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”

Interestingly, I have very few authors I would follow anywhere, and most are no longer alive, so I know exactly where I’d be following, and, of course, that’s not the same thing at all. LP is the only one I know of. I have a confession that will just flabbergast some of you – I tried the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency (read the first book) AND the Mitford series (read the first few chapters) and they did nothing for me. Just kind of laid there. I don’t know why. I SHOULD like them (all the best people do) from all accounts. I’ve been hearing of them for years from friends and family, and… meh. So I guess I’m the odd duck. For me, LP’s works contain a good story, wonderful characters, and a compelling setting unique to Canada. I think it’s the setting, and the acknowledgment that Canada is a different place, that drew me here in the first place, and keeps me here. Even though I’ve never been to Quebec, and Quebec, within Canada, is unique as well, there is enough “Canadian-ness” that it really speaks to me.

Julie, there are books other people love that I just can’t get into, very much like you. The Canadianess of LPs books is a big draw for me too. I think some books are like places that draw us back and different places draw different people.

It’s odd but I have this theme in my book and I used the phrase ‘sense of place’ and then went and did a lot of reading on the topic. I am giving some of book away here, but there is a lot of research in architecture and environmental psychology on sense of place. Spaces become places through our emotional interaction with them. A fellow called Shamai delineated different levels of attachment to place from placeless to willing to die for a place. A place can be a chair, a room, a house or a country.

I think LPs books give us a sense of place which is a big part of their attraction….they bring us home. That is obvious from our talk of being Three Piners and even our love here of the Bistro.

Julie, my husband started At Home in Mitford and couldn’t get into it. Maybe because he was a minister and still working. (Too close to home.) Anyway, after he retired he picked up the last book which at that time was Home to Holly Springs, and after reading it he just sailed through the rest. I couldn’t believe it. (I like things in order.) I must confess that the second book was my favorite for a long time since things really ‘pick up’ in it. So you might have better luck by starting there….if you want to try again. I too have many favorites who have died which means that I maintain a collection of their books because the libraries no longer stock them. Have you ever read Eleanor Taylor Bland, Bruce Alexander , Tony Hillerman or the Thurlos (David and Aimee…sadly Aimee died this year). I like the characters in these books and for me the mystery is secondary. But, at the end of the day, no one compares to Louise. She is exceptional…as we all can see.

Julie, while I was raving on about the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, one of my friends told me she just didn’t get it! I can’t understand what there was not to get, but I guess it’s a good thing we don’t all think alike – how boring the world would be! I do love the Canadianness of Louise’s books as well. I was born in England and came to Canada as a young woman, lived in Quebec’s Eastern Townships for a few years and then near Montreal. I love Canada as only a “convert” can! I consider the Eastern Townships my first Canadian home – now I live in the Maritimes, which is also a very homey place. Interesting about place and what and how much it means to people. I’m so thrilled to have found these wonderful books. I was advised by friends to read them in order, so I bought the first nine books all at once and read them in order. With the overarching theme of the “Arnot case” and Francoeur it made sense to read as that was gradually revealed. I have also loved the books of Peter Robinson, who places his stories in Yorkshire, England. I was there on a trip with my husband once (I’m London-born myself), and I just loved the Dales. His stories are fast-paced and I love the members of the homicide team – DCI Alan Banks, DI Annie Cabott, and DS Winsome Jackman (who is another beautiful black Jamaican, but younger than Myrna). He has a new book coming out the 28th of this month. They are very entertaining, but not on the level of literature that Louise’s books are. She is such a gem and we are so lucky to have found her! We are also blessed in knowing something about her, and her sharing her personal life. I’m sure she knows that we care about her and her husband as people; that was quite a risk to be open about difficulties she has had to deal with. I’m grateful this is a place where several of us have felt safe and able to share.

Sylvia, I was writing a minute ago and everything went away. I don’t think it posted in a strange place. Whatever, I’ll try again. I was saying that I am a most unflattering shade of green after reading your post. I have always been an anglophile (don’t know why). I become so involved in books that my speech goes into English mode. My sister and I love Brit coms and mysteries on TV. We often pepper our conversations with English colloquialisms (just between the two of us–not in public). After reading several English novels consecutively, my spelling jumps to the English rather than American.
Canada is so beautiful and I would love to see more of it. We have enjoyed every trip there and found the people very patient with all of my questions. I have internet searched and read travel books about The Eastern Townships and the Maritimes and of course Quebec….coast to coast to be truthful.
I, too, am grateful for Louise Penny, her publishers and all who have made this literary journey possible. I hope all concerned know what a wonder it all is. So much more than ever
dreamed I am sure.

Julie, I had to laugh at your last paragraph. What fools they would be. I hope the next story will be more normal or a least what passes for normal in Three Pines. I have some not yet well- developed ideas of threads that could be picked up. I’ll share when they are better formed.
Wouldn’t you love to read LP’s “story boards”. I would like to know just how much she had plotted out by the end of A Fatal Grace. She must have plotted many books ahead for the Francoeur arc. I can imagine outlines with notations of “threads to be placed in book # whatever”.

Interesting, Barbara! I have no idea whatsoever of how the creative process works. Whether it comes in big chunks and an author can see several books ahead, or just enough for the book he or she is on at the moment. Somewhere along the line, we talked about the brain – I am predominantly left-brained, meaning that I’m more organizational than creative. So any insights into the creative process interests me a great deal. That’s what I have enjoyed about these discussions – I have grown in my understanding of how Louise has created the books. Thanks to all for all your thoughts!

Sylvia, if you are interested in the creative process of writing then Elizabeth George has written a book on the topic called Write Away. My husband is reading it and suggested it to me. I don’t do the planning she does, at least not on paper. The stories write themselves. I am keen to write another book as one of the characters seems to be busting to tell her story and I want to know what it is. I think if I planned it out I would get bored writing because I would know too much of the story. Hope that makes sense.

I did hear LP comment in one of her videos about planning the story arc. I am not sure if she knew exactly how it would play out until she started writing but I sensed she had some plan.

Anna, I’m so glad to hear another character wants her story told. I think authors differ in the ways they form their stories. From what I have read about the process some are methodical and some let the story tell itself. I’ll check out the Elizabeth George book just to see her take on the process.
Good thoughts to you and your Mother.

Thanks Barbara. Always appreciate your gentle kindness.

I have to find the time and energy to finish book one and work on book two.

Creativity is odd in that it needs energy to get started but, for me, often generates its own energy for quite a while after I get started. Does anyone else find that with creative activities?

Interesting that there are some authors we each are willing to follow anywhere on faith. For me, that would include L. P., Donna Leon, Andrea Camilleri, Fred Varges, Deborah Crombie, James Herriott, L. M. Boston, Alexander McCall Smith … I’m sure there are more, but life calls. Later.

Cathryne, so glad you mentioned Alexander McCall Smith! I absolutely love the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series! I also enjoyed the Isabel Dalhousie series, but have got tired of her constant philosophizing. But the African series is pure delight! I haven’t enjoyed his various other series’ as much. I had been meaning to ask if anyone had read McCall Smith.

Sylvia, I love the African stories of McCall-Smith too and I DID NOT want to read them. I don’t know how many times I passed them up in the library. BUT, I was reading to a friend and had run out of books that I thought would interest her so I asked the librarians for help. They told me how much people seemed to enjoy the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency so in desperation I checked it out …and was soon hooked. Now comes the interesting part. A few years ago I bought the TV series on DVD. This was amazing. I have never watched anything that was exactly what I imagined from the books but this is it. They did add an extra character but all of the original ones are just as I pictured them. The only disappointment is that evidently the series only ran for one season. I was looking forward to more. So if anyone is looking for a series that successfully made the transition from book to screen, this is it.

On another note, I just discovered the Bistro this evening. Thank you Paul. I was really missing Three Pines and the discussions. Guess that’s why I came back to the site and discovered it’s NOT OVER!! Hurrah!

Also, I’m sorry about all the struggles that you are going through, Anna and Millie. I kept thinking of Julian of Norwich…And all will be well, and all will be well…

Finally, thanks for the laughter, Julie (I think it’s Julie) in you paragraph about the fools passing through Three Pines! We all needed that.

Good night all and rest well.

Hi Nancy. This is just what I was hoping for. I want people who posted earlier to find The Bistro. Drop by whenever you can…..The Bistro is always open.

Nancy, funny you should say you hadn’t wanted to read the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. I bought a boxed set of the first three books from Readers’ Digest, and they sat on my bookshelf for ages. One day, months later, when I was looking for something to do, I thought of those books and thought I might as well give them a try. I fell in love with Precious Ramotswe right away and couldn’t put the book down. I read the three in the set and then went looking for more. McCall Smith had written several more by then, so I had a marvellous time – just like with these wonderful Louise Penny books – by the time I heard about them she had written the first nine books so I just bought them all and read them in order. Now I have to wait… oh, dear!

I always love when art plays a role, sometimes bigger and sometimes smaller, but I’m ready to follow L. P. wherever and however she sees the characters going next.
I have liked when characters have reappeared in appropriate-seeming ways, like Gilles, Odille, Billy Williams, the Saint and others. At first, I was very resistant to Nicole popping up, but now I’m looking forward to her presence again. And, of course, Jerome and Therese. Well, patience is a virtue….

Also those two precious old ladies who went into the storm on Lac Brume to die with Emilie – Bea and Kaye. They survived, but where are they now? They were giving their lives for Crie.

Paul, After reading all the posts for Still Life and A Fatal Grace, I noticed the link to this site on page one of The Cruelest Month. What A Great Idea. I have noticed that some who posted very insightful comments for the first two books have not contributed lately. Of course, some may be reading posts but not writing for many reasons. I hope they will learn of the Bistro and join us. Some mentioned that they had read all the books and would like to discuss them as a whole. Now is the perfect time and this the perfect place.

Can anyone tell me how Inspector Gamache inherited his dog, Henry? I believe it happened in volume 2 or 3 in the series. I don’t have the books anymore and it is really bothering me.

Oh, you know, I just figured all those people are just “still in the village”, but this or that particular story doesn’t touch on them – but some will be quite changed – the Mundins, for one, and Sophie, for another – she might not ever really “come back” to Three Pines – she had been just visiting on a school break, as I remember. But those that are still there – the Crofts, and Carole, the Parra’s – I figure they are around, doing their thing. But I haven’t given them much thought, that’s for sure, hahaha. I wonder, too, about the Brunel’s – if there’s been any fallout due to their helping Armand. I expect not, but you never know. After Francoeur, it makes sense to me that Brunel would be the top person. And yet – I can’t help thinking that, even though a lot of people would have been arrested at the end of How the Light Gets In, there must still be a lot of people in the rank and file, who bought Francoeur’s line of thinking and would be resistant to Gamache’s people doing well in the Surete, so there may still be some fallout there. Still – I think it’s time for something completely different. (yes, I hear the Monty Python theme song here, too).

The one I wonder about, and would love to hear about, is Crie. Has enough time passed that she has been able to be helped and is living more in the real world now? I’d love to hear that she is doing better and that there’s some hope for her.

I, too, wonder about Jane’s house – wouldn’t it be perfect if the artists of the village (the ones who were doing the exhibit in Still Life – there must be some sort of “association” there) could take it over as their administrative and exhibit space? Of course, it might be lying in wait for Chartrand. If a romance begins between Chartrand and Clara, she might let him rent Jane’s house for a gallery. We don’t know if she has really “gone with” an agent or gallery owner yet – maybe that will come yet.

I was just reading some of the past notes (while looking for Chartrand’s name – I can’t keep a name in my head to save my life), and noticed that quite a lot of people are very tired of the art theme and the in-fighting within the art world, though most noted that it’s pretty true to life. It will be good to see a more “regular” story next time. I’m hoping it will be in Three Pines, but of course, who do I want to kill off? Or see go to jail for murder? Maybe best if a pair of visitors are passing through and think that this sleepy little village would be the perfect place to get away with murder. Fools!

Well, Julie, that did happen with Lillian Dyson being murdered by Denis Fortin. Neither of them belonged to the village; they both came for the event of Clara’s vernissage party. So maybe some other event can bring people in. Also there must be a lot more people in the village, out on the roads that lead from the village, whom we haven’t even met. I’m very curious to see where Louise will take us next.

Hi everyone. I’m hanging in there. 🙂 I tried to write a short note thanking everyone for well wishes, great advice, etc on my phone but poof. So this will be shorter still.

Enjoyed my granddaughters last week instead of her mama having to explain why ‘Nana’ wasn’t at her birthday party with my mom’s blessing.

Sylvia, loved your ‘where are they/ what happened to’ list. I sometimes wonder what happened to Jane’s house with all that artwork…
Kim, thanks for great advice. Stay moving. 🙂
Anna, glad your mom is adjusting and congrats on nearly finishing your book.
I too am looking forward to what thread Ms Penny will pick up next.
There was a lovely review of TLWH in our Sunday paper. Made me smile.

I’ll try to write more later.
Long live the Bistro! 🙂

Thank you for your kind thoughts Sylvia. I didn’t see your comment until after I had written. I wonder about all the other characters too. Perhaps they will make an appearance soon. Louise is lucky in a way that she has quite a population to deal with and it does add to the complexity and layers of the village.

I suspect we will be even more excited for the next book. In a way TLWH was the one that wrapped up the loose ended the last story arc, Peter, and the next one is the new beginning. Hopefully Armand will be well, Jean Guy will have stabilized even more with his new family life and we will see a new strength and purpose.

I was a little shocked to see Joan Hisckson died in 1998 and she only made 12 Miss Marples. She is so iconic as Miss Marple.

I think the next book will back in Three Pines and the Surete in Montreal. What would we do if we were writing the book. I was thinking that Lacoste might run into a drama and call on Gamache for help. He would go back to help a friend. And I wonder at what is happening with the Brunel’s??

Are you all ok? Millie……how are you managing? Did you go to your Aunt’s funeral?

Mum is a little more settled in the last two days but it continues to be a slow demanding process. Have to keep reminding myself it is early days yet.

On the bright side I have nearly finished my book. I let my brother read the first part. He picks up a really minor point about whether there was milk for coffee in one scene…..gosh, I am going to have to develop a thick skin. I saw the same here as we pick over the fine detail of Louise’s books. It’s actually not that easy to catch those little details when the Whole story has to flow….. so be kind

Sorry, it’s nice to see Jean-Guy making friends in the village and NOT just being there as a policeman solving a crime.

Fond thoughts to you, Anna, as you go through this painful time with your Mom. And also to you, Millie, in your struggles with pain and also condolences on the passing of your aunt. I liked Barbara’s assurance that the sun will shine again!

Something I’ve been wondering about: There have been people in the stories who have just disappeared. In Still Life, there was the Croft family – what happened to them? Where did they go? And what about Michelle Mundin and Charlie? What happened to Hazel’s house after she was arrested for murdering Madeleine, and what happened to Sophie after all that? We hear a mention of the Parras, so we know they are still there, but is Havoc still working for Olivier? And Carole Gilbert seems isolated – you never hear of her coming out from the Inn and Spa. I thought she and Reine-Marie might strike up a friendship. It’s nice to see that Dominique is making friends in the village, but I feel sorry for Carole. Also we don’t hear much about Marc, but Jean-Guy did help him rake leaves. It’s nice to see Jean-Guy making friends in the village and just being there as a policeman solving a crime. And wasn’t that an adorable little conversation between Armand and Jean-Guy about whether Annie was pregnant! Armand was blustering that he would never ask, but Jean-Guy said it was alright to ask. I find Jean-Guy much warmer and kinder now. No doubt loving Annie and being loved back has made all the difference to him!

Julie, Joan Hickson IS Miss Marple to me. Have you ever seen the 4 Miss Marple movies Margaret Rutherford made? Of course she doesn’t look anything like the descriptions of Marple, But she is just so funny to me. Three are based on Christie’s novels. “Murder Ahoy” isn’t. I’m not an Austen fan, but I think I’ll try a Stephanie Barron book. Sounds good.
More Later.

Hello, everyone – I would love further discussion on any topic of any book. They all tie together so well, that I do think some of the grander themes (grander, just in that they span more than one book) would be great. Given that, I can’t think of anything right now, hahahaha.

I have been reading the “new” Poirot – written with the approval of Agatha Christie’s family. I’m a little more than halfway through and I have to say that I am enjoying it very much. The author has found Poirot’s voice, which is lovely. The story, too, is worthy of Christie. I’ve been immersing myself in the Miss Marple teleplays on Acorn, as I have just a one-month subscription – gotten for Still Life – and I want to make the most of it. I’m watching Geraldine McEwan right now, though I do think that Joan Hickson was the most “Marple-y”. The latest ones with Julia McKenzie seem to have moved furthest off the mark to me. Neither of the latter two are bad, by any means, but they do seem to play a little fast and loose with the plots.

All that said, I’m enjoying the watching immensely. I watch and stitch (so mostly listen) in the afternoons when I can.

In general, how do you feel about modern interpretations of some of the past masters? And especially, new books with characters made famous by those past masters? It is very difficult to speak in the right voice in these books, and people manage it with more or less accuracy, it seems to me. As a Jane Austen fan, I’ve seen and read a great many “continuations” of Pride and Prejudice, including PD James’ “Death Comes to Pemberly”. In most cases, the writers fail to capture the right tone and language. Some of my favorites, though are Stephanie Barron’s series, which might be entitled something along the lines of “The Unpleasantness at Norland Park”, where murder is reduced to an unpleasant inconvenience for most of the characters. They give me a laugh!

Good morning to all. Yesterday was a great day as we attended our high school reunion. It is always a joy to see people we don’t see otherwise. Our graduating class was over 500. We never really knew everyone. All the classes from the 50’s are welcome. I told them that the Heritage Room of the local library needed yearbooks from the 40’s and 50’s. Honestly, you would have thought I was asking for their first born child. I think some are planning to be buried with theirs. LOL. We have already given ours (same years) as well as copies from our Junior college ( now a 4 yr with Masters and Phds offered). We also gave our Jr and Sr years from Georgia. I should have told them that they could visit their books whenever they wanted.
I’ve read through most posts from Still Life. Good comments from people who haven’t written lately, too. I hope we can discuss some of the points again in light of the entire series. Please, if anyone has a topic you want further discussion on, from any book, just bring it up. I hope all will join in with a topic or comments. Everyone’s view is important. We have such diversity that we can bring to the discussions.

To Millie: I am sorry to hear about your hip. I do understand how repetitive or prolonged “mis-positioning” can lead to issues. Bad posture at the computer and desk played a large role in my neck and general spine arthritis issues. A few things helped me out a lot and I thought that I’d pass them along. First, I had to learn how important it was to relax when I was in pain. Tension (for me, starting in my jaw), drew the bones together, reducing space that was already reduced because of inflammation….increasing the pain. Lying on the floor on my back on a yoga mat and concentrating on slow breathing was key. I even slept like that when I was dealing with spasms. Second, yoga was a godsend. Not the crazy position kind – just gentle stretch and twists and then hang forward from hips. Everything clicks back into position. Finally, pilates has been very helpful to get small muscles working properly to give proper support. It has also been about working on articulating each joint in the spine and opening up shoulders and hips. A year later, I have almost no episodes of spasm or unbearable pain.

Anna and Millie: I admire your strength along your journey with loved ones. Remember to care for yourselves. Grieve when you need to. And keep breathing. Prayers sent your way that it will get easier.

All great advice Kim. Especially during times of stress it is so easy to have overactive muscle groups pulling us in the wrong direction, so to speak. I have been trying to exercise gently and I like your suggestions.

Thank you for your kind thoughts, it means so much.

Acupuncture helps, too. I have an acupuncturist who works wonders with my neck down to the derriere when I have been abusing my body with too much time reading, watching TV, and being at the computer.

Anna, I too have experienced “well a lot lonely”… I think I know what you mean without you having to explain it.

Your daughter sounds like a delight, you are so lucky to have her. And thank your sweet husband for his best wishes. Enjoy your weekend with him. My husband travels also. I know how precious that time together is. Tho I remember you saying that even when apart you are still connected. Yes. Know that too. And the glory of relaxing and allowing others to take charge for a while. Soon enough I’ll have to be the strong once again. Jump back into that hurricane… I hope you continue to allow yourself the grace to, as Clara says, ‘get on with your life’.

Stop by the Bistro to catch your breath, write when you can. Things have a way of sorting themselves out if we just let them…

When you asked, “Wonder how Clara will do it?” I thought she would be able to paint again if she doesn’t forget the joy. If she doesn’t stop loving. Loved Reine Marie’s quoting Nietzsche, “We love life, not because we are used to living, but because we are used to loving.”

As Barbara so kindly told us, The sun will shine again! In the meantime, I send you my love. You have become a dear friend although we have never met. The miracle of books and the internet and risking reaching out past the clouds and past the loneliness. 🙂
Thank you Paul.

Thank you Millie for saying I am a dear friend. I couldn’t wish for a higher compliment. And I feel the same about you and our Bistro companions.

Barbara, you are always so warm and kind as well. I hope things are ok in your spot of the world and you have seen the sun shine too.

The sun has been shining here, it is a beautiful day but life for Mum is so very hard it makes it difficult to appreciate fully the joy of the day.

I keep thinking about chiaroscuro and the light and the dark. Night is always an interesting time. It can wrap around you like a cloak and hold you safe until morning. Or it can stretch forever and feel cold and lonely. Pain is so hard at night because there are so few boundaries to the world in darkness. Pain can also feel overwhelming as though it will go on forever.

There is no doubt that the way we see everything can change. We can choose to let the dark enfold us in comfort, or let our imaginations expand in the limitless night or cringe against the fears which loom larger in the dark.

The light can equally be good or frightening. It’s lovely to sit in the sun but the glare can hurt our eyes. The light can limit our thinking by shining on too many distractions. Or equally it can show us the way home.

Trying to make the choice to see more good and less bad in everything. Thank you all for the support and help to keep going forward.

My 5-year-old granddaughter has a sudden interest in (or concentration on?) death. I want very badly to find the moment to talk with her about that because she came into my life when I was much older (now almost 78). I, too, think about death, but would tell her what I think is true: our bodies go away, but our spirits stay with you always in your heart.

Thank you, Barbara, for the reminder that the sun will shine again. I was thinking last night of just what you said, how quickly I’m seeing ‘that entire generation’ going… Not that no other Aunts or Uncles had died before. But most passed while in the middle of doing what they loved. One much older Uncle passed away while on a chartered fishing boat out at sea having the time of his life! Quick heart attack and gone. What is so painful now is the agony of watching the ‘younger’ ones resuscitated from stokes or whatever to only live in pain, without memory, scared…

I’ve lived where there were earth quakes and where there were hurricanes – the hurricanes were much harder on the nerves. The last three years have felt like living in a hurricane of emotions and I’m so tired…

And so grateful for the good thoughts…

Anna and Millie, My heart reaches out to both of you. I can say with certainty that the sun will shine again when the dark clouds pass…and they will. Condolences, Millie, on the loss of your Aunt. I remember as one by one they left. That entire generation gone.
Anna, I love the image of your daughter sleeping on her dog. Mine were such a help to me during all the bad times of my life. Glad to hear you were able to write some.
Good thoughts to you both.

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