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”

I too have pondered why Gamache behaved as he did, beyond the exigencies of the storyline, and there are a few thoughts. With Brebouf, it was a very deep and personal disappointment he suffered with this man. I can imagine he found the whole story too hard to discuss with anyone much as it reinvigorated the grief for his parents. Brebouf redeemed him then, I think he hoped to offers redemption in return, knew at a visceral level that it might fail but retained enough hope to try.
Gamache is also still very much in the fortress mindset he developed as he tried to save the department when secrecy was paramount to protect his friends and work his plans. He gambled very much on that ploy. Has he forgotten how to open up now and invite his colleagues in or are they still people he seeks to protect at all costs. It is very human to turn a strength into a weakness….the desire to protect can lead to isolation.
Armand has been accused of being arrogant by his detractors. I don’t think he means to be, I don’t believe he acts for self aggrandizement but out of true fear at times.it is not the same thing. I do agree Julie that he made a mistake and he should have asked for help but I can imagine the psychological factors that worked against him.

Oh, goodie – let’s do it then! I think you are right about the gore factor – though that’s never been WHY I read mysteries, I do expect it to be part of some books, and I can handle it. I don’t go looking for it, however, and it certainly wouldn’t upset me if it wasn’t there, hahaha. I hadn’t thought, either, Cathryne, as you so astutely point out – why say “two GAY men” instead of just “two men”? There’s an agenda there…

So let’s get right to it. For me, while this isn’t quite my new favorite, I thought it was a fantastic book, and I enjoyed it more than the last one. Actually, I think the true evil of the bad guy in the last one made it hard for me to read again, while I know I’ll be reading this one again soon!

In general though, I’m a bit mystified as to why Gamache doesn’t share his burdens more? If he’d told Isabel and Beauvoir what he was doing and why, it would have been easier to flush out The Duke and perhaps have avoided not only his death, but maybe even his coercion of the students to play Russian roulette. At least I hope so. I found it actually, kind of frustrating that he didn’t tell Isabel that he was asking for the RCMP Commissioner (whose name I’ve already forgotten) and why. She could easily have been some help in that regard. And for Beauvoir (and even Reine-Marie!) not to understand why Brebeuf was there? Obviously, the remnants of their friendship is something that both men feel deeply and there’s the push me-pull-you of the emotions, but if Beauvoir had just known, he could have been more watchful..

All that aside – we needed the things to happen as they did to move the story forward, and perhaps Louise wasn’t willing to have all three of them not be able to stop the murder and the abuse of the cadets from happening…

Anyway – for me that’s the first big thing. I’m still in the “Gamache! What were you thinking?” mode, hahaha.

I think the murder when it fit the story line. I have never needed the crime to take place at the beginning of a novel. I think that is more for the gore and blood readers too.
Many other people are mentioned when their appearance takes the story line forward. Too many people entering and leaving in every chapter becomes too “busy” for me. The main characters have a purpose . All writers are not for all readers. I do not enjoy, and so don’t read some authors that my friends consider favorites.
LP writes carefully crafted novels that educate, inform, entertain and enthrall. All readers do not seek all of those qualities. No harm, no foul. Just further proof that people differ.
This week I read Ryhs Bowen’s latest. Always a fun read. Interesting bits of English-Irish
history as the book was placed primarily in Ireland.
As I said earlier, AGR is now my favorite LP book.
I think we can discuss it as spoilers are on other sites.
Hi,to all.

May your tent be free of tigers! Absolutely. Unless they are really tame protective sorts that keep even more aggressive creatures at bay.
I think it is ok to talk now Julie. There are far more spoilers from other sources like Amazon.

I agree Cathryne. I too find it interesting to read dissenting opinions and then ponder why someone doesn’t like the book. It helps me clarify why I do. Because we love the people of Three Pines we are happy to hear about them murder or not. For the same reason I happy whenever anyone post here whatever it is they have to say. Always happy to connect with friends. But then the world of Three Pines means so much more to us than a novel. If you are just looking for a book to read with some action in it then perhaps Three Pines is a disappointment. Similarly disappointing for those seeking random gore and violence!
I do wonder if Louise will expand the population of Three Pines. That is not so easy to do. New people upset the balance a bit and we have been wary of strangers.

Oh no, I lost a post! I’ll try again.
I have had fun reading all the Amazon reader reviews of AGR. I like reading the observations of the other readers in the community, even ones I don’t agree with. I found the one complaining about the village only being populated by women and two gay men to be untrue and incredibly dismissive. As Jiulie pointed out, Armand lives in Three Pines and, in fact, he spends quite a bit of time there in this book. Billy (I’ve forgotten his last name) plowed the snowy roads and M. Belevoe was called in to help answer a question about the village’s history. We know many other men who live in or near the village and they are present at the special occasion toward the end of the book.
But, MOSTLY, why say two”gay” men instead of two men???

Oh, Anna – this is full of interesting tidbits. You are right about the Chinese curse – I certainly prefer “may your tent be free of tigers”… I haven’t read any reviews except “professional” ones – hadn’t thought at all that now there are only gay men and women. Of course, it’s not true – it’s just that these are pretty much the only characters we interact with. In my mind, we kind of see Three Pines through Clara’s eyes much of the time, and these are her friends. She isn’t going to go out and get new men friends just because Peter’s gone. Maybe precisely because Peter’s gone, she is not close to men right now. And, of course, Gamache is neither female nor gay, but I take their point. Doesn’t bother me a bit, hahaha. I didn’t find the first bit slow or boring – I wonder if that comes mostly from people who haven’t read the others? Or from those who, for whatever reason, still believe all these are fictional people instead of real ones? Once you’re really vested in the village and the people, how can what they are doing (and especially the danger they’re in) not be interesting? I’m kind of champing at the bit to talk about the book… Paul – what do you say we set Monday, Sept. 19 as the start date for the discussion?

No man, or woman, is an island. We all have so many influences and in the end we are unique in both our similarities and differences. The former unite us and the latter are just so interesting. I want to live in an interesting world but that is also perilously close to a Chinese curse……may you live in interesting times.

I read some of the reviews on Amazon of AGR. The vast majority are positive and a few are less so. if there is any negativity it has to do with the fact that there is a significant portion of the beginning of the book before the murder takes place and that secrion was long winded. There was one other criticism of Three Pines that since Peter’s death the village has been populated only by women and gay me. They forgot dogs and ducks but otherwise it is an interesting observation.
I personally did not find the first 100 pages slow or boring. I could see threads being found and followed. I also don’t feel the ‘murder’ has to be the first incident but I do see that many readers are drawn in if it is. I think I am tempted to write a story where the murder is at the end. I am sure that has been done before but it adds a extra degree of difficulty. Mind you, lots of thrillers do the slow build.

I like “stew” too. Canada often calls itself a mosaic, rather than a melting pot, though I think “stew” captures it better – you DO have the melding, but the distinct parts as well. Certainly, some areas of Pennsylvania would find you thinking you’d landed in Germany (since Pennsylvania “Dutch” is an English mangling of the word “Deutsch”. Somehow, it sticks, though people of the area have been trying for many years to change it to “Pennsylvania German”. I halfway feel that many areas of the northern mid-west would make you feel you were in Scandinavia, and some parts of Seattle, would, too, as the first people here seemed to be mostly Swedish or Nordic. It’s very interesting to see what this brings to the development of a place. Winnipeg, where I lived before Seattle, is where a lot of Icelandic people settled (I can just imagine them coming to the coldest spot in the country, basically, and deciding “Yup – yust like home.”

I like that Barbara….a stew. The world would be boring if we were all the same. Thank goodness there is such a variety of interesting cultures around!
Big storm threatened here just now but it has passed thank goodness.

The US is called the “melting pot” and I have always loved to learn about the history and customs of all the different groups that have contributed to “our” country. I think people should never forget or fail to respect their own history and language. Not a “melting pot” but a “Stew” each contributing to the whole but retaining individuality.
I love the Fall festivals where so many ethnic groups present their food and culture….Arts in the Heart of Augusta, the Greek Festival and others.
I have always felt cheated that I did not grow up with a sense of belonging to a group that came to these shores from elsewhere. My heritage was that we were Southern and Baptist. Great. A few hundred years of history and no connection to the thousands of years before. Not all areas of the US are like that though. There are cities and large areas of some states that retain the “flavor” of the country of the immigrants that settled there.
I don’t know if the American Revolution and GA being one of the original 13 colonies influenced our turn from England.
Here I am… a devoted Anglophile.

True – you have been influenced by everyone – you’re a lot closer to Asia than any of the rest of us, too – and probably a lot of that culture has come. Hence, Erin’s desire to speak Japanese? I can’t remember what we were watching recently, but Vern was commenting on why would Australians be able to come to Canada when people from other countries were having trouble, and I had to remind him of the whole Commonwealth thing. It makes a big difference. I always say that the differences between Canada and the US are not obvious, but they’re profound. They affect the very way we think and how we act in so many instances.

It’s interesting. I think Australia is more like England than the US is but more like the US than England is. We have imported aspects of so many cultures. We are English in our spelling, and the side of the road we drive on, drinking tea, our early dining habits and we watched TV from the UK. But we also had a lot of American influence through print media, film and television. We also share a pioneering culture with the States. We are very similar to Canadians because we are a Commonwealth nation and small population spread over a vast landscape. We could have had far more French influence as French (and Ductch) explorers landed here at or before the time of the British.
And any rate….I appreciate all the different things that we have from wherever they came.

I think it’s because of the very high speed. You could probably get the same with a mixer, but it would take a long time, and we usually give up before then, hahaha. I knew you’d have the wonderful thick creams with the high fat content – for some reason, it just seems more English, and Australia seems more English, too, hahaha. It’s a shame we don’t have anything really like it.

Thanks for the lovely comments Julie! I am glad I dont have to make my changes in public the way Louise does.
Thank you also dor the cooking tips. Our cream is pasteurised but we have lovely thick dolloping cream and clotted cream with its delightfully high fat content. Not sure why cream whips better in the food processor but I will remember that for my dinner parties.

I have an amazing tip (if it turns out to be something everyone but me knows, never mind, hahaha). I just read somewhere on the internet (some cooking blog or other) that it’s much easier to make whipped cream in a food processor – that it’s faster. (Now, making whipped cream is not difficult or time-consuming anyway, so I almost glossed over this). AND that it produces a far superior product! Anna, when you get to the states and start cooking, you’ll realize that our cream is far inferior to what you’re used to – both in taste and texture. This is due to ultra-pasteurizing, in my opinion. And this is the reason you can’t use our heavy cream to make clotted cream – it simply doesn’t react to heat, time, etc. in the same way as raw cream does. Most of us probably remember milk coming to our houses in bottles, and when you pulled off the cardboard top, there, floating on top of the milk, was a big glob of beautiful, thick cream. That doesn’t happen anymore – you can leave your whole milk alone for weeks and the cream will never separate from it.

So – reading how they were doing this with the food processor, I tried it last night – and oh, my, goodness! What resulted after 2 minutes (no – less, really) of spinning the cream in the processor, I had thick, beautifully dense cream. It was thick enough you could have iced a cake with it – or piped it from a pastry bag! I barely sweetened it, and it tasted so very like and had the texture of real clotted cream! Seventh heaven! I’m so excited about this, that I had to share. I even put a little spoonful in a container and put it in the fridge to see how long it would last as the dense, wonderful cream. So far, I made it last night at 9 p.m., and at 1 this afternoon, it’s still exactly as it was when I made it! Yippee! It was wonderful on a piece of apple pie….

Anna, I think you are on to something. Change is, of course, inevitable. And many changes come in small doses and we hardly even notice it as it’s happening. Other times are like what you are facing. I think you’re very brave to be moving halfway across the world, seeing your daughter go off to college and watching as your parents fade in their vitality… so very difficult, any one of those things – all three together is almost unimaginable! Not to mention the fact that you are separated from your husband for such a long period of time as he’s had to make the move so much earlier than you have. It’s all overwhelming, I’m sure. I think for sure you won’t break, because we already know that you are strong and capable and smart! You are also very articulate and can reach out to ask for help if you need to – something lots of people can’t do.

I am in absolute awe of Louise – to face what life is becoming for her with such grace – and yet, facing it unflinchingly – much like Gamache. It’s not easy to do it, but it’s far better than denial. Still, Louise is doing it IN PUBLIC, which is amazing to me. Now there is a role model! I had a surreal moment a few days ago. There is a local broadcaster here in the Seattle area, who was on the air for over 40 years, and certainly all the time I have been here. We saw her every night on the 5 o’clcock news. I knew she lived in our area (though in the tonier section than I do, hahaha). She retired last year, so we haven’t seen her on air for awhile. I ran into her (literally) at the supermarket the other day. She was rushing furiously through the produce section. She kind of laughed when our carts collided, and said “excuse me” and rushed on, and I almost said “It’s good to see you, how have you been?” as if she were an acquaintance of mine. Something she probably goes through every day, as people feel like they know even minor celebrities. I can almost see how someone a little off-balance could convince themselves that they really DO know a person they admire, and trespass into the personal part of their lives. Don’t know why I keep on that topic – it just is resonating with me lately.

Great comments Julie. You articulated it very well…the scripts we can’t escape….exactly. We keep falling back into the same patterns of behaviour even when we know they are not functional.
I think the key is change. It is so hard to change, because it is frightening and it takes energy. Perhaps when we resist change we are broken. If you can accept the need to be different you heal and become stronger and if you don’t, you weaken and fade.
We have been talking a lot about change here and it isn’t surprising because it is a feature of all of our lives. We know change is not necessarily bad but it is still difficult. I feel this quite strongly at the moment as my whole world is changing and it takes my breath away if I think about it for too long. If I adapt and go with the flow then I will not break…..I hope. Or do I?
Louise is a great role model as she changed her whole life and she too is facing great change. I admire her humour and dignity in accepting life with all its challenges.

Anna – that’s an interesting question – so many people say that things are strongest where they’ve broken and mended, and usually in reference to people. But to be a truly “broken” or “damaged” person seems like it needs to be more than the usual stuff we all go through in our lives – the deaths of loved ones, divorces, other such things. All devastating, but do they truly “break” us? I think this is reserved for victims of real abuse. The first thing that comes to mind is “The Three Faces of Eve”, the first time I heard about multiple personality (which has a different name now, that I can’t just remember off the top of my head). And I think that the actual splitting of a person into distinct personalities, must certainly, be an actual “broken” person… and is usually the result of terrible abuse. To me, it’s the result of actual evil, rather than just the heartbreak that we will all go through in life if we’re lucky enough to live that long. ” Nobody gets out of here alive” is something that I feel like was the name of a song or an album, or just something pithy someone said in my youth – but we all know it’s true, and we’re kind of prepared for that. Not that it isn’t awful to lose someone – of course it is. But I think we bend enough to handle the regular things of life, of which, unfortunately, this is one. But for a person to deliberately hurt someone very deeply – that’s the kind of unexpected evil that breaks us. I don’t know if that makes any sense… But I don’t really think we HAVE to break. And lots of people do keep breaking in the same place, I think. People who have got scripts running in their heads or hearts that they can’t seem to escape. I know you see women who escape an abusive husband and then move on to another man just the same… these are scripts our parents teach us, I think, and it’s very hard to break out of the cycle…

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