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”

“Well, some people have been well bought up at least,” the offended one said loudly as she plonked herself comfortably in place and proceeded to arrange her goods around her, including the ever present thermos bottle of iced water she carried everyday. Woe betide the hotel room which did not provide a clean and serviceable ice cube tray in the minibar. Don’t even think of suggesting a trip to the ice machine, goodness knows what filth could infest that contraption.
Amelia patted the seat beside her. “Care to join me you well bought up person you.”
Therese nodded gratefully and slid her slender figure into place as Eddie the bus driver swung the vehicle out of the hotel drive.
“She’s an utter witch,” Amelia muttered as the bus picked up speed and Eddie piped some soothing music through the speaker system.
Therese glanced fearfully at Evangeline still arranging her belongings. “Careful, she might hear you!” she whispered back.
“And what if she does? So far this trip she has trod on my foot with her stiletto heels, knocked the tray out of my hands at lunch yesterday and been generally rude and obnoxious. She barges around like a blind bull and delights in humiliating everybody in hearing distance. Talk about badly bought up!”
Three rows back Doreen Hamill was saying almost exactly the same thing to her husband Frank. They had both been on the receiving end of Evangeline pushing past to get to the seafood buffet at the hotel the previous night and the horrid woman had had the gall to make disparaging comments about Doreen’s orthopaedic shoes. Not every foot was made for Jimmy Choos. Doreen hadn’t been happy to see Evangeline batting her false eyelashes at Frank either, nor to see Frank pulling out a chair for the other woman to sit at their table. Ms Purdue cooed at the men and cawed at the women. They then had to hear Evangeline criticize every item of food on her plate; the prawns weren’t fresh enough, the fish was overlooked and the lobster wasn’t sweet.
“It should be sweet, not dry you know,” the voice droned on in between gustily devoured mouthfuls.
When their opinionated table companion tottered back to the buffet table in her pink pointy stilettos, Doreen was moved to ponder that perhaps Evangeline was protecting them all from a poorly cooked meal by devouring it all first.
“Maybe she’s just hungry,” Frank mumbled in her defense but stopped when he caught his wife’s baleful glare.
Doreen was not the only one of the wives on the bus keeping a close eye on their doe eyed husbands. Lizzie Mason had caught Dave, who was currently drooling as he snored with his head on his chest but normally was a handsome sort, in very friendly conversation with the woman on the cliff top walk two days ago. To add insult to actual injury, Lizzie had turned her ankle but when she called out to Dave for help he was too busy guiding Evangeline over the rocky path to notice her. For goodness sake she was old enough to be his mother. Lizzie had rolled her eyes and hobbled back to the bus with the help of Therese Longley. She was a nice young woman but she could do with a makeover. Whoever told her that shade of brown would ever be flattering on a human….on a labrador maybe.

Thanks Nancy. It’s a bit of fun. I just have to write when it flows and not push it or it sounds wrong. Working on it.

The last one on the bus was Ms Evangeline Purdue. Never Eva, never Gina or Lina, always Evangeline. Get it wrong and suffer the pain of a lengthy dissertation on her great grandmother who bore the name with pride and much stoicism in the face of four cheating husbands and numerous selfish children which didn’t of course include her one angelic progeny called, naturally, Evangeline. Find a reason to escape or be regaled with three more generations of misery and malfortune including that of the woman berating you through her dazzling capped teeth and filler enhanced lips. To listen to her, and Heaven knows that nasal voice carried so it was hard not to, no woman was more hardly done by than Ms Evangeline Purdue.
“Do you mind?” Evangeline crowed standing at the empty aisle seat beside Mrs Dinthorpe.
Amelia Dinthorpe looked up from her guidebook and cast her eyes upward. “The seat is not taken if that’s what you mean, ” she confirmed.
“I need to sit by the window,” Evangeline said slowly and loudly as one does when one suspects the listener is deaf, foreign or mentally slow.
Amelia, who was clearly in none of those categories, scowled and tried to make sense of what the woman standing over her was demanding. Did she seriously expect Amelia to give up her window seat on a day that promised all manner of spectacular vistas, simply because she couldn’t be bothered making it to the bus on time to snare one for herself? Evangeline made a shooing motion with her hand, the one not clutching a Burberry handbag, indicating that she did indeed expect Amelia to move out of her way.
“This seat clearly is taken,” Amelia said firmly and made no effort to move.
For a bare second Evangeline looked startled. She was not at all used to not getting her way in any situation but she quickly recovered and reared upward to her full height of five foot three inches and prepared to fully assert her authority.
“You can have mine.”
Whatever tirade that had been about to be unleashed was cut short by the offering made in a timid voice from the other side of the bus. By the time Evangeline swung around the mousy figure of Therese Longley was edging out of her own seat into the aisle. She stood back and nodded to indicate that Evangeline could take her place which she did but not without a glaring look of malice at Amelia who was frankly unperturbed.

Oh, what fun! Amelia has the gumption I’ve often wished for, and Evangeline is someone I am going to love to hate! Hee hee! Great start. When does she get it? I can’t decide if I want it to be fast or if I want to string out the fun and have her annoy me more before someone does her in!

Love all the discussion here ladies and always a joy to hear from Nancy. I too loved the mice…I actually wrote a post about them one day but I was distracted by something and it got lost.
It was back to work and Pilates this week and I was quite wiped out. Who knew you could break out in a sweat exercising your toes! Yes, you heard me correctly and well might you laugh but apparently the intrinsic muscles of my feet resemble cooked spaghetti in terms of strength. My daughter is the same so we remind each other to do our exercises. She is far more graceful and better practiced as I grunt and go red faced and all you can see is my left big toe rising in shaky independence!
We have made a spontaneous trip to the Admirals house in Sydney where Peter lives during the week. It is glorious with the sea breeze and the waning golden light on the water. A good place to recover from the exertions of the week and to get my research done.
Love all the Jane Austen chatter, I am learning lots. I am a Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility fan. Probably as I am less familiar with the others but feeling a great desire to read them….after I get this book written.
Stay warm and safe everyone and I shall ponder the tour bus murder…it is becoming a short story and the victim is Evangaline Purdue….never Eva or Gina, strictly Evanglaine in her too high heels and extravagant hair dos. She is forever holding up the bus because she simply must get her hair and make up in order before she can possibly face the day!

That’s interesting, Barbara, that the professional tours have brought out a “better class of people” as my husband would say… I’m afraid that my thought of murder on a tour bus came form a few very annoying people on a tour my husband and I took through Europe, though the worst was the tour guide, and he’s who I would have murdered on any given day! And that WAS a professional tour company! But I think there is something about being stuck on that bus and unable to get away from a pest that makes it all seem worse…

Julie and Anna, Your discussion of murder on a tour bus was really a laugh. I’ve been on day trips where I would have been tempted to lend a hand. The most unpleasant/annoying people have been on trips with the Senior Group from our Church. That really surprised me. The longer trips with groups from some of the other Senior Groups we belong to have always been most agreeable. Perhaps the fact that they are through professional travel agencies has something to do with it. Maybe people are better behaved then than when it is just “us” travelling on the Church bus.

Hi Neva, Please join in whenever you want. Our postings are all over, especially after we have discussed the latest book to death.
Before this group, I was mainly speed reader. I was always so anxious to find out what was next in the plot that I didn’t notice some of the more subtle themes. This group finds everything. Louise Penny’s books are worthy of much discussion as they are rich in language and observations.
Not all novels inspire the reader to delve further and learn more.

I envy you being able to jump in and do the historic research, Anna. I often get bogged down and can’t do that kind of reading unless I’m “in the mood”… it would be nice to be a little more able to read whatever you need to do.

I’m still burrowing in at home, though this Sunday we have a Jane Austen meeting that I have organized, so that will necessitate my getting outside of the house for more than just groceries or lab tests, hahaha. It will be Valentine’s Day, and our topic is “Fallen Women in Jane Austen”, so it should be quite lively! I’m making up a bunch of vintage Valentines like we used to do in school many years ago to give everyone at the meeting. I hope they don’t think it’s cheesy, I’m just looking to give people a little lift. As you might imagine, our meetings are 99% female – there are three men in the group (and they are never all there at the same time), and once in awhile, two women bring their husbands – again not at the same time, so any meeting might have one lone male. They must be brave souls, even though we don’t bite, hahaha. I don’t think I could persuade my hubby to come in a million years.

I have two other meetings coming up this year that I’m really beginning to get excited about. The first will be in June, and will be based on the food served at The Netherfield Ball… a group of us will each make one dish as close to Regency authenticity as we can get without a big strain of resources, and we will talk about what the original recipe might have been as well as how we made accommodations in our version.

The second is the August meeting, which is to be a discussion of the book Emma. As you might remember, there is a big scene in the book during a picnic at box hill, so I want the food for that one to be the Box Hill picnic and combine the strawberries of the strawberry-picking party at Donwell Abbey!

The October meeting will also be very interesting – the speaker will be talking about rat catching and all the different ways that rats were used to make money in Austen’s times (I understand that you paid the rat catcher to get rid of rats in your home, then he would take those rats and sell them to people who used them to bait dogs in dog-fights, or something like that) – very resourceful, those Georgians… as you might imagine, here is another chance to match the food with the theme – lots of cheese-based items, and I understand the wife of the speaker has a few things like candies shaped like mice, etc. that she will bring. I’m thinking that I will make something like this: http://tinyurl.com/jodm8uy which are basically hard-boiled eggs. I think it will be a lot of fun!

Julie, those hard boiled egg mice are hilarious!! Wouldn’t that be something to serve to grandchildren? Makes me think of the dessert that a friend told me about. Maybe you’ve made it. It’s called “Dirt” and is basically chocolate pudding with chocolate cookie crumbs on top and gummy worms sticking out.

I’ve enjoyed hearing about your Jane Austen group. I have three favorites and don’t really pay attention to her other books (sorry). I love Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Another interesting thing (to me anyway) is that I’ve met a nice young woman whose father teaches classes on Jane Austen in China. I guess that’s why they’re called classics.

Sorry, I’m rambling. I have enjoyed reading everyone’s posts. My best wishes to all.

Nancy, great to hear from you. The first time I saw “Dirt” , I thought What is this ? It is popular at Halloween celebrations here. A friend’s great-granddaughter had “Dirt” as her Birthday cake !
Loved the mention of classes on Jane Austen being taught in China. The classics are forever, I hope.

Nancy – how nice to see you! Yes, I think those mice would be perfect for kids! I’ve been thinking how I can let people know what they are… one thought was to turn one over and put little feet sticking up in the air, but that might be beyond my capabilities as a food artist, hahaha. I will probably put a sign saying “Rats! Nope – deviled eggs!”

I love the three Jane Austen books you’ve mentioned very much, but in the past year (as Jane’s books are celebrating 200 years since publication (each year a new one or two for a little while there), I’ve read blogs that have thoroughly discussed Mansfield Park (still my least favorite, but I do have a new appreciation for it after all the discussion).

Emma is the subject being discussed now – much is always made of the fact that Jane wrote a letter in which she described the character Emma as someone no-one could much like except herself. Yet, I find Emma very likable and well-meaning, if not yet mature enough to understand a few basic things… but as in most of Jane Austen’s books, she learns over time. One of the things I like most about her books is that her characters learn and change with time during the books.

Persuasion is my very favorite – I think this is Jane Austen at her masterful peak and had she lived, her books would have been more like this. The writing is exquisite and she skewers characters with one quill while exalting some with her other quill… Sense and Sensibility is another fave – who can’t love the juxtaposition of Marianne and Elinor? I do find Edward Farrars to be a bit of a drip, though, and can’t help but wish that Elinor had married Colonel Brandon instead.

Northanger Abbey will likely be the next book discussed, though it and Persuasion were both published in 1816, Northanger came first. It’s such a departure from her other books – her acerbic look at Gothic novels, but also her defense of the novel as an art form… All in all, not a bad foray at all… Still, I’m glad her last work (Persuasion) was so strong and wonderful.

As we see movies being made now of her unfinished works and her childhood writings, we begin to see how much people are longing for more from her. I guess that’s good – they say always leave them wanting more, but when it cannot be, it’s a bittersweet thing. Of course, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is making a big splash – as you might imagine people are of one camp or another. I, myself, am not interested, though I may watch it when I can do so for free, hahaha.

I had a look at the blog Julie….it made me hungry! I do love that food is such a part of the Three Pines life. People who love food and books have warm hearts I think.
I have been rather lost in my research lately which has necessitated lots of reading and some furious scribbling. I have dived into history and it has taken me in some interesting directions. I must be careful not to get lost in the past but it really does help one understand the present.
How is everyone? Sending you all happy thoughts.

Hi, Neva – welcome to the Bistro! You’ll have noticed we’re not really talking about Louise’s books right now, but please, don’t let that put you off. We will definitely talk (ad nauseum) about any of Louise’s books at any time – you’ll notice that there are 71 pages of discussion here – which means that we’ve talked and talked about the books. We are definitely NOT talked out, though, so please, do ask questions. I see that Anna has assured you that Ruth is not dead. The only other time I can think of that you might have thought anything like that was in the first book – Still Life, in which Jane dies, and Jane and Ruth are close friends, along with Timmer (or at least, if they weren’t all friends, they were all of a generation and in a small town like Three Pines, that would automatically throw them together. I wonder if you aren’t remembering some other book that you might have read at some point – I do that, all the time. Mix up different books and authors.

Please jump in and start any discussion you like – we’ll be here! And if you feel like it, you can browse through earlier discussions to see what we all thought about the earlier books. I envy you, still having one unread – they’re like wonderful pastries, but rare, as we only get one a year. When I think how I gobbled them down the first time around! I’m thankful for the re-read, as I got to savor them more.

Speaking of pastries, have people been following along with The Night is a Strawberry blog? I love it – there’s always an imaginative recipe meant to evoke one of the items in a book but also a thoughtful book discussion. The last one, with brownie tartlets, was inspired! If you haven’t found it yet, just google The Night is a Strawberry. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Hi Neva. Welcome.
Be assured that Ruth did not die although I am wracking my brain to figure out why you may have thought that. A number of older women walked into the snow in a previous book and there were fatalities. Could it be you thought Ruth was part of that group? Whatever it was, Ruth is alive and acerbic as ever. She is becoming a little more frail as is to be expected but her spirit is strong!
Lucky you just starting on The Nature of the Beast. I hope you enjoy. We are all looking forward to Louise’s latest coming on August 30th, A Great Reckoning.
Please ask any questions or make any comments. We are a friendly bunch who love to chat about the books…..or anything else while we wait for the next one.

Hello. I’m new to the group, but I have a question: I have read all the previous books, and have just started The Nature of the Beast, and I’m confused. I would swear that Ruth died in a previous book but here she is again. Am I misremembering? Thank you.

Thank goodness Millie. You managed to lower your blood pressure despite the stress of needing surgery and the worry of needing to lower your BP to get to surgery. That is wicked meditating. Que sera sera does get me through some bad days I have to say.
Now that you have the dates try to relax and enjoy the prospect of clearer vision rather than the process of how that is going to happen. Keep your eyes on the prize as it were and not on the road you have to travel. Glad you have been able to post despite the difficult of seeing! It’s always good to have you in the Bistro.

I did it! Lowered my blood pressure enough to get surgery dates. Barbara, I used meditation, sang “Que será, será. Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que será, será.” Called on all the guardian angels, saints and beings of light who might even remotely know and love me and even my namesake for help. Slowed my breathing… You name it. Even thanked my body for the eyes I have which only need a little tweaking. Thank you Barbara, Anna and Julie for your encouragement, positive thoughts, your stories of accepting what is and, well, everything. And thanks to the quiet ones too who don’t post much but are part of this incredible group. 🙂
Surgery on left eye Feb 22nd. On right eye, March 11th. I should be in great shape to read Louise’s next book come August. I’ll keep you posted but for now it’s like trying to write underwater. Could be worse! 🙂 Love and blessings.

Millie – that’s great news! Good for you – you will be all done before I could even get in to be “evaluated”. That’s what they say the surgeon is going to do, but if he thinks he’s going to tell me I don’t need the surgery, he’s got another think coming, as my mother used to say! So glad you got the blood pressure under control! Que sera, sera – now I’ll be singing that all day long, hahaha. As I recall, the song was a central theme in the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (not really a remake, as the two films don’t resemble each other at all, except both are familiar as Hitchcock’s usual kinds of plots – lots of foreign intrigue). Hitchcock is one of my favorite directors, even though I know he was, really, quite a horrible man. Brilliant, but horrible and petty, haha.

Speaking of Louise…what do we think. Firstly : A Great Reckoning. It does seem to imply someone gets a deserved comeuppance. A past sin come home to roost? But what of the killer? Shall we be sympathetic to their past hurts or have they been twisted into a Gollum like parody of themselves, intent only on fulfilling their aim of revenge?
Pure speculation of course but my first thoughts on the book.
Secondly….once again primarily a Three Pines event. Unusual as they are often interspersed with a novel away and the last was in Three Pines. Still working on developing what is going to happen to Gamache? Or has he a new job and it involves Three Pines?

Dad can’t seem to get that simple measures like new glasses won’t help and doesn’t like the ophthalmologist because he told him the truth. Ugh.
Feel free to complain Julie because it is frustrating. At least you are doing your best to manage and understand the difficulties.
All in all not a bad day here. Sunny and a bit muggy. Elders not too bad…apart from dads eyes which I rinsed with saline as hay fever is having an effect. Now I really need to get on with this book. I am finding it hard to get down to writing after seeing the elders as that is a bit draining but Louise does it so I need to be stronger.
I have a whole backstory which covers several generations for one character that I need to write down. I probably don’t need to put it all in the book but I need it to understand what is going on. It is really interesting but needs some historical research so I have done lots of back reading. That is contributing to my novel but pages are not being written so it feels like progress is slow.

I read all you comments Barbara. Glaucoma runs in our family along with macular degeneration and cataracts. I have it all before me!
I love cookbooks. I am looking to jazz up my healthy repertoire as everyone wants to drop a few kilos except Erin who needs to put some on. She eats all the time but uses the energy growing. Perhaps if I didn’t feed her…..

Anna, both my parents had macular degeneration and I swore that I wouldn’t be like my mother, who seemed surprised and hurt by the fact that she couldn’t see well every day of her life for the last five years of it. I swore I’d adjust, not worry about the things I couldn’t do anymore and do the things I COULD still do. About three years before she died, the doctors sent her to a School for the Blind-sponsored course to learn some coping mechanisms, and got her a speaking clock, etc. She had a phone with buttons each almost the size of a small cellphone, which also helped a lot. So I intend to move along with things, but not until I have to. The big difference, I hope, is that I won’t whine about it. (I hope).

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