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”

Now that is an interesting question. My first thought was that of course, Olivier would serve gluten free………then I thought, only if he likes you!

Hello, Anna,

It’s so hard to pick a favorite. I like Armand Gamache best because he is so strong and good in every aspect in spite of, or perhaps partly because of, all the misery and horror he has witnessed. He respects humanity. Yet I love Clara for her sweetness, her artistry, her kindness, and her wonderfully useless super power of managing to ever be smeared with paint or food. And I love Ruth for her poetry and ferocious insight. I want to share cocoa and cookies with Myrna; eat at the bistro and gossip with Gabri and Olivier; research my Québécois maternal ancestry with Reine-Marie; and practice archery with Jean Guy.

Who is your favorite character?

Like you I find it hard to pick. Reine-Marie seems so elegant and so in love with Armand, who of course I also adore. I have to love Myrna. I too am surrounded by books and love the thought of plopping in her bookshop for cocoa and a long chat.

I am glad it is hard to pick a true favourite really. It means the characters are all uniquely interesting and people I want to spend time with. Jean Guy is growing on me but he was a little annoying at first with his obsession with his looks and we have all had different feelings toward poor Agent Nichol. I like the growing relationship between Ruth and Jean Guy, they soften each others edges.

Clara used to be more of a favourite but I am waiting to see how the changes for her play out. There is a new Clara now and I want to see how comfortable she is in her new skin.

Thank you for creating The Bistro for those of us who wished they lived in Three Pines as physically as we do spiritually. The Inspector Gamache series is the most intelligent, uplifting, generous, and insightful series I have ever read. I love and greatly appreciate the emphases on light, love, friendships, courage, and hope. I love feeling welcomed and as though there were a house waiting for me in Three Pines. And I love that there is this wonderful place to talk about the series. I am looking forward to reading all of the posts.

My daughter has been invited to go trick or treating. I can’t imagine it will be a big deal as there isn’t that many people who get involved.

I had Christmas lunch catered from a local cafe one year. It was so good as I could relax on the day. Of course we don’t do Turkey in our house, some do. Christmas lunch usually involves ham and a hot dish for me. Hot meal could be rolled pork, roast lamb or a BBQ. Lots of people do seafood and prawns are a big hit, hot or cold. The fish markets do a roaring trade at Easter and Christmas.
We don’t have Thanksgiving obviously. Australia Day isn’t quite the same thing but a big event and usually the excuse for a BBQ. Not that we need an excuse.
Our BBQ isn’t Southern BBQ Barbara.

Sylvia, I just re-read your post re Halloween. Sounds like your neighborhood is very popular. We used to have carloads of children dropped off at our house (first in the subdivision) and the drivers would then park in the schoolyard and wait for them. We’re not that popular now.
You mentioned Thanksgiving which has been on my mind this week. Can’t decide what to cook. Will probably do the traditional but really would prefer something else. Is there a traditional menu in Canada like our turkey and dressing ? Christmas comes about a month afterwards for us with much the same menu. I’d rather eat at a restaurant for either or both meals.

What a good idea that is, Anna! Let us know what you think. I think I would tend to factor in what I know now by having read ahead, that I wouldn’t be able to notice… that’s badly worded – hmmmm – I think by now that I have a pretty full understanding of each character and I couldn’t go back and see the things they do and say in the first book without being informed by what is still to come, if you know what I mean. I’ll be very interested to know what you notice. Of course, off the top of my head, I do think that you’ll notice that Beauvoir is almost a little popinjay in his refusal to wear warm, unstylish clothes, and he is amazed, as I recall, at how well Gamache looks in his warm coat and boots.

…. and now that I think of it – that was in the second book, not the first. The first is labor day weekend I think – so not quite so cold! 😀

Julie, the first book takes place at Thanksgiving, which is the 2nd Monday in October in Canada. A gorgeous time of year, with the brilliant fall colours!

Barbara, yes, we most definitely have the turkey and all the trimmings! And pumpkin pie for dessert!

I got my Halloween treats bought and packaged up in little snack bags – it makes it much easier to hand them out. So I’m already for Friday night. I enjoy it, and find that the kids are usually very polite. Some people here do more decorating for Halloween than they do for Christmas. This Saturday night we’ll be putting our clocks back to Standard Time, so it will be dark soon after 5 o’clock – shudder! Once that happens, we start to get ready for Christmas. I bake several batches of shortbread cookies and send them to family who live away from here and then take some when I go visiting friends and family here.

Anna, I really like the idea of re-reading Still Life and The Long Way Home side by side and get a sense of the development of the characters. Knowing them all so much better now, we will probably read more into them. When we first read Still Life, we were meeting them all for the first time. It will be interesting to see if our first impressions of them hold true now, or if we’ll think they weren’t as we saw them then at all. The beauty of a series like this is that characters sort of unfold bit by bit. Perhaps when Louise wrote Still Life, she didn’t know what her characters would become. I’m sure they’ve developed themselves to some extent. Are your characters doing that? You mentioned that one of them was bursting to tell her story – they really do come alive, don’t they! Louise’s have certainly come alive for us! They are our friends, and we who love them have also become friends, bonded by our love for them. If feels strange to speak about the books and characters to someone who hasn’t read them and doesn’t know them. It makes me want to hurry to The Bistro!

Sylvia, there is one piece of advice I keep reading from books on writing that I have ignored. That is to know your characters inside and out before you write. My characters just do their own thing. I am constantly being surprised, and that is the joy of the discovery for me. As long as the cheeky monsters stay true to character and internally consistent, then it works for me.

I write the story for the characters. I am just along for the ride. The whole thought of plotting and planning for them doesn’t happen. They just tell me what to write. I might have mentioned before that there is a whole sub plot in my novel that was revealed to me by surprise comments from one of the characters.

That is probably one of the reasons I want to read the first and last books. I want to see how the characters have grown for LP.

Happy Halloween to all who celebrate.

How is everyone?

I am thinking about reading the first and last LP books side by side to see how marked the progression is in character development and the way the books read. Of course, still madly editing my own book in the spare moments in life but one can not live on editing alone.

I can’t see any of us protesting being stuck in a bookstore! Although I think we would have been better provisioned!
Thank you Barbara for permission to share. My daughter is currently in a private school. She has been to both, 6 school, changes in all because of various moves. Most of primary was in public schools.

Locked overnight in a bookstore! Oh the horror ! LOL! Sounds like a dream to me. I think we can assume that he doesn’t have a list of favorite authors.
Please do share my post about the South. She sounds like a bright young lady. Best of luck to her on being approved to skip a grade. Is she in public school or private? I am unfamiliar with the school systems in Australia.

Hilarious! Love the last paragraph – his is the story that wasn’t. Instead of a story that he could tell for years to come, he is stuck with what sounds like a series of annoying tweets.

I passed your comments to my sister and she was very grateful. Thank you all for helping revive some weary spirits.

I agree that the commercial is very well done. It was smart to put faces to the people involved, and beautiful, caring faces they are. The film looks smooth and easy, a testament to the hard work!

Just remembered. Several times this week, the local news has shown local troops here at Ft. Gordon being trained in putting on protective gear as they are assigned to Liberia and due to leave soon. They are Signal Corps and will set up communications to help medical staff discuss the Ebola info. Another military group, from Ft. Stewart outside Savannah, GA, will assist medical personal in Liberia. They are learning to put on full Hazmat protective suits.
There is also an interesting connection between Augusta and Liberia. I’ll share it later.

Thank you Julie and Barbara for your feedback on the commercial. I will tell my sister. It will mean a lot to her, the crew and the hospital workers. They have been exhausted rushing it to air.

My sister has been working hard making a TV commercial for Texas Presbyterian where the Ebola victims were treated. All the people in it were caregivers for Ebola victims. It was a very emotional process, the caring and the video. I thought you might like to see it. Kindness in action and now they need supportive thoughts.


Anna, Thanks for the info and link. I feel so for those connected with the Hospital. A very frightening time. Here again I admire those who faced danger to help. I hope the Hospital can move on past the fear of those who normally use the hospital. Good thoughts to them and all who are fighting the spread of Ebola and caring for the victims.

Anna, that’s a beautiful commercial! So dignified and elegant in it’s simplicity! Ebola has taken our news hostage, it seems, and the same small points are magnified all day long until it seems as though everyone in America is at risk, which is absolutely not the case. I feel proud that our Dr’s and nurses are stepping forward without fear to treat victims of ebola, and yet, shake my head in amazement at the reporting in the news. You’d think we were all living on borrowed time.

Thanks Kim and Anna. There is some controversy about Halloween here too. Ours concerns some who feel even a child in a Princess costume is participating in something harmful. A group handing out pamphlets came to my door and tried to persuade me evil would make use of my Jack O’Lantern. Most Churches offer Trunk and Treat for Children on the 31st. Children go Car to car in the parking lot and “Trick or Treat”. Inflatables and activities for children are there. No scary costumes. No devils or witches or anything gory. Community Centers and Parks offer much of the same in their facilities.
We still had 52 Trick or Treaters come to our house last year. Years ago, I would rush home from work, put on my costume and prepare for the 125-150 callers. Sam answers the door now. He really enjoys it.
We have to give out commercially wrapped candy. No more homemade candy apples or popcorn balls. We don’t mind that as it is safer for the children.

Here is a question to our widely read, international group:
I have heard Australian authors comment that their publishers altered the language in their books for American audiences eg. Footpath to sidewalk, nappy to diaper, dummy to pacifier etc.

The question is, do you really think this is necessary?

My language is richer for exposure to other idioms. We seemed to cope reading unaltered American books even before Google meant any explanation was a few keystrokes away. Of course we grew up on a diet of both American and English TV shows and movies too, so we were multilingual early. Kidding!

One of the pleasures for me with LP is reading about the French Canadian culture and I know LP didn’t change her terminology as she mentioned in an interview she was questioned about the word toque for example.

I think that depends on your intended audience and your setting. If it is a book for the teen and young adult crowd and is not set in a specific country, then there might be some push-back. Some readers are lazier than others and may resist a book because the “funny” words don’t resonate. As someone who is considerably older than “young adult”, I like the sense of place that comes with word choices. That being said, I would picture a path rather than a sidewalk (and might not look it up unless something from context made it glaringly obvious that this interpretation was wrong) and something in me rejects the usage of the word “dummy” for an object used by a baby. Still, if your book is set in Australia, I would expect it to feel like Australia. Now, I’ll put on my bunny hug and toque before I head to the park. 😉

My book is deliberately not iconically set anywhere, in contrast to LP, however, I don’t think you can miss that it is Australian from the language and I think it is important to leave it that way. I don’t use the word dummy in my book but I don’t know anyone who calls it anything else. It certainly had no derogatory connotation so I never saw it as a problem. Always interesting to see how others respond.

Had not heard of “Dummy” for a pacifier. Years ago when a neighbor asked me to pass her the baby’s “paci” I had to ask, “Her what?”.

Local authors say they are sometimes asked to edit “Southernisms” from their manuscripts. That must be hard to do when the story is placed in Georgia/South Carolina.
I wouldn’t think a story placed in Canada, Australia, or England would sound right if the language didn’t reflect the area. Just like modern language wouldn’t fit in a story set in the 1920s.
We have so many English programs on TV especially PBS.
Last night we watched the Australian show, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on PBS. I read some of the books before the programs were picked up here and they differ greatly from the TV adaptations. I think the programs we see now are written directly for TV. I enjoy seeing Miss Fisher in her beautiful clothes chasing criminals down. The years after WWI are interesting as society tries to learn to cope with the Modern Woman. Have you seen the show or read any of the books?

We love Miss Fisher! Such attention to detail in the sets nd the costumes are stunning.

My daughter is reading The Help and To Kill A Mockingbird for school in preparation for writing a comparative essay. They both have the flavour of the south but I wonder, do you think they were watered down Barabara. I haven’t spent any time in the American South? My only exposure is TV and movies and some documentaries.

Two very good novels to expose your daughter to the thorny issue of discrimination in the American South. It was Fall of my Jr. year and first year at UGA Very bad situation made worse by the press. Students were told that we would be dismissed with not refund on fees if we spoke to the reporters. I knew that if Daddy lost money he would never pay for me to attend another college. The reporters even blocked the entrances to buildings to try to force us to speak. I shoved one down the steps and proceeded on inside. No one would stop me from getting an education.
Both books were very disturbing to read. The Help is a excellent example of good intentions having bad outcomes. I have so much admiration and respect for those who stepped forward and spoke out.
My parents were not racists but my in-laws still are. If I had had children, it would have been impossible to leave them with the in-laws as I did not want them taught such ways.
The trick to understanding the Southern Attitude is to realize that not all whites were/are haters.
After emancipation, thousands of people who could not read or write ( to teach slaves to read was illegal) were suddenly homeless and without a way to make a living, even their daily bread. It is a wonder things were not even worse. Georgia, like much of the South, had been devastated by the Union Army. Then came the terrible years of Reconstruction which meant occupying troops. Resentment grew with many whites and it was focused at the former slaves.
In some areas, the abuse by whites was worse than in others. Fortunately, Augusta had a Free Black community before the War. The difference in attitude from whites living in the city and those in the more rural area of the county continues today. I don’t mean to say that no bigots were or are in the city or that all the whites in the county were or are bigots.
I’m glad to know that the books are read by Australian students. Has there been discrimination toward any group in Australia? You know, the Irish faced terrible discrimination in the Northeastern US. I only know what I have read about that topic. Native Americans and Mexicans were badly treated in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Native Americans had no chance and many still don’t.
Simple answer, yes things were even worse than in those books even though they are heart breaking.
I sometimes wonder how I was born into a non-bigoted Christian family and became an adult during the time we women were finding our voice. I feel so fortunate.

Thank you so much for that detailed and heartfelt reply Barbara. If you don’t mind I will send that to my daughter to read.

Unfortunately, we do have major instances of discrimination in Australia which saddens me. The Indigenous population have had, and continue to have all manner of struggles and despite our multicultural nation now, at one point we had the White Australia Policy.

I think discrimination comes from fear and scape goating and that is one of the reasons it is so hard to eradicate. While people fear and need an outlet for blame, it goes on.

I was shown the film of To Kill a Mockingbird when I was in grade 6 at a Catholic school. It had such a powerful effect on me. We have shown Erin both that film and TKAM in the last couple of weeks.this is all extra work for her in preparation for a grade skip. She is also studying for end of year exams, our school year is end of Jan to Dec. Poor sausage is very busy so all your insights are incredibly valuable Barbara. I will bring her to Georgia one day I hope.

Anna, I know that I would not think anything of the language, except as KB says – a footpath does have a meaning here distinct from sidewalk, and therefore, something different would come to mind. Nappy would make me think we were in England. As would “knickers” if they were to appear in the book. I think you’d have to go full-on “billabong” before I figured it was somewhere in Australia, as so many of the words would also work for England, and that’s where my mind would go first. If it’s important to be in Australia, you might want to point that out somehow. I don’t think any of the words would distract from my enjoyment of any story, however.

Julie you made me laugh out loud saying I would have to go “full on Billabong”. Still laughing.

The joke here lately is the that the Australia’s threat level has been recently raised from “crikey” to “strewth”!

Good Morning! A question. Is Halloween observed in Canada and Australia? Pumpkins, Fall colored flowers, scarecrows, ghosts and goblins abound here in the Georgia-South Carolina area. When Daddy lived with us, we decorated the house and side yard (I live on a corner) for every holiday. Halloween decorations were replaced with Thanksgiving the day after and Christmas went up the day after Thanksgiving. It was a busy time. Pumpkins, small decorative “bales” of hay and cornstalks were used for Halloween and Thanksgiving. The hay was spread for the Nativity Scene in the Christmas decorations.
All Hallows Day, as a religious observance, yes, but I wonder about All Hallows Eve.
I can’t remember anything in LP’s books about Halloween in Three Pines. I’m very busy now decorating it. I think I’ll give Rosa a Pumpkin costume and Henri a skeleton costume I saw for dogs in a Halloween store on Monday.

Halloween is observed in Canada. My daughter has been pestering me to buy the candy for the past month. There are a few homeowners who put up haunted house fronts and lots with pictures and decals on the windows. A number put spider webs up in the trees and a small display in the yard. I haven’t seen anything in my neck of the woods with the all-out types of displays that are featured on TV, though.

Yes, we definitely have Halloween in Canada, and we have just had our Thanksgiving, the second Monday of October. I live on a street with families and kids, and other kids come from all over town and other towns and villages as well. We typically get around 150 kids on my street! I was out buying my Halloween candy treats today.

Halloween means “All Hallows Eve” and it’s followed by All Saints Day. Next Sunday will be All Saints Sunday, and we’ll celebrate Holy Communion. This week we remember our own “saints” as we celebrate our church’s anniversary.

Traditionally, not really Barbara. We would partake of Halloween vicariously through all the TV shows from America that had a Halloween special. Now it is a bit controversial. The supermarkets sell special large Halloween pumpkins for decoration and special Halloween candy, although we normally call candy lollies.

Some people get right into Halloween now and some kids even go trick or treating, but for many is seen as another way for shops to make money selling themed produce, hence the controversy. It’s certainly not widespread but each year it is more common.

Millie, I am sure no one thinks you don’t care! Caring too deeply, as you do, means you have to limit your exposure to horrific events. I felt a bit bad mentioning it, knowing it would be upsetting for you and coming so soon after your comment, but I feel we are so strongly connected to Canada by our love for LP and Three Pines, that these events were very meaningful to us and couldn’t go unremarked. And I knew you wouldn’t want it to.

It is a connected world and we need to draw strength from that as much as it means we all feel more vulnerable because we care about the world beyond our little borders. If we didn’t care we wouldn’t hurt, but that isn’t a reason to stop caring.

I am sure, right now we would all love to shut the doors on the Bistro and hide away in Three Pines safe from wordly intrusions. It is dark and overcast here with rain and now thunder. So ominous but I am safe with my cuppa and my link to my friends…..

First, I want to say I am stunned that I wrote about not liking to watch or read the news before I had any idea that on that very day such horror was going on in Canada. I hope my comment wasn’t taken as ‘I don’t care’. I do. My ‘gift’ means I feel it too strongly to deal with the 24 hour loops of ‘speculation’ by journalists who are tasked to opine – many times without it having any bearing on facts. In my humble opinion, that only adds to a sense of fear. My prayers are with the family of the fallen hero and with the entire nation. Thru LP’s books I’ve grown very fond of Canada and am saddened beyond words by the events there.

Dear, dear Millie, I understand. There is no way I can and the endure the 24/7 talk, talk and more talk either. Especially, when the news is tragic and frightening. I wept last night for the arrival of terrorism to Canada and the fear of what would come. Not a 9/11 type attack , Please God. I wept for the loss of innocence my county suffered and that that loss is now felt in Canada. Yes, we have developed close ties to each other thanks to LP and also to Canada. I have always loved my trips to Canada and enjoyed the people I met.

Millie, I never thought for a minute that you avoided news because you didn’t care, but because you cared too much to cope with sometimes! I hate news channels that just keep on rehashing the one story over and over again. It’s pretty senseless. I watch news at six and that’s all the TV I watch. I’d rather read a good book any day!

Barbara, I spend a lot of time in the Bistro in my Pjs and slippers. Love that cosy feeling!

KB and Millie, your recent posts gave me the last little bit I needed to understand how the threads in my book tie together. I hope I can do it.

I went and read LPs latest posts. I was happy it was her recent anniversary of meeting Michael. How wonderful they found each other in life. I was also glad to hear she is pulling back to spend time with Michael and Bishop. Her words about the cowardly attack in Ottawa were spot on. Terrorism is cowardice, it is the same as bullying.

Anna, I am glad that I posted anything that could be helpful. Like the others here, I am looking forward to your book and hoping to be able to read it. And I wholeheartedly agree with your comment about not shutting down because of sorrow and fear. Shutting down can stop the pain, but it also stops the joy and closes out the light. In my (little) mind, hope is the power that makes the crack in our walls that lets the light in.

Thanks to all you honorary Canadians for sending prayers and good thoughts our way. It is appreciated.

Reading your comment I would say you have read my book already!! Thank you KB and stay strong. There is much love from the Southern cousins heading your way.

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