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.

Discussion on “The Bistro”

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.

I tried to order two viva Gamache mugs and at checkout it showed a total of $315.00. What am I doing wrong? Are the mugs available in the U.S.?

Anna, Miss Fisher’s Mysteries program last night was about Christmas in July. I had never heard of it and rushed to the internet to search. When “Christmas in July” is used here ( USA), it refers to “sales” or the gathering of items to be distributed to the underprivileged at Christmas. Of course we in the Southern USA don’t have white Christmases.

Sylvia I wasn’t trying to imply Olivia was mean, perish the thought, with my comment he would only serve gluten free if he liked you. It was this sudden image of Francouer coming in and wanting gluten free and Olivier exacting his revenge!!

Anna, I loved the way Olivier handled Francoeur! He’s a whole different case! Evil personified! I think I will always have an aversion to anyone whose first name is Sylvain because I will always think of the evil Francoeur.

Luckily, I’ve never met a Silvain – and of course, now, I hope I never do. I don’t think I could hide my feelings, hahaha.

Hello newcomers! It’s delightful to have you with us in The Bistro! We Three-Piners have had so much fun discussing these wonderful books and the growth in characters, etc. I hope you’ll enjoy it all as much as we do.

As far as gluten-free goes, I think that if someone needed gluten-free foods, Olivier would be happy to supply them. I don’t believe he would do so only if he liked you; I think he is a much better host than that! So don’t worry about gluten-free, Paxton, I’m sure it will be there for you!

Like Julie, I was a bit annoyed at Jean-Guy in the early days, but realizing how much he cared for and looked up to Armand, I came to love him too. And then in The Beautiful Mystery, things fell apart and then went from bad to worse in How the Light Gets In – until the last chapter. That was such a huge relief, I cried along with him and Armand as they watched Reine-Marie escort Annie down the aisle. We have all got so involved with the characters and what has happened to them that we have shed many tears at various places in the stories. They don’t seem fictional to me, but more like someone is telling me the latest happenings about mutual friends.

Mary, I believe there are many sweet villages like Three Pines in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Those states are mainly small towns and villages, like my beloved New Brunswick, Canada. I don’t know enough about any of them to say if they are really like Three Pines, but I think there’s a closeness among people in small towns and villages that doesn’t exist in big cities.

Does anyone know if when Louise started this series she knew the plot lines for her first 4 books? If this was asked and answered already I apologize. And is there a huge chart or map that keeps track of all the characters as they evolve? Agent Nichol certainly changes, and since Armand was to her home and met her father, why is she still so prickly?

Interesting questions Susan. We have pondered whether Louise knew. There are links somewhere to various interview she has given and I think she had an idea for her continuing arc but how much detail she had for various plot lines, I am not sure. I know this was discussed so others might remember more clearly.

I will try and find the links for you to the interviews.

I am not aware of a chart as you describe. Interestingly, there is a feature on some Kindle Books that is called X-ray that tells you about the characters. It doesn’t seem to be active on my copies of LPs books

Hi Susan, I think Yvette Nichol is prickly because that’s the way she has always been – a reaction to life at home, mainly, I think. She is still young enough to overcome it, however, and I believe Isabelle Lacoste could help her to do so. Isabelle has the patience needed for such a task, and she’ll need every bit of it with Yvette. At the same time, Yvette may work much better with a woman.

Susan, I was lucky enough to be able to see Louise speak here in the Seattle area, and someone asked how far ahead she had planned things, especially as pertaining to the Arnot case. She said that when she first started, she had researched quite a bit and found that prospective publishers want you to have not one, but at least two books written before they will consider publishing you (or, at least the ones she found out about). So she had worked out a lot of what would happen very early on, and then when the time came for another book, she could dip into her drawer and see what still had to be developed. She also said she left “clues” or “seeds” of new ideas for books in the current book, and she’d go back and develop one or some of those, and sometimes, she found she’d left a seed, but couldn’t find a way to develop it so it was left to wither and die… But the story arc for the Arnot case, I believe, was fully developed by the third book, and she just had to write the stories around it. That’s to the best of my recollection, so if I’ve got it wrong, of course, please don’t shoot me, hahaha.

At the suggestion of my wife, who has read every book, I started reading the Gamache series late last year in the order published. While I am a “newbie” and have a lot of catching up to do, I am thoroughly enjoying each mystery. The reason? I like the writing style of authors who paint vivid pictures of characters and settings that in my mind’s eye feel as familiar as my family and neighbourhood. I love the twists and turns, character personalities, descriptions of the settings, and how several themes are woven together to solve the mystery. I enjoy reading Halifax author Anne Emery’s Collins-Burke mysteries so reading the stories by Louise Penny perfectly expands my page-turning reading enjoyment. And now, on to Bury Your Dead – appropriate for Halloween!

Hi Michael. I think you cite most of the exact same reasons so many of us love Louise’s books.

I haven’t heard of the series you mention. I will have to have a look. We were discussing what other books we could read while waiting for our next hit of LP.

I envy you, as you are still exploring the Gamache series for the first time. Bury Your Dead was my entry into the series. It is a favourite.

Just a word of warning, careful what you read here as there is an assumption all books have been read and we don’t want to spoil anything for you. It’s a great journey you are on!

Julie, Words that sound like what they mean are wonderful. “Popinjay” is certainly one and very appropriate for Beauvoir’s manner of dressing in the earlier books. I do love words.

Brilliant word Barbara.

So nice to see new faces, figuratively of course. While so much was discussed in the re reads, if anyone did not see them I am sure we are more than happy to go over any ground. After all, those who did have had time to think and digest and new insights are always being generated.

As Barbara said, all opinions are welcome. Many people found the last book a departure from form for several characters. That was challenging for some and exciting for others. We had become so used to our Three Pine friends. Did we type cast them?

Characters that are so well drawn and engaging become our friends and we do depend on them doing certain things. Which is not to say that they can’t grow and change and surprise us. How often have real life friends caused you dissonance when their behaviour did not match your expectations?

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