LOUISE PENNY’S

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.

Discussion on “The Bistro”

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:
VINCE BOSSO says:
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.

I think you are like me Barbara and loathe to use a word like arrogance, which I too associate with those I do not like as it is not a nice trait, with Gamache. Arrogance is “an offensive attitude of superiority”, overbearing pride and exaggerated self importance”, none of which I associate with Armand. I think you are correct…overconfidence may well be the right way to describe Gamache’s error. Overprotective as well perhaps? Does that explain why he didn’t allow Jean Guy or anyone else into his plan? He delayed a long time asking Jean Guy to be his second at the Academy because he wanted to protect him. Is being overprotective actually damaging? Is it also underestimating others ability to have input and be useful? I do think that could be Gamache’s biggest fault. He keeps so much to himself because he fears involving others but that doesn’t give them due credit.

I’ve thought it over. Overconfident, yes. In my mind To be arrogant is to think you know best and more than anyone else. That because you are you, everyone else is a lesser being. I think Gamache’s fault, and it is a fault, is that he was overconfident and thought that because he had brought about some amazing events that he could manage this too. I don’t think that he felt no one else could contribute but that he was able to bring this off too. It was too much. What do
you think ? Everyone.

Good question Anna. I’m going to have a think on that. Arrogance? That is exactly the word I would use if Gamache were a person I disliked as I often call politicians arrogant.
Back with further thoughts later.

Arrogance, the sin with which we accuse LeDuc, is a word often leveled by detractors at Gamache. Do we think he is at all arrogant? Is that perhaps one of his faults? Certainly he thought he could control a very volatile situation having LeDuc and Brebeuf at the Academy. Is that arrogance or something else. I hate to criticize Gamache but at the same time, one of the reasons we love him is that he is human and so he makes mistakes. Any thoughts?

Oh right, I’d forgotten about the silencer –specially made in New York, wasn’t it? I guess that arrogance, along with being in league with the former top brass at the school and Surete (sorry no diacritics), made him think he would get away with it if it happened. Insightful answers, all!

I have been reading a book on Ancient Rome called SPQR in addition to AGR so plenty to get on with. Then I have Bellevue about the hospital. I am having an historical moment and of course Bury Your Dead.
As I read AGR I was thinking we see a broader emotional range from both Gamache’s….anger, tears….especially from Reine Marie who has been very controlled for most of the series.

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