Gamache Series Open Discussion

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.

Paul Hochman

Discussion on “Gamache Series Open Discussion

  1. Anna says:

    Do you think Clara’s art was a reflection on Louise’s part that in life we are never truly complete…never finished and polished but always a work in progress…and what really matters is what and who we love? Did she say that in the novel or did I just feel it was implied?

  2. Julie Buck says:

    Hmmmm – re Clara’s art, I think it must be implied, as I don’t remember reading it put that way at all… but I do think that’s the message – you’ve got it spot on. And, of course, by that point in the book, I was reading fast and not as carefully as I was earlier on. I started out reading one or two chapters at a time and then reflecting on them. But once everyone was gathering at the Bistro for the ending scenes, I was racing to the next scene.

    I remember thinking when Lacoste called home and said she loved them that she was now living on “short time” – so I felt she was imperiled from that point on. So happy that it seems she will recover.

    Back to your earlier post regarding opioids, etc. – you are very right, Anna. What kind of doctor would not have understood how addicting they are, when I know that people were talking about how addicting Oxycontin was at least 25 years ago – how long does this have to be a problem before anyone addresses it? It’s ghastly to me how prevalent it has become. And it shows a marked propensity to pass the buck of blame and try to sue people for being able to fool you. For the doctors to be fooled to that extent, they had to be complicit.

    And yes – what, really, did Gamache accomplish? He shut down one big drug runner and lots of old established routes – how many will spring up to take their place? Drugs, illegal or prescription, are not now “solved”. And what did he lose of himself, and require the Crown prosecutor to lose in the doing of it? Are we going to find an Armand Gamache who is lost in the coming books?

    I was very uneasy with the whole concept of sometimes there’s a higher power to be answered to – your conscience rather than the law. That way lies anarchy. We see in the US today very clearly what happens when people “follow their hearts” rather than their minds. Darkness lurks in enough hearts to make it very scary. If even a good man like Gamache could decide that it was for the “greater good” that he allow so many drugs to pass through the border while he lulled the “bad guys” into a false sense of security, what would the average man be able to convince himself was better than the law? And, look how close they came to losing that battle – it was definitely not a foregone conclusion that the police would win that fight.

  3. Anna says:

    I know what you are saying Julie. I keep tossing that question around….is it ok to break the law for the greater good and what are the consequences if we do? It is a very difficult question because I can see situations when I can understand people breaking the letter of the law to save a loved one for example. Situations of domestic violence come to mind where maybe someone has to take their child and go on the run breaching a court order.
    Laws are interesting things. They are, after all decisions made by humans in an attempt to codify what is “right” but we humans don’t necessarily appreciate all the nuances of what a law might mean, or what it might be interpreted to mean.
    I remember a scene from the movie “Dave” when the Chief of Staff and the Communications Director were trying to convince Dave it was ok to break the law to protect the country. The Communications Director asked Dave if he had ever run a red light on an empty street late at night when there was no-one around and it was perfectly safe. I think Dave was leaning to no. So he asked if he would do it if he had his sick mother in the car and was racing her to hospital. That was a probable yes. The point was we understand there are rules but sometimes circumstances supersede them. How far do we go if it is ok to run the light, and I think it probably is, if a life is at stake?
    The hard thing too is balancing many lives against many other lives. Who is more important? The answer is all lives are the same….but are they??

  4. Julie Buck says:

    Exactly. The saving grace, of course, was that Gamache WAS aware there may be consequences, and was prepared to face them. He even told the Crown that it could mean jail if they were caught throwing the trial. BUT, when the end came there were little consequences to pay. The Crown and Gamache lost their jobs (I think – I did read that part fast), but Gamache never meant to stay on anyway, I think. Like at the school – it was a “I’ll come aboard to fix THIS” and then move on. He’s lucky the judge didn’t pay any price, because it’s conceivable that she’d have been fired, too… And there’s no sense even that they lost pensions, reputation, etc. – I think both were allowed to resign quietly.

    All that said – yes, who wouldn’t run a red light on a deserted street if their dying mother was in the car? There are times when each of us might do something. I go back and forth. I guess in this case, it’s all the lives lost to the drugs that made it through in the year or so that they stopped policing the drug lords… How do you explain to that mother or father that some future lives were worth more than their child’s?

    It’s very tough to get around. And, if we can accept that Gamache was right (a big “if”) then it was an exciting read and moved the characters further along the spectrum of their growth. On some level, it would be worth it just to get such people out of Three Pines…

  5. Anna says:

    Did any one feel this book was different to the rest of the series? Not in the alternating timeframe but the tone or the style of the writing?
    In previous novels I found myself stopping frequently, caught by the beauty or majesty in the turn of a phrase and it is something we have commented on. I remember highlighting frequently. What phrases affected you this way in this book.

  6. Julie Buck says:

    That’s an interesting point, Anna – and one I hadn’t considered at all – I’m not sure… I’m not one to highlight things… Right now, I’m preparing for a group discussion of a few chapters of Northanger Abbey for our Jane Austen group, and I have a few things in my mind that I’d want to bring out in discussion, so have been trying to highlight. I find that I’m highlighting whole pages of things – so obviously, this is a concept I have not yet grasped fully.

    I can’t think of any phrases or ideas that grabbed at me, other than the one that’s mentioned several times – “Burn your ships”. I’d never heard this phrase, and like Beauvoir, I found myself googling it. It’s interesting – to me, it’s very like “burn your bridges” (and probably where burn your bridges comes from – a fractured retelling of the story). This never seems like a good idea to me, of course. Making sure you can’t go back is different from deciding not to backtrack or retreat. I think that Cortés didn’t trust his men not to retreat, so he made a decision for them. Gamache did a similar thing in not trusting a lot of the people in the Sûreté.

    Other than that, I don’t think I’ve got anything. I know there was a whole “Lord of the Flies” thing, that didn’t mean a lot to me, as I read that way back in elementary school, and I don’t remember a lot of it. I do know that Beauvoir, again, felt compelled to read the book, so there must have been something to it. I just felt it was a book that said our natural behavior is brutish. But reading it at 12 or so, of course, I wasn’t going to get any real nuance out of it.

  7. Cathryne Spencer says:

    I’m an underliner, I just have to underline in books I love, and make notes on the back endpapers. So, certain books I buy so I can mark.
    One part I liked in Glass Houses was during a conversation between Myrna and Anton.
    P. 18. Anton didn’t join the party in the bistro. He said, “I could’ve come out, but I’m not big on parties. Being in the kitchen suits me.”
    “Myrna nodded. She understood. We all have, she knew, a place where we’re not only most comfortable, but most competent. Hers was her bookstore. Olivier’s was the bistro. Clara’s was her studio.
    Sarah’s, the bakery. And Anton’s was the kitchen.”
    It reminded me of a scene in The Long Way Home–Clara sitting, terrified, by the window as a storm tossed their boat in a gale (p.327), “so that the people inside were tossed this way and that, without warning…Clara had her sketchbook and pencil case on her lap, but kept them unopened. ‘Were you planning to do a drawing?’ Gamache asked. ‘No, I just feel safe, holding them.’ She brushed the metal pencil holder with her finger, like a rosary, and held onto her sketch pad like a Bible.”
    I love your question, Anna, and will be thinking about it. Tomorrow too busy but I’ll be back.

  8. Cathryne Spencer says:

    The phrases that I found are not examples of beauty or majesty, as you asked, Anna, but powerful in Louise’s way of offering us a way of finding reassurance, safety, comfort in an unfamiliar, overwhelming situation.

  9. Julie Buck says:

    Love those examples, Cathryne, and they helped me to grasp more fully what Anna was asking… I think we’ve talked before about the “magic” qualities of Three Pines. And I think this goes right to what you were saying, Anna – this book WAS different. Something ugly had been brought right in to Three Pines without regard for all the wonderful people there. I will be struck, for a long time, by the image of the village children playing on the green, dropping to the ground at the sound of gunshots – as if they had been shot. And, in a way, they had. There will never again be a time when they didn’t know that evil can be right beside you without you even knowing about it.

    Yesterday, I was reflecting on something my mother said to me. I was with her on 9/11 and she said “the people on TV keep saying that nothing will ever be the same again, but it will. Things will go back to normal.” Even then, it showed me that she didn’t really understand what was happening (and to be fair, she was old, and living in Canada, her life wasn’t going to change). But I knew that nothing would ever be the same again. We now lived in a world where such things happened. Where people so hated others that they could do something this monstrous. That’s how I feel things will be for Three Pines. Even though the routes and hidey-holes had been used before for alcohol during prohibition, the evil didn’t really show up until people were willing to kill each other and innocent bystanders in a cafe over a package of drugs.

    I don’t know if Three Pines can recover from this… well, I know they will, and they will be stronger for it, but they won’t have the same innocence. And, of course, maybe the innocence was a sham.

  10. Anna says:

    Thanks Cathryne. I like the examples you highlight. I have both the kindle and hardback and underline on the kindle version. But this time I did not highlight anything and I usually do. I need to reread and see if I missed things by reading quickly.
    I am not sure what I felt was simply a consequence of the danger in Three Pines, although the children on the green was a chilling touch. We have been there before with evil battling good in Three Pines. Perhaps it was more peripheral then and this time the town itself was being used as a tool in a sordid game. I am not sure.
    I can not imagine where Louise goes from here. Last time the Surete imploded. This time it felt like it exploded and I sort of long for a simple murder and a mystery to solve. High level conspiracies feel a little too real somehow.

  11. Julie Buck says:

    I know what you mean about the high level conspiracies, Anna. I don’t understand why there are so many TV shows right now about terrorists. Well, okay, I DO – people want to see our side winning. But I find the whole thing way too close to home and too disturbing to see as “entertainment”. I’m not saying put our heads in the sand or our fingers in our ears, while we shout out “woo woo woo” – we need to know what’s going on, but we don’t need to see it for “fun”.

    I have wondered where we go from here, too – surely, Gamache has burned those ships as far as the Sûreté is concerned. So… now what? It was interesting that the Gamaches had kept their Montreal apartment, and I see why they needed it for this kind of work, but now what? Of course, Louise has only just let her Montreal apartment go – so maybe it’s a corresponding thing.

  12. Julie Buck says:

    I forgot something that Louise said at the book signing – I’d totally forgotten. Someone in the audience asked what had happened to Jane’s house. I know we’ve wondered… She said that once Jane was gone, and Clara had inherited her house, she didn’t know what to do with it, so she just pretended it wasn’t there for the following books… She definitely felt she’d painted herself into a corner with that one… pun intended…

  13. Anna says:

    Maybe Clara is renting it out to provide an income …..

    • Julie Buck says:

      Love that idea, Anna! I always thought it should be donated to the Art Society or whatever they called the group that was putting on the art show in Still Life. It could have been named after Jane and been their headquarters, places for fundraisers, etc. Or, I would have liked to see Clara move into it and live there with Jane’s art. After Peter, it could be a new start for her. Or she could even use it as her studio…

  14. Mary Cate says:

    I love all of the comments readers have posted. Thank you all for sharing your ideas. I have a question about Glass Houses and wondered if anyone could answer it. I don’t think my question is a spoiler. Why was the bat removed and then returned? I understand it had to be there for the DNA, but why was it removed initially? I can’t find an explanation in the book.

  15. Mark Stocks says:

    I spent the last three days reading Glass Houses to my wife as a birthday gift. How wonderful, especially with the snippets of French. We re-elected the movie Still Life and while we enjoyed it again, we were disappointed in the cast. We have read all of the Gamache series and love the characterizations so we thought were another movie to be made the characters would best be played by:
    Armand Gamache – Mark Harmon
    Jean-Guy – Michael Weatherly
    Ruth – Maggie Smith
    Myra – Viola Davis (not sure I got the name right)

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