really believe I’ll see much more in them as I read, now that I’ve had the benefit of all the insights of this group of devotees.

Sylvia, like you I read lots of non-fiction. My husband jokes about me “coming up for air”. I love reading books on history, archaeology, Christianity and Judaism….especially when all 4 subjects are in one book. Light mysteries–little cozies are so different. Until the re-read, I loved LP’s books but missed much. They can not be read as a light “little mystery” book can. I loved the books and most of the characters but ready missed much.
Yes, I think the writer is “chosen”.

I’m wondering if L. P. was planting seeds for future books, as well as using magicians’ tricks to move our attention away from the important places when she introduced the “romantic” threads for Ruth and Clara. There is a level of discomfort in Ruth’s and Reine Marie’s behavior in Massey’s studio, both behaving uncharacteristically, with Ruth supposedly attracted to Massey and he to her. Then Clara is presented as possibly attracted to Chartrand and he to her. In each case, the men are rather endearingly portrayed, the women seem not themselves, the friends (Reine-Marie and Gamache and we the readers), uncomfortable, confused. We’re looking in all the wrong places. It’s not until close to the end that Ruth and Clara talk to Gamache about the reasons for their behavior with the two men.
Clara says: “If Marcel knew where Peter went and didn’t tell us, it’s because he wanted to keep us away from Tabaquen. . . He might be keeping an eye on us, but I’m watching him too. That’s why I wanted him with us.” (p. 307)
At the end, Gamache said to Ruth about Professor Massey: “But you were afraid of him. . .You saw something in him that scared you. That’s why you were so nice to him. Jean-Guy caught on. We all assumed you were nice because you liked him, but Jean-Guy said you probably hated him.”
“I didn’t hate him,” said Ruth.
“But J-G was right, wasn’t he? You might not have hated him, but there was fear there. Otherwise why say, ‘noli temere?’ Be not afraid.”
“That blank canvas on his easel was one of the saddest things I’ve seen,” said Ruth. “An artist who’s lost his way. It builds up. Eats away at you. . . Professor Massey was nothing. Empty. Like the canvas. I found that terrifying.” (P. 372)

L.P. was so effective in pulling our eyes away from where and whom we needed to look to solve the mystery.

I think that L.P. led the reader astray by showing uncharacteristical behavior on the part of both Clara and Ruth in other areas besides the “romantic” confusions, like when Clara overreacted to Gamache offering help early in the book, saying something about G. not wanting her to worry “her pretty little head.” She sounded shrill and unfair, setting us up to not know when to trust her.

Amazingly done, I didn’t know who to trust when!

Hey Barabara. I agree about the multicultural nature of the world. I think if you looked at our planet and humans from out of space you would wonder why we have so much trouble getting on. An alien would shake their head and say, but aren’t you all the same species?? I know you come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours, but so do roses! Seriously people get it together. I think the alien would be right!

I read on LPs facebook that the next book is progressing. She is fiddling with the order of events and what happens where. It is very exciting to read an author I love going through the process as it happens. I can’t say I haven’t seen that before. Yes I read books written about writing by authors, like Elizabeth George but it’s not the same active partaking of a book in development.

By the way Sylvia, Elizabeth George writes a series for young adults set on the island of Washington where she lives. I have read the first two, bought them for my daughter.

For some interesting thoughts on the human condition as seen and contemplated from outer space, I recommend our beloved astronaut, Chris Hadfield’s book “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” and also his most recent “You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes”, which is a book of photos he took from the space station. He was the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station. Seeing our beautiful planet from outer space must be a very humbling experience!

Hi Sylvia and Julie. Thank you. It is true I have been lucky but I do thank the Gamache re read so you have all played a part. Thank you too Paul.

I think immersion in Louise’s writing and the benefit of the wonderful analysis here was both instructive and encouraging. E en when we are being critical it is done with kindness and that helped witht the paralyzingly fear of, what if my story is awful.

I am glad you have new books to read Sylvia, always a good moment. Thank you for thinking of Mum!

I am yet to restart my read of book 1 but will after work.

I have a problem. Having finished my first book, I have started the sequel. I have discovered the difficult of having ongoing characters and a new storyline and I can’t ignore what happened to them so recently, yet I can’t give away what went on in the first book in case a reader read this one as a starting point!
My respect for Louise grows every day!

Congratulations, Anna!! What an achievement! You now understand in a personal way the dilemmas and pitfalls of the writing life. I can understand your growing respect for Louise! Someone, was it you?, recommended a book by Elizabeth George called Write Away about the work of writing. I ordered it and it has just come, so I’m looking forward to getting into it and getting her insights. When I went looking on Amazon for it, I found Elizabeth George writes mystery novels, but also Christian books for young people. She has a huge number of them published.

Also I just got my latest Peter Robinson – called Abatoir Blues. I have a document I have to read and study first, so I didn’t dare take the new book out of its box! It’s good to have things to look forward to!

All the very best, Anna, with your writing and with your Mom.

Wow, Anna – that’s wonderful! Good problem to have, really! So many poor writers are stuck just looking at a blank page, not able to start the first one! Good for you.

Thanks Anna and Sylvia. After deep thinking about culture changes, suddenly The obvious came to mind. Yes, I do understand. Spanish speakers are so common in our area now. For the last decade or more Spanish classes have been offered at the public libraries and by Senior Organizations. Stores carry many items from clothing to food to celebratory decorations. The Hispanic Festival was held in Oct or Sept here. Spanish is often heard in public. We have always been accustomed to non-Americans ( in small numbers ) as we have Ft. Gordon just outside of town.
Muslim women and Indian women are seen in grocery stores. The Indian women wear beautiful Saris. The Muslim women are accompanied by husbands or young sons who seem to nod at the items before they are placed in the shopping cart. Both groups are here mainly because of the medical school and research center. There are many physicians, both Muslim and Indian in our area. My own gynecologist is from Uganda and is Muslim.
The Muslims and Indians haven’t had much influence on our over our local culture except that the schools agreed to allow the Muslim girls to wear head coverings. Male Hindu students may also keep their head covered.
Hispanic, Muslim and Hindi are featured in many TV shows and we have one Spanish speaking channel.
Amazing world isn’t it.

Yes, Barbara, it is amazing. It’s becoming more and more a global village in some ways, and yet there are these huge divisions among peoples, nations, races and religions that tear us apart. We are, after all, living our lives on this planet, and there should be a unity among us – we are all in this together!

Kathy, I had the same kind of problem the first time I tried to order Vive Gamache mugs; the total was way, way too high. All I can say is that when I tried again another day, all went well.

Our TV programs were predominately from Britain and the USA so it was probably more obvious to us. I don’t know how many shows from here, Africa, and South America make it on to Northern Hemisphere TV but I don’t think they would have been dominant enough to effect a culture shift. A couple of our long running soap operas are popular in the UK. I am not sure that has depicted life here any more accurately though!
It does mean we have absorb some culture knowledge of other places. Hence the growing popularity of Halloween here in the last few years. The controversy often comes from push back at the alteration of ‘our culture’ by imported customs. I put ‘our culture’ in commas because of course it has always been imported and blended for the population that isn’t indigenous. European time on this continent is but the blink of an eye compared to civilization in Europe itself.

In Canada, we have always been under the influence of either British culture or American culture, but more and more American culture, as the US is the “giant” to our south. For a long time we struggled to identify our own identity and suffered from a national inferiority complex. Gradually, though, we are beginning to see ourselves as not only unique, but also worthy and capable of making a significant contribution to various aspects of life in the world. We are only 147 years old as a nation, so a sense of nationhood and self-worth takes time. There have been many things that have contributed to it, and I think to some extent our success in various endeavours still surprises us!

I think you highlight some of the great similarities between Australia and Canada Sylvia. Young nations trying to find their way under the influence of two older and more powerful countries. We are both large, relatively sparsely populated nations that struggle with the difficulties of distance and isolation that produces. Australia was very nearly also a French settlement!
We watch a few Canadian produced shows. Murdoch Mysteries and Flashpoint for example.

Christmas in July is just a way to have the kind of Christmas we have seen by being bought up on northern Hemisphere TV. It’s great to have a fire, hot food and all the trimmings. Mind you, even in the heart of July, much of Australia is too hot to contemplate such things, like the Southern US.
Erin went trick or treating. It was a subdued affair as not too many people have treats but they had fun. Thank goodness actually, any more sugar and I would still be hauling her down off the ceiling. I know some people say sugar doesn’t affect kids but to Erin it’s the only powder she is ever going to need to get high!

You make me think, Anna. I have never thought of the TV I’m accustomed to as Northern Hemisphere TV. I think of TV shows by nationality not hemisphere. Duh! To be truthful I feel that I have just stumbled upon a giant flaw in myself. Sure, I’ve known about our seasons being opposite since 2nd or 3rd grade, but did not ever think of the influence of one hemisphere on the culture or ideas of the other. I may not be as “aware” of the world as I thought. Thank you for expressing your answer as you did. I can’t think of the English expression I need right now, so I’ll just say I’m speechless.

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