Gamache Series Open Discussion

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.

Paul Hochman

Discussion on “Gamache Series Open Discussion

  1. Julie says:

    I’ve been away for a long weekend – a beach house in Oregon with friends, and wasn’t it fun? We stitched, and talked and laughed, and had a lovely time. Still and all, I’m kind of glad to be home now and for the foreseeable future! All this travel wears on me these days, and I’m glad to be snug at home as the winter drears set in.

    I see we have no new discussion – so maybe we can get another thread going.

    How do you interpret the book’s title? Ruth quotes from Yeats’s poem The Second Coming: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.” What is the beast? In the poem? In the book? What do those lines mean to you?

    I had not been thinking of it this way at all, but of course, mostly because I didn’t know this poem. I love the sound of the “slouches towards Bethlehem”. I love the way Louise uses poetry throughout her books – I learn a lot from it, and from these discussions.

    In my mind, the title “The Nature of the Beast”, just meant what that phrase normally means. When someone says “that’s the nature of the beast” to me, I just think – oh, that’s the way this or that normally acts – it’s to be expected. I liked it as a play on words, of course, with “Beast” having a double-meaning in this case. I’d no idea about the poem. But – to think about it this way, the beast has been slouching toward Three Pines for a very long time. The gun was sitting there, inevitably to be found at some time, and then, maybe, Fleming would have his chance… I still feel him, looming over the future – I just know he will find another way… He is evil incarnate to me. And he is the danger – the beast.

  2. I wasn’t familiar with the poem. I read it and numerous analyses. When I read it, I didn’t think of WWI. To me, it was as if it had just been written or at least in the last 5 years or so. I saw the beast creeping toward Bethlehem and the birthplace of Christianity as well as the heart of Judaism. I hesitated until now to post this but it was my reaction.
    While it was written long ago, as a post WWI poem, it spoke of today to me.
    The Nature of the Beast is the behavior we expected… with a negative connotation.

    • Julie says:

      Another author I really like is Laurie King and her series on Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell (his wife). That series is set early in the 20th century (I want to say late 20’s – late enough that Russell’s entire family is killed in a car accident). In one of the books, the action is set in Jerusalem, and has to do with impending war in the “middle east”. Another thing I love is the Barney Miller TV show. In one episode, a man has been holed up away from the world in a rooftop apartment in New York (rent-controlled, of course). He’s brought in to the station and he asks Wojo what’s new in the world. Wojo says that there’s trouble in the middle east, that the cubs still haven’t won the world series… the man looks like it’s all old news. Finally Wojo says – “Oh – they invented a new gum that won’t stick to dentures”. That was all he could think of, haha.

      At any rate – I guess we’ve gotten so used to trouble “slouching toward Bethlehem” for so long, that it doesn’t seem like anything new. But I think we are now seeing such an upsurge of the anger spilling out towards the west, that it seems new and urgent to us. Of course, it IS urgent, though we always seem to have the same old ways of reacting…

  3. Julie, I’m watching a Barney Miller now. Recorded late last night. Two men were arguing about the use of an alley between their businesses. One Arabic the other is Jewish. All the familiar remarks are exchanged.

  4. Julie says:

    Isn’t that amazing? What channel are they on – I haven’t seen a Barney Miller in a long time…

    • Barney Miller is on Antenna TV which shows only reruns of old shows. Antenna TV is broadcast on a subsidiary of a local TV station. The retro channel METV is broadcast on a subsidiary of another local station. We enjoy both of them. Hope you can get Barney.

  5. Julie says:

    I’d not heard of Antenna TV – have only just been aware METV – but we have it here – yipee – I’m going to start recording the Barney Miller’s for watching when there’s not much else (which is a lot of the time, hahaha)

  6. Millie says:

    Hello Bistro Friends, I’ve missed you! Have had an incredible time filled with frustrations like ‘I don’t know how to do X on a Mac yet’, to revisiting where my love of books really started and the surprise of my life: the president of the International Book Fair telling me he could tell I was a bibliophile. At the Bistro we all are lovers of books. It just sounds so cool said that way. But as luck would have it, he’s from Spain, gave me his personal contact info (or as in Louise’s books, ‘gave me his coordinates’) and told me to contact him with any questions I might have because he wanted to see me back next year with my own book. You could have knocked me down with a feather!

    Took mom back to the airport to catch her flight back to her home in CA last night and I’m waving my hanky to all in greeting. But I see I have a lot of catching up to do. Page 60! I vaguely remember I was trying to keep up around page 54 when deadlines came crashing in on me. Time for me to get back in the chat now that my time is my own.

    Big hugs to all with an “I’ll be back” soon.

  7. Julie says:

    Oooh – I found not only Barney Miller but also Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke – I’m in heaven! This was real television – entertaining and witty!

  8. Julie says:

    Millie – we’ve been waiting to hear how it went – sounds wonderful! I don’t think it could have gone better, from the sounds of it, not having the Mac totally under control notwithstanding! Yippee! I’m so excited for you – we will be standing by watching as next year, you take your own book to the fair! I hope your Mom had the time of her life! Such excitement!

  9. Millie says:

    Hi Julie, today I got a lot of errands done that had been patiently waiting and then realized I had to go back to mid May to start catching up. I’m afraid I haven’t been a good Bistro friend for a while. Just re-read this afternoon about your proof reading for a fan fiction author. How’s that going. And do you have any more news on your needlework workshop for Fall of 2016 in the East Coast? Hope you haven’t had any more bouts with pneumonia…

    The International Book Fair was amazing. Being a year they highlighted poetry mom was a huge success. One, she’s 84 so a lot of the really young writers were in awe of her. Then, she traveled such a long distance to get there. One evening she was honored and given a gorgeous certificate. She was too emotional to recite more than one her poems so one of the organizers whispered in my ear… After the clapping died down, the organizer took the mic from mom, and started reciting poems had I whispered back were mom’s favorites. Then she introduced me and I read others. The clapping, the approval was not something mom expected. Nor did she expect anyone to buy much less ask her to sign their copy. I had her practice ‘book signing’ the night before and she didn’t believe me that people would ask. Told her I had waited in line to have an author sign my copy of their book… Huge new experience for her.

    We lived in Puerto Rico during my late teens (dad was transferred there for five years) and mom had made some long lasting friendships as well as having some distant relatives. One became our chauffeur during the entire stay. Picked us up in the morning at the hotel where we were staying. An absolutely gorgeous place. Then stopped bye around noon to check on mom, and came back to pick us up. That is until we met an author who now is a professor at the University I attended while living there and who lives close to the hotel we were staying. She knew all the incredibly good ‘local’ places to eat. So off we would go with her after the second day. OMG! I felt I was in a tropical Bistro with incredible food everywhere. But the first night we asked the concierge if there was a place with good food we could walk to. Just around the corner was an Argentine (where I was born) restaurant run by an Argentine family. From salad to desert I was in heaven. I’ve never mastered a type of cookie sandwich with a cooked condensed milk filling then edges rolled in shaved coconut which is served at all big family reunions as desert. They had them. Only they were salad plate sized and served with a scoop of Vanilla Bean ice cream and sliced strawberries. Good thing mom said she didn’t want desert. We shared.

    OK, enough about the food, back to the event. The day after mom being honored, there was a big news write up about the event AND my mom and the President of the Book Fair went to mom’s table and apologized for not having been able to attend (his wife fell and broke her arm) but was delighted to hear she had received such a warm reception etcetera. When he asked if we had any questions, I jumped at the opportunity. He was indeed a fount of helpful information but when others realized he was there the cameras and smart phones came out. I took a few pictures of mom and him surrounded by her new ‘adoring fans’! I thought that was the end of our conversing. To my surprise he showed up the following day with books for me from his collection. Said I couldn’t possibly accept them he said he just wanted to see me back next year even if it was in English only and not translated to Spanish.

    Another wonderful outcome for mom was friends told friends and she continued to meet the warmest, kindest people the entire time.

    Those are the good parts, the not so good part was sharing a room with her for 9 nights. She’s an early to bed person and I’m not. We got there two days before the event to get our bearings and sightsee. The night before the event started we were both nervous and at one point I thought she was going to ask for a separate room. I had turned off all the lights and was just sitting out in the private patio trying to get to my happy place so I could fall asleep. She kept coming out asking when was I going to get to bed. That would make me jump out of my skin and make it worse. Next evening I set boundaries. Don’t DO that! Lol. But all in all we both had a terrific time.

    It did and didn’t amaze me the amount of work it took before and during to make it seem effortless for mom. Louise’s assistant Lise must have her hands full! I did most of the talking, answering questions, writing down the names of people who wanted their books signed. I loved it and was grateful for the experiences I’ve had that prepared me for this. And that I could walk and stand with ought hurting. I’ll never forget it. Actually, I hope to repeat it. Does the idea scare me? You bet! It’s hard to critique poetry, a novel is a different beast. But the warmth and affection I’ve received here and during the event have replaced most of my fears with enthusiasm. So as of tomorrow I have serious, but fun, work to do to meet my deadline. At least I have one now.

    Thank you all for just being who you are. I’ll work on popping in more often.

  10. Millie says:

    P. S. I forgot to mention another highlight for my mom. For the last two weeks she’s been at our house and it was a whirlwind of visits from our sons, seeing their homes, meeting my 2 granddaughters, her great grands for the first time. That was a treat for her because my grands are not shy and immediately took to her. My brother’s granddaughter lives only a few miles from mom, yet at almost four has never let my mom near her, much less sit on mom’s lap and give her hugs and kisses… Also drove mom around to see some houses for sale in the area, at her request. I’m not sure she’s ready to move but she showed interest. My younger son went out of his way to make her feel she was important in his life. And she met his wife for the first time too. My elder of the two has his hands quite full with the babies and didn’t have the opportunity to come over as often, but nontheless a great catch up. This trip was good for both of us. I know mom is dealing with dad’s passing well, so I can relax about her. And mom knows she can travel on her own just fine. She mentioned during the drive to the airport a family cruise to the Bahamas would be fun. We’ll see. new car for hubby or cruise? Lol. Good night all.

  11. Julie says:

    Millie, I vote for the cruise! After a very short while, the car will seem like nothing special, but on the cruise, you will make memories that will last forever! Plus – you unpack once but visit so many places, take each day as it comes, have a quiet day of being pampered, or a whirlwind visit to sights in a new locale – what could be better? And if you all go, depending on numbers, you can get a couple of suites, with more room to spread out, and a nice place to “hang” if you’re having a day so lazy you don’t feel like leaving the room… Just saying…

  12. Julie says:

    It all sounds so wonderful! I’m so pleased that everyone was so nice, and that your mom was honored – it sounds like a dream. I’m also glad that you were able to come to the rescue and read some of her poems, too. Loved your descriptions of the food – what a wonderful “add-on” to so much fun already! And so happy that people took you both under their wings and made things work so well for you. It sounds like it was everything it should have been and more, and what more could we wish for you?

    I hope you do, indeed, go back next year with your own book, but don’t put pressure on yourself – if it’s two years away, so be it….

    I’ve had a little bit of experience with the book-signing. My business partner and I put together a book on a friend’s collection of needlework samplers, and to launch the book, we came to San Francisco (where she lives) and did a few book-signings in different places. The first was at Hospice in San Mateo, where all the profits went – it was her favorite charity. She sold a lot of books there, and for each one she signed, she must have written half a page! She is such a gracious lady – she wouldn’t be rushed, she gave each person her undivided attention, and wrote such lovely inscriptions – each different and personal – that I know she endeared herself to them forever. She stayed and wrote for hours… At the last shop, even after she’d signed books for everyone who was there, and some who had called in orders but couldn’t make it, she was asked to sign a number for the shop to have. She wrote an inscription that was much more than her name, but I can’t recall now what it was – but she wouldn’t hear of just putting her name, even for people she would never meet!

    A few years later, another friend wrote a wonderful book that Becky and I laid out, designed and published. This was a big, serious book, and we are quite rightly proud of this accomplishment. For that, we also had a small “launch” and the author signed books for hours – she was so excited that anyone wanted her autograph! For both of those, I always felt good that we were able to give these two ladies something that they’d remember forever.

    Next, it will be your turn!

  13. Julie says:

    Millie, thanks for all the questions about my fall adventure – the answers are hidden away in previous pages, but I don’t want you to have to go looking for them, haha. The Jane Austen general meeting was held in Louisville, KY, which turns out to be a very beautiful place – who knew? Rolling countrysides – you can see why this is where they have all the thoroughbred horses! My talk went well – and in fact, if anyone’s interested, you can read a version of it here
    – my writer friend asked if she could put it on my blog after the event! She is such a lovely person. Proofreading for her has been so good – she is so thankful, and I love her writing very much, so that works out really well. As well, she’s a member of JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) and I got to meet her in Louisville – in fact, we spent some time together, and it was wonderful.

    Besides the talk, there was the even itself – 1000 people attended the ball on Saturday night – and I think fully half of them dressed in period garb! It was wonderful. My dress was ready to pick up practically on my way to the airport – and it was so beautiful! I didn’t do it justice, but it was fun to wear, and I got compliments galore on it. Here’s a pic of me and the author friend. She has a funny kind of bump-out at her rear end – it’s where she has her train hiked up and held out of her way by a little piece of the design – very clever – she made her gorgeous red dress herself!

    I think that link works, though we had trouble finding one that did.

    Here is a little bit of film of the ball – so very fun, though I just watched.

  14. Julie says:

    Millie – I wrote a long answer to some of your questions about how things went, but because I had some links in there, the comment “awaits moderation”. So, if they don’t go through – you can email me at and I can send you links to see “the dress” as well as a link to a blog post that outlines my talk, and another to a little bit of film showing the ball at the event, with so many in costume.

  15. Millie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your adventure, Julie. You look glorious in your dress. And your talk was fascinating. At least to me who loves needlework. My jaw dropped at the white cut work, pulled and drawn thread sampler done by a child! I haven’t mastered that but my mom has beautiful table cloths embellished that way along with embroidery. I’m so jealous you’ve been to the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s been on my bucket list for years. And the video of the dancing was a treat. Wish we lived closer.

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