The Bistro

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

3,650 replies on “The Bistro”

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.


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.

Susan – I so appreciate your thoughtful insights into the technique that LP displays so well. I appreciate it all as I’m reading it, but just like the math homework and “show your work” – it’s all magic to me. I could no more pinpoint WHY I love LP’s writing than I could describe “orange”. I know I love it, and I know why I love it, but I can’t explain. You can. Perfect. The sentence you pulled out is absolutely a perfect sentence, and I love the completion of the thought – the wood-smoke going home. Beautiful. Simple. Elegant.

I sat by the fire drinking hot chocolate this morning, watching the ducks migrate to warmer climes, wondering where I packed my sweaters, and my thoughts turned to memories of my children returning home for the holidays.

Louise has described so many homes in her books.

-Jean Neal’s home, filled with painted memories from floor to ceiling.

-Peter and Clara’s home with two separate and very different hearts. Peter’s filled with sterile useless minutiae and Clara’s filled with paint splatters, crumbs, and hope.

-Ruth’s home with treasures in the cellar, a warm stove, and Rosa the duck.

-Myrna’s loft with its cozy chairs and books.

-The hermit’s cabin of treasures, filled for at least one night with violin music.

I could go on and on, through each book we have been in someone’s home.

Which home is most like your own? And in this world of continuing transitions, which would you most like your home to become?

I think our house is most like Myrna’s loft with cozy chairs and lots of books. Would love to have a wood stove too but there’s no place to put one…and they’re being banned in Montreal 🙁 So sometimes we go to Vermont and sit in our friends’ book lined living room in front of their wood stove. My husband has a favorite quote from the writings of Louise Erdrich which he can’t find at the moment but it goes something like…”decorating is when you add another bookshelf”.

Hmmm. Probably most like Clara’s studio….bits of food and dirt tracked around by kids and dog. Tidiness not a top priority. Artwork everywhere: my son’s detailed with a limited colour palette; my daughter’s generally with bold colours and bursting with happiness. Noisy. And, on mid-winter nights when the cold seeps in, wood fire set in the fireplace.

Susan, You had my attention from your first sentence.. ” I have always been a voracious reader” as have I. I had to show your post to my husband. He laughed at your mention of the books LP’s novels have led you to and commented on living with stacks of books and notebooks I get so enthused about topics and ideas LP introduces in her books and rush to get books and research on the internet. The ability to write as she does is a great talent.
You expressed my feelings about the books so much better than I could.

Although I have always been a voracious reader, I had never been exposed to Louise’s work until earlier this year when an accountant friend recommended her as a good author to read to help slough off the tension of the workday. I picked How the Light Gets In at the time, since I have always loved Leonard Cohen’s poetry, and started in. Then I went back and read every one of her books in order – now twice through – and I cannot get enough. The profundity of her work is amazing; the complexity of her characters truly astonishing; and her ability to draw us into her beautiful reality – Three Pines – is accomplished by evoking our senses and making us believe we are there because we can smell the café au lait, and the garlic and rosemary chicken baking and the earthiness of the autumn leaves, or the feel of icy snowflakes on our cheeks, the sound of the birds in the trees or the sight of the beautiful fall colors or the flowers in the gardens. I now have a large notebook filed with character and location descriptions and quotes that make me think and meditate, and which provide comfort and still an anxious mind.

I have read all of the re-read discussions and the lengthy reviews of the characters and their motivations. However, there does not seem to have been very much discussion of Louise’s techniques in how she accomplishes her magic. One of Louise’s sentences in Still Life is one of the most exquisitely beautiful I have ever read: “Wood smoke whispered out of the chimney to be grabbed by the wind and taken home to the woods beyond.” I have printed out this sentence and have posted it above my desk to provide comfort and grounding during the difficult workday. The words are put together so artistically and sensually – each one evokes such power and beauty. The delicacy of the rising smoke; the strength and guardian-like authority of the wind grabbing it, and “taking it home” – bring the wood’s final by-product full circle back from whence it came. This is genius.

I was also deeply struck by the very beginning of Louise’ newest, TLWH, where all of us open the book and dive in, ready to go sailing through this next adventure. But Louise fills this first chapter with really short sentences, as Armand sits on his bench, seeking comfort and solace and healing. Those sentences slow us down too, and we are made to enter that meditative state to join with Armand, to think, to consider, to really find the depths in what is being said, so we don’t miss everything by just racing on to read the mystery at its most superficial level.

I also really love all of the rabbit holes Louise dives down, to explore all sorts of issues – art, music, poetry. My table is now full of so many authors and books on artwork mentioned in her books. Her books are each seminars in fine arts, psychology, music, history. I have learned so much from these books and consider them enormous treasures. When Louise came out here to Seattle recently on her book tour, I was privileged to attend her book signing here. While waiting a very long time in the line to have her sign my book, I kept considering what I could possibly say to let Louise know the depth of my gratitude for her and for her books and all they have meant to me, all within the 30 seconds or so allotted to each one of us, and in the end felt inadequate to say nothing but a heartfelt thank you. Louise was so kind and so patient with each individual.

Thanks to you all for your thoughts and discussions.

Hi Susan. Lovely summary of some of the amazing qualities of LPs writing. I love her ability to transport us fully to a place by engaging all of our senses. Her descriptions are wickedly good….I put on weight just reading about buttery flaky croissants!

Isn’t it wonderful when we find a whole new series to read that holds us in thrall. I am not sure it happens that often actually. Certainly not to me, but I am grateful to find people to share the reading with…..makes it all the more special and had has really enhanced my experience of the books.

In reply to Susan & Anna…I really enjoyed the post from Susan with all the interesting insights. My only problem at this point is that I’m spoiled by Louise’s writing. Reading anyone else is not the same. Definitely something lacking. Guess we just have to wait for the next LP. Sigh. 🙂

Oh yes. I miss Meg too. Perhaps she didn’t see the notice of the Bistro. I only happened upon it by chance.

I tried some new authors recently, they were a no go. I read one book this week but only out of curiosity. Shallow with no real substance. I enjoy books that are light and humorous but this one was an attempting to be serious and just failed in my eyes.

No “an” before “attempting”. I really need a typing course. I correct typos and sometimes seem to put in odd words.

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