The Bistro

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”

Names are important and interesting. My family has a habit of shortening everything…it is very Australian to shorten or add a ‘y’ or ‘i.e.’ to the ends of words. Hence afternoon becomes arvo, breakfast is brekkie etc. Its hard to shorten Anna but I get called An or Annie. Not Ann or Anne. My mother is Ann. That explains why Erin is shorted to E in our house. I think we are just lazy.
I did wonder about the hyphens Julie, or should we call you Lynda (!), and I am still not sure whether they should be there or not. How about we go with JG and RM?!
I wonder what will happen to the cadets. Do you think we shall continue to see them? I do worry about the rot that has already escaped the Academy into the system and I am not totally confident that it can be eliminated. I suspect it will fester and rise again in some form or another. But then almost all institutions have the problem of being used by the nefarious seeking power and influence, as that is where power lies. Maintaining a positive culture is the only way to minimise that but culture change is hard. Will Gamache stay at the Academy or ind someone else to take the reins? I suspect the latter. JG is only there on temporary assignment and I suspect there other places for Gamache to be useful. It will be interesting indeed but one of Louise’s great strengths is making characters grow.

The Case of the Disappearing Hyphen: First, it was Jean Guy – later, he was Jean-Guy. For one more book, he was Jean Guy, and since then, I think the hyphen has stuck. Same with Reine Marie, who in this book is Reine-Marie, and now I don’t remember when that happened, or if she always had the hyphen. But it’s one of those funny little continuity things that I notice and can’t help but muse about. Such a little thing.

Names and getting them right have always been important to me. Perhaps it’s because my middle name (which all my family uses exclusively) is Lynda, and the “special spelling” just doesn’t stick for some people. Like my older brother – he and his wife have never spelled my name correctly, nor have any of their 37 children (okay – it’s only 4, but they seem to be everywhere, and they’ve all had at least four each, hahaha) Cathryne – I feel somehow that you can relate to that! 😀

Maybe it stems from my first day at school. Up until then, my entire life (five whole years!), my name had been Lynda. But my mother enrolled me in school as Julie. Julie was her name, too, and they called me Lynda so as not to get us mixed up. As the teacher called out the roll, she got to Julie, and Julie didn’t answer. I was looking all over, wondering why this “Julie person” didn’t answer, and then the teacher came up to me and told me that she meant me! But, my name’s Lynda! And so my dual personality started, hahaha. I think everyone is a little different within their first family dynamic, but since I have a name for the person who grew up with them, that’s different from my “public” name, it’s very weird. Or maybe it’s just me.

Cathryne – how beautifully you put it! I think you are exactly right. It’s odd – I read the book really fast the first time because – you know – it’s new and you want to devour it. So even though I only let myself have a little bit at a time, to try to savor it, I don’t think I read it as thoughtfully as I might have – because there are so many things I didn’t notice or forgot. Of course, a lot of that is Louise’s brilliance – things that, now that you KNOW, you realize are important, but they didn’t seem so at the time.

As for Amelia – you’re right, Anna – he never thought of her as an enemy – I was more thinking just how painful a reminder she might be. But, I think, with his great big heart, he saw someone who, even on paper, seemed so troubled. I think maybe he could see, or at least imagine, that it may be because of the accident that she is troubled. In that, her father, coming out of prison, no doubt would have a hard time fitting back into society, and of course, the home life would not be good. I think for much of her childhood, it was just Amelia and her father, and she loved him very much. I also think that maybe her mother abandoned them? Or maybe died of a drug overdose? (see what I mean about not reading carefully?) Something in the mother’s background I think haunted Amelia, and made her think she wasn’t worth saving. I loved that the reason she had applied was seeing LaCoste on television and finding someone she wanted to emulate. In that sense, she saved herself, as you can see by the end of the book that she’s going to be okay.

Nancy – I have nothing I can add to what’s been said, but feel the need to give you a hug! ((((((((Nancy))))))))

Nancy, I keep wanting to let you know that you, your husband and your family have been in my heart every day since you shared your son’s death. The pictures of where he lived are incredibly beautiful and I think of them every time I think of you all. What a wonderfully place he chose to live.
I’m so glad that you were willing to get out to visit friends, it sounds lovely and wise.

Thank you Catheryne. I empathize with Anna’s statement just before your post when she says it feels strange to have “days which aren’t built around the needs of my parents.” Well, I can say that it feels strange to have days which aren’t built around the needs of our son. Constant need for money or emotional support or other support. And now to discover lies and wonder how much was true, how much was fantasy. We’ll never really know. I guess we mourn for the child he was and the man we always hoped he would become.

Cathryne, I think your ides are wonderful and en pointe! I like how you capture Brebeuf’s nature and hating the one we have wronged. So true as they are a constant reminder of our baser nature. That is why asking for forgiveness is so important so we can move on as much as an acknowledgment of what we have done wrong. Sounds selfish to be forgiven but isn’t that the grace that is imparted by the wronged person?
You definitely hit the nail on the head…Brebeuf gets to destroy himself and Armand while being a hero. Truly selfish and destructive at the same time. So important to remember that living with what he had done is much harder than the path he chose. In some way Amelia’s father is the counterpoint to that…after what must have been an awful start to his life, he has gone on and has a family. Do we know why Amelia took the path she did? At any rate she reconciles with her father. Living and progressing versus self destructing.
Life sounds ever challenging for you Cathryne. I was just saying today that it is amazing to me to have days which aren’t built around the needs of my parents. That feels selfish and somewhat unanchored as opposed to adrift. So strange to have time to devote to other things. And the energy…
I do hope you have some time for you Cathryne.

I think Brebouf’s final action is completely in character. I don’t think he is the strong one and he knows it. He knows he let his best friend down and he knows Gamache understands who he is, maybe even forgives him, but does Not trust him. He thinks Gamache has come to shoot him when G. comes to the Gaspe because he feels he deserves to be killed. Michel hates himself for hating and envying Armand for much of their lives. He hates Gamache for being a happy, contented, ethical man, no matter what difficulties his life has contained.

Every time Armand and Michel have a conversation in AGR and start to fall into an old rhythm of friendship, Michel takes or makes a moment to throw in a passive-aggressive hurtful tone, look, or words, oh so innocently, like a dagger. We hate the person we have wronged, especially the beloved person we have wronged, the person who has not wronged us.

Michel can’t force his friend to kill him so he finally comes up with what he can do to: 1. Continue to look like Armand’s savior. 2. Destroy Armand by killing himself to save Armand. He gets to destroy himself and Armand at the same time, while pretending to be a hero.

I believe that Gamache realized very early (pp. 10-11) of AGR who Amelia Choquet was. “It wasn’t her first name he was reacting to. It was her last. …grabbing the file off the floor, he opened it. Scanning down the pathetically scant information. Then he closed it, his hand trembling.” He went down to the basement to the very back of the back room and took out the small box. He opened it and “confirmed it. Choquet.” He knew. And he changed the dot once more, to green. I didn’t know, I was clueless! But he knew.

I hope this makes some sense and I hope anyone who disagrees will jump in because I like having to think harder about this wonderful book, and question myself. I find myself in such a mental muddle too often these days with my mom and my husband in unpredictable, poor health. I have enjoyed focusing on Louise’s writing as she moved along characters and plot so carefully, so discreetly, herding me this way and that without my even knowing it.

Duty calls!

Hey Nancy…how are you? We haven’t heard from you and I just want to check that you are ok?? Is it freezing up there? We have had a little taste but thanks to our experience and shopping in Quebec we were will prepared for the winter chill. Enjoyed it even, except for the wind which is a bit vicious.

Hi Anna,
I’m okay and yes, it’s cold. Mostly we have to be careful of the icy sidewalks. They do put down abrasives but there are lots of places that are still very icy. I’m talking about parking lots and private drives. We went to church this morning and then out to eat. The church lot and sidewalk were icy but negotiable…and the same at the restaurant. Just had to be careful. We just got back from Vermont. Our friends’s driveway is a sheet of ice…and they just got some new “yak-tracks” to help them walk on it. We had a lovely time relaxing in front of their wood stove.

Did you see the video of all the vehicles colliding on the hill downtown on Dec 5..??? Type in “Montreal pile up on ice” and there will be references to it. I don’t know how to give you the link but I just found it through doing that. I guess it’s gone viral. It’s slow motion and I doubt anyone was hurt but it sure is crazy to watch. That was a good day to stay home!

Now I’m thinking of going downstairs to work on a jigsaw puzzle. Stay warm everyone!

We saw that video back in Australia Nancy. It was spectacular. Yes, pavements are icy in parts despite the grit even here. We are learning to tread carefully with small discrete steps.
I love jigsaws. Jigsaws by the fire would be fun.

I don’t think Gamache ever saw Amelia as an enemy. I think he was always offering a life raft to her. She wasn’t thought of when her father killed Armand’s parents. Perhaps the memories she roused did lead him to Brebeuf though..that is an interesting thought.

The other thing I was struck by as I started the re-read, is that it took Gamache some time to realize who Amelia is, and once he does, he immediately decides to accept her application. Why? Out of magnanimity, or a need to “keep your enemies close”? Is it tied to the decision to bring Brebeuf back? It’s certainly tied in proximity – but I don’t know if the reasoning is similar for both “appointments”.

Interesting, Anna. I started my re-read last night – and there were a couple of things that stood out for me. I’ll deal with this one, first, as it speaks to your question. Immediately after Gamache decides to take Amelia Choquet as a cadet, he tells Reine Marie that he is going to see Brebeuf (though we don’t find that out right away – he just says he’s going to “the Gaspé” and we find out when they get there). Reine Marie knows this could be trouble, so she says “I’m going with you”. As they drive up, and Brebeuf realizes who it is, he wonders if Gamache has come to kill him. He really seems to think that might be a possibility. I think that Gamache’s decision to see Brebeuf stems directly from realizing who Amelia is. Brebeuf is inextricably intertwined with his memory of the last time he saw his parents. Brebeuf was there to help him, to be the stronger one. I think it’s a spur-of-the-moment decision to bring Brebeuf in to help him root out the evil now… OR… he wonders if Brebeuf has been a part of the evil within the academy, and wants him close to watch him. So…. jumping ahead – given that both of them have history with Brebeuf being the stronger one – the “protector” – that this has colored their entire lives together as friends and then as enemies, I do kind of think it’s in character. He has been poisoned, or ruined, by the rot in Sûreté, and probably can’t be saved, so the sacrifice seems appropriate to me. Would a “real” person do that? I don’t know – I guess these days when you see people doing all kinds of unspeakably horrific things, I find it easier to believe. People lose their way – some make it out and some don’t. (boy, that sounds cynical, which is unlike me – must be about to have “one of those days”, hahahaha.

Hi Vince, I was going to start rereading AGR but the weather predictions upset my plans and sent me to stay with my sister for the duration. I didn’t bring the book with me as I knew I would get too involved with the book and be poor company. You know how it is. One page then another and then another chapter has gone by.
Back to AGR when the weather clears, I hope. The Library has been holding a book for me since Wed. Must get it on Mon. if possible.

Thanks, Vince – I didn’t see that. This site does some funny things – if you try to reply to a post, instead of the “general” reply at the bottom, it takes you back to page 1. Sometimes, if you do the “general” reply at the bottom, it somehow “knows” what you’re replying to, and puts the reply there… all very spooky, if you ask me, hahaha.

Yes, there was so much internal turmoil with almost all our characters, and they didn’t all say what they were thinking, so we were left to infer a lot. Stick around, Vince – we do intend to discuss the whole book.

Julie, I think you are exactly right that this characteristic of Gamache’s goes directly back to the death of his parents. It was like a lightning bolt with no storm, no way to foresee, it affected Gamache’s view of the world from that moment on. It makes me think of the books Thinking Fast and Slow and Undoing. I’ve only read about them and watched interviews with the authors, but they were fascinating. Our brains do crazy things to try to make sense of our world and experiences and, especially, control them, even trying to go back and “undo.”

I did not know if you saw my reply, but I again wanted to thank you.
Here is the reply:
January 4, 2017 at 8:07 am
Thank you so much. I kept wondering if there was someone other than Gelinas, or that somehow Brebeuf had spun or twisted his way out of it.Very good! I also looked for “Roland”.

To paraphrase the Cumberbatch Sherlock – “Is it arrogance, if I’m actually better than everyone else?” Couldn’t resist. Yes, reluctantly, I have to get on board and say that this is one of Gamache’s faults. And it had the most disastrous results here – I think he really is not thinking he’s better than anyone else, but that he CAN contain things and not endanger others by telling them what he’s doing, but he has to know, on some level, that his enemies would hurt those he love in a New York second! So not telling them doesn’t protect them, it puts them at a great disadvantage. But he can’t help himself. I think it all stems back to his parents. If that little boy could have gone back and stopped his parents going out that night, he would certainly do it (wouldn’t we all?). Now, he thinks he’s in a similar situation where he knows something others don’t and he’s got to protect them. He just goes about it the wrong way in my opinion. I have to say that I was disappointed in him in this book – and that says a lot, because if I’ve ever been “in love” with a character, it’s Gamache – but he’d have done so much better if everyone around him wasn’t flying blind. It didn’t make any sense to me, and it still doesn’t. That doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book – masterfully written, in my opinion. It just means that here is one of those human foibles.

I agree about Reine Marie and Gamache, both being much more emotionally charged in this. I think with each book, we’re getting a more complete picture of Reine Marie, which I love.

The silencer was made in Tennessee.
Gamache supposed there had to be a partner and contact had to have been made between LeDuc and the partner but I found no record of that until the end as Cathryne has said.
It is interesting that AGR is about loss and despair and finding the way back from the dark places that we find ourselves in. Perhaps not a uncommon theme for Louise but pertinent don’t you think?
It is also about the triumph of kindness over cruelty. I have to believe in that.

Just after I wrote my last post I remembered a previous discussion we have had about fear and fences. Gamache’s fear for others and the need to protect them has him creating barriers, blocking people out of his plans. That creates fearful thoughts in others who then don’t understand why he acts the way he does, makes certain decisions, and that leads to suspicion and speculation. Jean Guy and Reine Marie were both left wondering what his relationship was with Choquet. Communication can be a much more effective way to protect someone than building walls.

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