LOUISE PENNY’S

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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”

Hope. How true. And kindness. I think too many novels echo what is seen in the news. Some warped perception that only the ‘bad’ things going on in the world are what interests people – shootings, upheaval, bombings… I no longer watch the news because I try to hold firmly to my belief that ‘I live in a safe universe.’

My challenge with my own writing is how to balance ‘story is conflict’ with my belief that ‘life and people are instrinsically good’. Thank you for giving me some clarity that it is hope that tips the balance to what keeps us keeping on.

Millie, the conflict in my story is essentially an internal battle about what is right and wrong, good and bad. Any challenge for your character is ok. It could be overcoming illness or unforeseen adversity. Good people have all kinds of challenges as you well know! How are the ribs??

And hope. LP novels are full of hope. I just read a newspaper column about why young adult fiction was so successful and it decried the dense angst in a lot of adult literary fiction that focusses on when life isn’t what you thought it would be. Life rarely is. Clara and Jean Guy might be examples here. But a lot of adult literature ends up like the Morrows, bitter and devoid of a happy centre. LP discusses deep issues but there is always lightness and hope in there too.

One could view the Village Green as a symbol of that happy center! In one of the videos I saw of LP being interviewed, the moderator discussed that ‘world building’ was becoming popular. Books where the author created a ‘world’ – be it in outer space, the past or Three Pines – provide an escape from ‘reality’ which indeed can be filled with Morrow’s…

I am sure you are right Millie. We swear our dog speaks English. She definitely communicates a lot. Our dog turns in a circle to say yes if you ask her a question. If the answer is no then she just keeps looking at you until you work out what she wants….to go out, to be let through a door, to have a treat! My daughter can’t get over how much she loves her and is loved back. Poor Bella, the dog, is a bit worried about Mum I think. She slept on her bed for days when she left!

Depth of feeling…..spot on Millie!

Anna, sometimes they have the most amazing expressions on their faces, don’t they! When the answer to your question is no, that stare speaks volumes! As in, “What a stupid question!” or “What on earth would make you think I wanted that!” or “Keep on trying – you might get it right eventually!” or “Oh, these humans – how can they be so dense!”

You know my dog! Well, my daughter’s. Exactly right. I almost hear Bella talking like Ruth in a disparaging way when we can’t immediately work out what she wants.

Glad you made me laugh with that Sylvia because your other post made me cry. So sorry for all your losses. Big hugs and love. You weren’t a murderer, quite the opposite and unbelievably brave, but I totally get how you felt.

Thank you, Anna, for your kind words. Kindness is a strong aspect of our relationships here in The Bistro, isn’t it!

I’m so sorry your mother had a fall and broke ribs. It adds more to your burden of anxiety. Is she now in the other dementia unit that you told us about? And is she finding it any more likeable than the first place? It must be so scary for her!

Yes she is in the dementia unit but it is a struggle. She doesn’t want to be there. I know she is getting good care though. It wasn’t their fault she fell. She has fallen at home when I was out of the room for a couple of minutes. I don’t want her tied to a chair, which wouldn’t happen, I just mean she has to be able to do things. She has a walker and they are watching her like hawks but she isn’t the only patient.

See if the care facility will let you bring Bella for visits. Many do and it might help both your Mum and Bella (and you).

My husband and I take our two Shih Tzus on regular visits to assisted care facilities, nursing homes and reading programs for children at the library.

It’s so amazing the joy and delight we receive from those we visit. It’s rare indeed for us to not be greeted with affection and smiles.

They do Linda and we have taken Bella in there. Dogs are so sensitive to the needs of others. She jumped up on Nanny’s lap and gave her big cuddles. She also didn’t bark once at anyone. She normally does just to say hi but I don’t think she wanted to scare anyone.

Good question. I’m sure there are many, many ways LP manages her unique form of magic. But there is one scene that included something that broke all rules of ‘point of view narration’ but I adored nonetheless. During the Friday evening gathering at ‘Emily’s house’ (the now Gamache home) we get a glimpse into Henri’s ‘thoughts’. How much he missed Emily and how he slowly he learned that although he would always love Emily, he was loved by the Gamache’s now and life would go on…
How many of us who have loved a dog for a long number of years hasn’t heard a specific sound or noticed our dog do a specific movement and somehow we ‘knew’ what our beloved pet wanted or needed? A few tears are trickling down my cheeks writing this. I lost my ‘Baby’ a few years ago to old age. She was a rescue, like Henri but 7 years old when she entered my life. She had puppies and those were adopted quickly. But no one wanted the mama – I didn’t have the energy for puppies – perfect match. Best trained dog one could imagine. My husband would laugh that I would ‘speak’ for her. “Dad, rub my belly, please.” Lol.
For me, at least, it’s tiny little details like this that gives LP’s writing an added, if untraditional, depth of feeling. We may not notice them consciously during a first read through, but I’m sure subconsciously they resonate places within our heart.

Millie, I loved that scene so much! I was thinking about it and couldn’t remember just where it was, so I hunted for it and found it. I know it’s putting thoughts and words into a dog’s head, but I think very believable. Over twelve years ago now, my second husband died suddenly of a heart attack. We were in bed and it was just as the clock radio came on. Lady (a tri-colour Sheltie) was in the room with us, when it happened. In my human defense system, I assumed that whatever was wrong with my husband would be put to rights once the paramedics got there because they would know what they were doing. Even when they didn’t have any more success at bringing him round than I did and took him to the hospital, I still assumed the doctors and nurses there would make him all right! This even though I had seen the monitor set up on the bed, which showed the flat line. It didn’t get through to me that he had died until the doctor came to me at the hospital and said “I did everything I could. I’m so sorry!” Those last three words got through and I answered, “You’re telling me he’s dead!” and she said “Yes”. But as I was getting ready to go to the hospital, I put Lady in her cage and gave her a treat as usual. She was behaving in an unusual way, didn’t want to go into the cage – I had to pick her up and put her in – and then she wouldn’t take the treat. From then on, I could see that she knew perfectly well what had happened and was grieving for my husband. So Henri’s thoughts seemed very real to me. It took Lady a long time to be at peace. Our marriage was a second one for both of us, and I already had Lady before we were married, but Lady adored my husband. I used to tease him that I had lost my dog! But after his death, she knew I was grieving too, and she and I bonded again. We were pretty close until that awful day when she got sick at almost 13 years of age, and I had to make that terrible phone call to the vet. I had to put her outside – I felt like a murderer premeditating my crime! Since then I have not been able to handle the thought of having another dog – or husband, for that matter!

I was just staring at my bookshelf and looking at books and categorizing them in my head…..fun to read but a bit of fluff really…….heavy going…….meaty……and then there is LP. Her books are easy to read but not fluffy, they have depth and bits to chew over but they aren’t heavy going, they would appear to be the Goldilocks version of a good novel……just right.

How does LP do that? How does she engage our hearts and our brains and yet uplift and rock us along at a merry pace?

Anna – congratulations! What a wonderful accomplishment! You are very fast – the words must have poured out of you! I do hope that when you think it’s ready to be read, you’ll let us have the honor of reading it. I’m so sorry things are continuing to be so challenging with your Mum – but hopefully, time will help her to settle in a bit more.

Millie – when I was young (19, I think!), I fell down a set of marble stairs – on my knees, with my back ramrod straight up and down (don’t know why – but I think I kept trying to right myself). As you might imagine, it did a real number on my back. My Dad always swore by his chiropractor, so off I went – a few adjustments and I felt so much better – but after awhile, the pain came back. I went to him for a few years, once a month or so, but it finally got completely resolved. Nowadays, I have a pain in my neck (not the human kind) that’s always there – my Dr. says it’s bone degeneration due to age (oh joy!). I now go for a massage once a month, and if I keep that up, there’s no pain – it’s wonderful to find something that works without medicine.

Julie, thank you for your kind thoughts. I just realised I didn’t say that before. My apologies.

I did read your post. I also read the list of books. It does date back away. I think that is the historical influence.

I have a “clipping service” that alerts me to any new Jane Austen things on the web, and this came in today’s set. It’s basically a list of the “best detectives in fiction” according to an English historian and TV personality. Interesting list – I’m afraid not many modern writers made it to the list, so LP was obviously not on her radar. There’s a couple I think I will check out. I’ve read about half of them, though the Moonstone was for school and I don’t remember it at all – I’ll have to read it again.

http://publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/tip-sheet/article/64345-10-best-detectives-in-books.html

Hello lovely ladies. I haven’t posted in a while but have enjoyed reading them. So many great adventures of the mind. Have to get ready to go be turned into a pretzel (Chiropractic added to my PT – such fun!) but hope to stop by later. In the meantime, know that I feel enveloped in the warmth and kindness of ‘the Bistro’. A wonderful refuge.
P. S. Congratulations Anna! I had no doubt you would do it. Bravo.

Hi, Millie. I hope Chiropractic does as much for you as it did for me. Migraines hit me at 15. All the symptoms to the max. The meds for them in those long ago days caused terrible side effects and I would not take them. I was 24 when I went to the DR. for treatment. My husband was furious that I refused to take the meds. He found my headaches inconvenient. Finally, when I was in my late 30’s, an aunt made me an appointment with her Chiropractor. I walked out with no pain. I just couldn’t believe how wonderful that was. I went to him for years until the headaches went away. Hope you get as much help for your hip. Thinking of you.

Barbara you are funny and sweet. I can see you taking the roll and checking in with everyone to make sure all are ok. It is a lovely image. I am editing like mad and will then have to figure our how you can all see it as you were all part of the process of my writing. I only started after being inspired by the re read so it belongs to the club.

I am so glad you are able to talk with your sister Barbara. It is fabulous that you have a better relationship. It has everything to do with your own ability to reach out, to yourself and to your sister. So proud of you.

Hey Millie. Keep up the pretzel shapes, probably healthier to be one than eat one but not as much fun! I know you are expending a lot of energy for healing and caring. Please be careful.

Millie, Hope you are mending and understand it isn’t always possible to post but please remember we value you. You have played an important role in our discussions and are missed. I am just LOL at myself. I suddenly had the image of a much younger me taking classroom attendance. Don’t mean to come across like that. But look forward to hearing from you. Good thoughts.

L. P. IS a good role model and you have been smart enough to see that. It has been clear through this reread and your perceptive, beautifully expressed comments that you are a fine candidate to join her in the writing world. You have her bravery too, I think that is part of her success. I’m so glad you are continuing to write and rewrite through this hard, hard time in your life. Your writing may even be stronger for it. Know there are people who admire you and wish you well and believe in you. I very much hope to read your book one day!

Oh my gosh Cathryne, what outstandingly kind and supportive words. I am all teary so it is hard to write.

I feel so blessed to have ‘met’ you all at such a difficult and transformative time in my life. Don’t ever underestimate the value I place on all the kindness I have been shown, it is immeasurable.

Thank you all for being such a positve and embracing community, to me, Barbara, Millie and everyone else who has walked through the Bistro doors needing love and support. Not that we knew when we arrived what needs we would have fulfilled, that we would be so much stronger for our discovery of this book club, a place of great acceptance.

Anna, I am so excited about your book! I anticipate reading it. I feel that you have the qualities to write about characters that readers will embrace as we have embraced LP’s characters. One reason I think this is the kind and intelligent way you have reached out to help me. You have done more than a good deed. You enabled me to have very meaningful discussions with my sister. She understands me much better now. I know you must have imbued your people with the same qualities I admire in you.
I already think of them as “people” as I do LP’s characters.
Don’t ever worry about going off subject with info about your Mother. The subject is whatever we wish and we do want to know how things are going. Caring thoughts to you.

I have been trying not to derail the site with my troubles but it is kind of you to ask Cathryne. She had a fall last week and has a broken rib. I thought she was becoming a lot more settled but the last two days she hasn’t been good, very angry. Today was awful. I am sure pain isn’t helping but they are keeping the analgesia up to her. Still, it is a process and I have to keep reminding myself that she is in a good place and I couldn’t do any more at home. Not easy though.

On the positive news……I finished the first draft of my book. 70000 words but more being added and changed in the edit. I wish I could capture at least a little of the LP Magic. She is a good role model for what I have always wanted to be.

I totally agree that LP stands alone. I was trying to figure out why. As much as I enjoy Bruno and I think other Three Piners will too, they don’t have the same depth of soul as LP manages to capture. The capacity for driving us to so much introspection and self discovery is very much an LP quality that I haven’t had to the same degree with many authors.

Stephen Donaldson comes to mind as someone who makes me think about human nature but he can be long winded and dark. LP has the ability to capture so much in a few spare words.

I love the Greenknow series and The Dark is Rising I adore. I bought a full set a few years ago and loaned it to someone. I have never seen it again. I will get another. Such classics.

The Bruno books are charming and well done, but I don’t have anyone else I can put in the same category as Louise Penny. I find her series of books to be far better than any other I’ve read. I’ve read many fine mystery series and Louise Penny’s are by far my favorites. They resonate with me as no others do. I have favorite books from over the years that I don’t try to compare to hers, I guess because they tend to stand alone for me, not as part of a group loved (“The Shipping News” by Annie Proulx, “Out Stealing Horses” by Per Petersen). I love L.M. Boston’s Greene Knowe books and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, but they are young people’s books, though lovely for anyone.
Louise Penny is my favorite writer right now and has been for a number of years. That said, I have read some incredibly fine and loved books in between, but none that have invaded the Three Pines special circle. I’m wandering, hope this makes sense!

I was thinking about my ideal house and it has floorboards and full length windows, it has a library and a fire and it feels warm and inviting. Then I looked around and realised I was living in it! I am so lucky.its not perfect, it needs a big wide verandah and less mess but it’s pretty close!!

I was also thinking about other books to read now that we have been so completely spoiled by LP.

Someone already mentioned Deborah Crombie who is a good light read and has characters to care about.

Completely different but interesting is Deborah Harkness who has written the All Souls Trilogy including A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. What attracted me to these is that DH is an historian and that gives her books an authenticity. Don’t be put off by the fact that there are witches and vampires in these stories, they are interesting characters and have true warmth. I would be curious as to who might enjoy these books. Have a flick through one next time in you are in a bookstore.

Martin Walker is a journalist who rights the Bruno Chief of Police series set in France. These are also interesting as there is history, a secretive government department, a small town of friendly people and glorious food as well as murders to solve, which resonates with the things we like in LPs novels. Check out this website http://www.brunochiefofpolice.com and read about Bruno and his recipes before you commit to the books. It gives you a good idea of what you are in for in the stories.

Julie, I don’t know if there’s some specific brand of rosewater and glycerin you’re trying to find, but there are a lot of different ones listed on Amazon, and probably other places online too.

Lynne – just the way I always do, after I’d posted that, I went looking online, and found what I wanted and ordered it. So silly of me. I’m sure the last time I’d looked, the internet wasn’t even around, as this was so many years ago – I’ve been married to my present hubby for 25 years, and had some single time before that, so it’s got to be 35 years ago the last time I saw her little bottle of hand lotion. Shopping is so much easier now…

Hmmmm – which home is mine most like? I’m betting it’s most like the Mundin’s or Gilles’ – I know they weren’t described, but both are men who work with wood and their hands – you’d think their homes would be filled with lovely pieces of furniture and that everything would work in the houses. However, I happen to know that handy men have a habit of doing a job to the 90% mark and then getting distracted by another job and leaving the first unfinished for years. My house is an old house (for this side of the country – the west coast – 100 years) and each room has been updated except that the door handles haven’t been put back on because they still need to be polished, or the baseboards aren’t in, because we’re going to give them another coat of paint, or the radiator cover is sitting in the basement, waiting for a “refurbishing”. At first glance, all is lovely and traditional, but the devil is in the details, and who knows if I’ll ever have the whole house completed, hahaha. It used to drive me crazy, but I’ve gotten used to it. My closet is actually a large room upstairs with the old 60’s wallpaper still on one wall, one wall is stripped and has the 30’s paint on it and two walls are painted the new color… I’ve given up worrying about it, and just try to keep everything neat and tidy and then I don’t notice the rest, hahaha.

Julie, your house sounds like a real “home”. I know exactly what you mean. My Dad was a DIY guy. He could paint, plaster, run electrical wiring, roof, do brick masonry and anything else that might be needed. However, he would sometimes stop in the midst of a project to start another. My sister and I finally learned to ignore it too.

Well, now I have to go find some sandalwood. My ex-Mother-in-Law was a lovely woman who used rosewater and glycerine as her hand lotion, and she kept a bottle of it by the kitchen sink. Every night, after she finished the dishes, she used it, and the scent was so light, and lovely. I used it myself while I was there, and I loved the way it made my hands feel – not greasy, but softened… The bottle was like something ordinary you’d find in a grocery store aisle, but I have no idea where she got it and have never run across it anywhere, else there would be a bottle by my kitchen sink, as well.

I was late finding the Bistro, but want to thank Paul for beginning a new page for us while we await the next Three Pines saga. I don’t comment a lot … but I read a lot.

Louise’s books are like a multi-chambered nautilus – as we delve down deeper and deeper into her books and their characters, there always seems to be another level of understanding, something else to learn, an additional key, to help us in our comprehension. This morning I discovered another chamber and it made me laugh out loud in the grocery store aisle! In every book, Louise takes great effort in describing Armand by including his signature scent of sandalwood, always mixed with rose water, which we know is Reine-Marie’s scent. Since I have lived on my own for far too many years, I had forgotten that scent, sandalwood, and thought if I could smell it again, perhaps I could gain some additional comprehension of Armand’s character and Louise’s purpose for including this so significantly and so frequently in her writing. In a display of essential oils at the store, I found the sandalwood scent and breathed in its wonderful smell – to me, it smelled of freshness, of wood, yes, but not the heavy richness of cedar or pine, but something lighter, more free, more like driftwood. But it was the recommended use for this scent that got my attention – the label said that it could be used to help one center oneself. And I began chuckling. Of course, what else would Armand use??? – the scent of sandalwood, to remind him of his own solid core of love, understanding, kindness, compassion, gentleness, to help him every day as he encountered anger, cruelty, violence, political manipulation and treachery, and the other evils he had to deal with every day. That scent helps him remain true to himself, his deepest core. How perfect, n’est-ce pas??!

Oh, Susan!! Wow!! I love these new insights of yours! That was well-worth finding out about Armand’s use of sandalwood for his scent. I have thought about Reine-Marie’s rosewater, and also Jean-Guy’s Old Spice and Annie’s lemon. I love it that Armand always embraces Reine-Marie before leaving home, and her perfume blends with his. This is an interesting avenue of speculation!

Susan, I just love how the books reach into our lives. I can imagine you sniffing the sandalwood oil. Yes, just perfect for Armand. I wonder if LP know of the scent’s use to center one ?
I think the description of the mingling of the scents of sandalwood from Armand and the rosewater from Reine-Marie to be the most beautiful and sensitive expression of love and intimacy I have ever heard.

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