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.

3,656 replies on “The Bistro”

Pleased about the improvement Barbara but curious about the source. Are you back to thinking mosquitos?
Computers always have a settling in phase but yay that it is there and working.
Worrying about giving things away is why I went back to reading Bury Your Dead and using it to think about AGR and Louise’s writing in general.

Excited to hear what you have to say about magic and light Julie!
Just had email from Pete from Louise’s DC book launch event. Very keen to hear all about it when it finishes.

My left arm is almost well. “Bites” appeared on my right arm over weekend. Upper arm just like left arm. I didn’t develop cellulitis this time. The itching was intense as before but I used ice packs to cool it down. No problem last night or today. Appearance is much better.
Computer up and going. Have had a few problems but always do at first.
I’d better not comment on AGR as I just know I’ll slip and put in a spoiler. I still can’t believe how it came together.

Started an answer, and then clicked the wrong thing and closed the window – silly girl. Anyway – I will continue to read at my own speed, Anna, as I don’t seem to have any others, hahaha. I am aware of speeding up as I get closer to knowing what’s happening here… the next chapter beckons far more strongly now… I think you’re right about our imaginations being better than the movies so we can construct our own villages (we can even call them “Roof Trusses” if we want – and I want to get back to that idea in awhile)… One of the things I’ve noticed more in this book than in others, though it’s there in the others, too, is the “magical” quality of Three Pines – a Brigadoon quality about it. There’s something about a place that you have to almost slow down and not care if you get anywhere to find… And something about light – don’t let me forget that when we start to discuss…
I hope your day got back on track, Anna. Can’t wait to be discussing…

I started to write about 12 hours ago and my day was interrupted. But what I was going to say…please read at exactly your own pace Julie. Ignore the rest of us who just couldn’t help but gobble the book in one sitting. We have at least a year…sadly….until the next one appears and there is plenty of time to fill with our chatter.
As much as I love the map, and I think you so much for sending it to me Julie, I have my own map of Three Pines. Isn’t that the joy of books over movies? You are free to create the world according to you.
Barbara, are you feeling better? I am glad the floods were not too bad and that the rain was more welcome than worrisome. Good luck with the new computer. I totally agree with what you said…every thread fitted, none were forced.
My thoughts today were revolving around he complexity of Louise’s characters and her exploration of the descent of ‘man’ (meaning all humans) from goodness to despair. We saw this with Jean Guy and with Gamache’s best friend. Is it greed, despair, fear, hurt or a creeping evil that destroys us? When does sadness and badness morph into evil? I think we have talked about this before but this book brings it up and I am curious again.

Ohhhh – now I feel like the odd man out because I’ve been parceling the book out a bit at a time. I’m still only a little more than halfway through – and so enjoying it! I agree, Louise is an expert craftswoman – what she has “brought round” from earlier bits and pieces, and the way she gives you just enough information to make you think but not enough to show her hand is tantalizing! I have my own way of thinking of the village, and where people live and it doesn’t jibe exactly with the map from last year… but I have it up where I can see it from my computer station and I look at it from time to time – maybe I need to add some things… I’ve seriously been thinking of coloring it again… just bits – that have been important in the book. Now I’m wondering if I need to add a few things, too…

Hi to Millie. You have been thought of every day you have been away. I’m so sorry this has been such a bad year for you. Sort of like 2010 was for me. I reached a point where I was afraid to check the obits each morning and was frightened when the phone rang.
You are so wise. You have now taught me the idea of setting a date for returning to the world. Thank you dear friend.
Welcome back and I look forward to your thoughts and insights on AGR.
I watched the weather reports to see how Hermine was affecting your area.
Good thoughts and prayers for happiness to you.

I read AGR after it came midafternoon on Sat. I finished it at 1:04 Sun AM. It was all I had hoped it would be and so much more. I had to stop reading to eat with Sam and then watched a 30min TV show so that he wouldn’t feel left out.
I had stayed with sister from Fri AM till Sat. The weather reports kept warning of high winds from Hermine. After a tree fell and crushed her storage building and fence two months ago, she was uneasy. We were most fortunate. Massive flooding in low lying area didn’t occur. Only a few low spots were flooded. The rain was slow and steady for many hours but not a destructive downpour.The rain was very welcome as the hot, dry summer had taken its toll.
I can not say enough about AGR. So many loose ends were tied up and in such clever, thoughtful ways. It is now my favorite LP book because even more than the previous books, her planning, many books back, was obvious. The way one thread tied into another and they into another was beautiful. Everything fit..nothing was forced. It is one of the best crafted novels I have ever read. I am still amazed. I don’t remember when I last enjoyed reading a book and feeling such joy at the end. When one new character appeared, I thought What, Why? Finally, all became clear. How skillful. I can hardly wait till we can start discussing it. I had to erase 5 or 6 sentences in this post as I kept thinking of comments I wanted to make.
Tomorrow afternoon my laptop will be set up. I might stay up all night.

Almost a short prologue
Flashes of memory
Discussions with other characters
Letters to Gamache

They are all ways Louise introduces backstory in the first two chapters of Bury Your Dead. She is careful. There are no long slabs of what happened before but tantalizing glimpses and vignettes. It draws you in, ignites the curiosity and propels you forward. Sigh. She is very very good at her craft.

I didn’t actually refer to the map directly but I did have to think about the placement of houses. I have kind of reverted to a melded version of Three Pines, mine and the maps.
Elucidating backstory without interrupting the flow is a talent of Louise’s. I am still amazed that when I read Bury Your Dead I felt so comfortable even though there was a lot that was happening that related to previous books. I didn’t feel alienated.
Weaving connections is another ability in evidence in Louise’s books. This was so essential in How the Light Gets In and is drawn upon in her latest novel. Some authors tie threads together clumsily but I never feel that with Louise. When you compare how Louise does this with other authors you know, does Louise do it more naturally (or am I just happily biased) why is that so?

I love your computer analogy, Anna. Its been like that and a GPS system stuck on ‘recalculating’ for long enough… But I had to find my way back to joy. Im so glad I promised I’d be back when the book was released or it might have taken me longer, a lot longer to greet the world without expecting to hurt beyond words.

You nailed it when you said, “When we are hurt we almost expect to be hurt more and our world view is tainted by that fear and expectation of the worst.” But I had forgotten how many different ways Jean Guy has seen the village and how many different ways we have seen him, thanks for the reminder and the warm welcome back.

Now I’m tempted to do a quick re-read of Still Life and actually notice how LP weaves backstory into her first novel. I don’t remember that topic ever being discussed in Lit classes when I attended school – you know, with the dinosaurs… 😉

By the way, am I the only one who has had to refer to last year’s map of Three Pines?

So very lovely to see you Millie. I am sorry you have had a difficult time although very grateful you have a caring husband in Mike who knew what to do. I hope you have been able to reboot the system after shutdown. Sometimes that is the only thing to do when overwhelmed. May each day be brighter and less onerous than the last. We are never bored to hear from you, not ever.
Well done Julie. Excellent observation. The use of the ‘newcomer’ to bring a fresh perspective and reveal what is already known is one technique Louise uses across her novels. I like how often the newcomer sees negativity where we see delight. A reminder that our emotions alter our view of the world. When we are hurt we almost expect to be hurt more and our world view is tainted by that fear and expectation of the worst. Gabri might appear overbea int instead of friendl, we might see the closeness of the villagers as exclusive rather than welcoming.
Jean Guy saw everything and reremembered the world very differently through the haze of addiction.

That’s a brilliant observation, Julie. My thoughts were focused in an entirely different direction: how Louise is a master of giving the backstory of new characters that are introduced. Present time action stops while the new character remembers something then action continues without missing a beat is one I admire tremendously.

Oh, goodie – something to discuss! I have just been reading in the latest, someone new to us all observing someone we all know (I know that sounds cryptic but I think you know what I mean). The description given – because the person observing doesn’t know the other character – helps to establish a known character for those who haven’t read any of the books so far. I think she does that each time – has us looking at the group of Three Piners from an outsider’s viewpoint, and thereby is able to introduce the characters to other characters as well as to new readers. She doesn’t go into much backstory unless it’s really important for this story, and even then, she does it in a natural way – such as so-and-so’s hands no longer shake, but the limp is still visible when tired – the last vestige of the debacle he’d gone through a few years ago. Later still, one character is remembering what another character did for him as he lay dying – so he thought… things like that, which seem so natural, must be very difficult to work into the story, but help new readers feel that they know enough to understand certain things.

What a great question, Anna. One that will require some thought on my part before venturing a response…

Hello ‘Bistro Bunnies’ – that is so funny, but I have a hard time seeing Paul as a bunny, more a penguin in a glorious tuxedo . All kidding aside, thanks Paul for this place of refuge, caring and belonging. And thank you to all who kept the embers glowing and the teapot full. I really needed some ‘alone time’ to come to grips with more deaths in my family, only this year from my own generation, as well as seeing my own mom’s rapid decline… I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer but I’m FINE now and so happy to be back. (The first time I heard FINE the “E” stood for Emotional and that’s how I think of it…)

I gave myself the deadline of this book’s publication as a lifeline back to being ME without the fear, negativity, depression, tears and all the blah that comes with grieving. To help me through this bump in my road, hubby bought me a laptop when he realized I couldn’t bring myself to sit at the desktop (which I had gotten right before my dad passed away) and every weekend that it hasn’t been hot as an oven, or lately raining, he’s taken me to Universal Studios since I turn into a little girl full of joy and smiles there – well, at least the Harry Potter areas. For those of you who remember… He really is my knight in shining “armoire”!

Speaking of rain… the Atlantic storms have brought much needed showers to our little neck of the woods but no ‘storms’. We’ve been very lucky this year in that regard even though the really long time residents say it’s been the hottest summer they can remember and I have a 96 year old neighbor! She’s still as sharp as a tack, still drives and only needs reading glasses, and is the most positive, uncomplaining person I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. She’s been a life line and role model for me also – getting older doesn’t have to mean decline or loneliness and certainly not boredom!

Well, I best sign off before I bore you all with more rambling. Sending love and positive thoughts to all and get well wishes to those not feeling well. It was a blessing to me to feel your positive thoughts and I thank you for them. Many ((((( hugs )))))

(((((((Millie))))))) I’m so sorry you’ve been going through so much. How smart of you, though, to put a deadline on it! Those sorts of things, somehow, “magically” do what they’re meant to do – “Let me wallow for awhile, but I WILL stop on such and such a date” – even when it doesn’t happen perfectly, you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. (Shiver) – tunnels lately have me scared – we’re (“we” being Seattle) currently digging an underwater tunnel to route traffic through at the waterfront area, rather than the bridge that was there before, which was badly damaged in an earthquake some time ago. Now, I don’t know about you – but the idea of having all that water rush into the tunnel during an earthquake, rather than having my car fall off the bridge during an earthquake, is not exactly an improvement to me! Of course, so far, the dig has taken twice as long and cost twice as much as usual, AND the resulting shaking of the ground to do the digging has caused a lot of damage in the buildings above-ground). Why, oh why, isn’t the easiest and most straightforward way the one chosen? It seems to silly to me, when you could just have surface streets near the waterfront, and put the highway on the outskirts of the city, routing through traffic away from us, rather than THROUGH us… We already have a “ring road” type of alternative quite far inland, and if they would widen that freeway, and require all trucks that were not going INTO Seattle to use it and not I-5, there’d be such gains… for everyone, including the truckers, who regularly get snarled up in Seattle traffic. But NO – we need this monstrosity. How I got to be ranting about the tunnel here is beyond me, hahaha – but I guess it’s just the thought of them now kind of fills me with dread. I just KNOW there’s going to be a bad accident during the digging, or shortly after it opens, and it all seems so needless. So – ya cheered up yet, Millie? Where did I go wrong? (shakes her head and sighs)

I love that your husband was wise enough to get the laptop for you – it makes you mobile and “lighter” in so many ways… I find myself using my tablet so much these days, that I know when the time comes to replace my honking big desktop, it will be with a full-sized computer type laptop that can come apart and be a tablet OR a laptop. If all I did was connect with friends, and had no files or work of any kind on it, I’d even opt for just a really good tablet with a keyboard accessory. I do find I don’t like writing anything of any length on the tablet, and I still feel too silly to just “speak” what I want to write – maybe I should just get over that!

Glad the rains haven’t brought you too much in the way of storms and disastrous weather, Millie. I watch the news every night and just wonder how much can the land withstand? We might have to start building arks…

I love the idea you mentioned of giving us the backstory of the newcomers – it helps to illuminate everything, yet doesn’t drag the action down at all, does it? More and more, I am in awe of Louise’s writing – so substantial and thoughtful. I can’t imagine how she has all this in her head – this story that I’m now about half-way through – seems to be something that was thought out long ago in the grand scheme of Three Pines.

Anna – I like the idea, too, of the skewing of established characters by changing their perspectives or ours because of something that happens to/with that character. It all just seems to be so natural, yet I know that kind of writing has to be carefully drafted and thought out. All so cool.

Now that I’m further into the story, I’m still wondering what on earth Gamache was thinking – I hope he is redeemed in the end. I also have a theory about one of the new characters, but won’t mention it until later, as it would be a definite spoiler if it’s right, and of course, will expose me as an idiot if it’s wrong… hee hee. I think it’s too late to disguise that.

I was thinking, as something to discuss, a topic we have touched on before but it is relevant with the current book:
I came to discover Louise with Bury your Dead which had a couple of different story arcs in the background including the events that left Gamache scarred and shaken Olivier in prison, yet I never felt lost despite not having read the previous books.
What techniques does Louise use to incorporate the backstory while maintains the forward flow of the storyline?

What a lovely lady Julie! I so enjoy hearing happy tales of people being genuinely kind. Then when I strike nasty people I have a store of examples of the world being a generous place to overcome the negativity! We must never underestimate the power of caring even when there is nothing we can actually do because just knowing someone would like to help is really uplifting.
Back in the city at yet another University open day. This one was infinitely more successful than last. Lots of lovely people in evidence and Erin feeling very happy. We found a couple of her friends and the kids went off and we parental S sat around and had coffee and checked out accommodation options. Fingers crossed and kind thoughts people. I think she has her heart set on this place and particularly one college to live in. It could be good if it works.

Wouldn’t it be funny if the Hobo spider carried a little bundle on a stick? I can just see it. As for the spider bite itself, however, I can skip that, thank you very much! Shudder….

Yikes, Anna! I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad’s leg – but love that he got help so fast AND that the lady at the clinic was so concerned. I don’t know why but attitude goes so far. When I had forgotten my carry-on at the airport a few weeks ago, the ticketing agent I dealt with was so very concerned for me. She could see that I was visibly upset, and she came around and gave me a hug, and asked me to check back with her if there was anything at all she could do. Later on, she came and found me in the airport lobby (Seattle airport is not small) to see if there was anything she could do. At that time, I was on the phone with my husband, and so couldn’t talk to her but assured her it looked like all was going to be okay. I told my husband how very wonderful she’d been, and he asked “what did she do for you?”, and really, all I could say was “nothing – but she was WILLING to do whatever, and was so concerned and nice!” It wasn’t that there was anything she COULD do, but the fact that she was concerned for me went so far in calming me down and making me feel like it would be okay…

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