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”

The bit with Clara was that she was trying to paint Peter’s portrait and she was struggling. Towards the end of the book she is trying to paint and Ruth comes to see her and asks why she is stuck. Is she waiting to be saved, to be forgiven, for Peter to tell her she can finally move on.
Ruth quotes the old line “Who hurt you once, so far beyond repair” and she explains to Clara that Ruth hurt herself. Suddenly, Clara understands why she is stuck. She puts the portrait of Peter away and starts to paint the portrait of the person who hurt her. She expunged her pent up emotions into the work when she realises the source of her doubts and fears and guilt are herself. None can hurt us so badly as we who know where to push.
That was Clara’s revelation, that moment, so for me not an evolution so much as an understanding that clicks into place.

I wonder, too, if we need to continue with the SPOILER ALERT now that discussion is open elsewhere as well…

I have noticed an odd thing about myself – I can’t make myself go back and start to read TNOTB – it was so intense for me – mostly the Fleming detail, which doesn’t really start for a good long time into the book – yet, it has me by the throat, somehow. I was wanting to reread because there are things I missed (such as all the apple mentions) the first time through – but when I brought it up on my Kindle, I couldn’t open it – went instead to Still Life – needed to start the whole process again. (And, of course, I’m still trying to figure out the map – wanted to see what Louise first wrote about different places).

At any rate – Anna, can you please help me with Clara’s evolution – that final click? I’m not able to put my finger on what you mean, and I haven’t really been thinking that there was a lot of change to Clara. Since Still Life, of course, there has been. When we first met Clara, she was smaller, somehow – and to a big extent, kept small by Peter. She was less than she could be, and than she would be. Plus, she had just lost her very best friend in the world – nobody else in Three Pines was as close to Clara as Jane, and that loss was profound for her.

Then, she grew so much when she told Peter to leave and she spent a year alone – that growth and change was pivotal to where she found herself by TLWH. I loved the ending of that book – how she talked Peter home with such love. By the end of that book – she was free to love him unconditionally again… and of course, she felt his loss so deeply, too. These things have matured her. A little recognition (okay, a LOT of recognition) must also be giving her confidence in herself and her choices, so she is a much more whole person. She is much more like I see Louise today, after the phenomenal success of her books. Glowing in the realization that she is doing something very well, yet still a down-to-earth, very real person. From the beginning to end of TNOTB, though, I didn’t feel a lot of change in Clara. I felt that the change had already happened, and that she was in a more settled place now.

Ruth’s story has me mesmerized… the guilt she’s been harboring all these years must have really been so hard on her – made her so very testy. I’d love to hear about her husband, what happened, and how some of these things might now be laid to rest.

SPOILER ALERT…….do we still need that when the discussion is open?

I agree Amy, the eulogy and the centrepiece showed a warm care. That is what I like about Louise’s books, she keeps what happens close to our hearts. It is easy to believe, to feel involved and that brings us genuine emotion.

One of the other questions talks about Clara’s evolution through the novel. I didn’t feel she evolved in this book the way she had from TLWH. It was more a final click in to place, a revelatory moment with Ruth.

It was good that you reminded us Barbara of the elements from TLWH that we had surmised might make a showing here and they didn’t. Particularly Chartrand. Was he just a loose thread or is there more to come. Maybe we read more into him than Louise intended or his story is yet to come.

Death / murder at any age is a terrible tragedy, but I do feel Louise handled this respectfully, not making it grisly as you mentioned Anna. I especially enjoyed the real eulogy that took place at the reception in the church basement when the villagers remembered Laurent and how he was always prepared to defend the village, and the centerpiece Myrna made in honor of Laurent; these memories made me smile and realize that’s how we should all remember loved ones; with love and smiles!

Just saw the news of another mass shooting in the US. I hope no one who reads these posts was directly affected. However, the effects are widespread. We feel them here an ocean away. My sympathies and prayers to all involved.

Anna – these things have become global events, I think, and whenever they happen, wherever we are, we feel their impact. This one was close to home for me, both literally and figuratively, because it’s a little town not so very far away from me, and one I’ve visited. They have both a rose festival every year (thus the name, Roseburg) and a Shakespeare Festival, so this pretty little town is often inundated with tourists. I am struggling with this one, very mightily, because I’ve reached my threshold, I think. I don’t understand why gun reform is not a top priority. I don’t understand how it wasn’t after all the innocent lives taken in Connecticut two years ago – yet, nothing seems to be able to budge the very powerful gun lobby. I’m now very tired of the rhetoric. President Obama says he’s not going to stop talking about it, but it’s very frustrating because talk is all I see. I’d love to see him take the rest of his time in power to take guns out of the hands of all private citizens. I know that’s never going to happen, but maybe we can finally understand that something radical has to happen. What other country of the modern world has such laws? We need to do this, and we need to do it now.

I think we can reply in either place although others may answer on the question page. You can use your newfound skills Barbara and when you write a post here, copy it and paste it on the other page. If that is too repetitive then you can still copy a couple of sentences but expand on them differently. If interest drops off on the other page we will have the info here as well to save flicking back and forth. Just thoughts. Just post somewhere!!

I like the question about the respectfulness afforded a child’s death. I think it was well done. I don’t like reading about children dying but of course it happens. Terrifying when you are a mother. I note the first post on the question page is from someone who did lose a child and my heart goes out to her.

Laurent’s death was written with as much dignity and care as possible. It wasn’t grisly, it could have been an accident.The outpouring of kindness and grief in the community was real, not overdone, not gratuitous. I was relieved to find myself reading it without feeling horrified, just very sad. I was scared it was going to be horrific but then I knew Louise wouldn’t write anything I couldn’t read.


I think we should maybe take a look at those questions that Paul posted the link to – and talk about them… The first three, I think, we’ve already discussed to a certain point, but there are plenty more….

I like the question about how we feel about a child’s murder… did we feel it was done respectfully?

I was so surprised that that’s who got killed. I had already liked Laurent, as we had followed him and his imagination through some things already and he was so cool, and so real. I do think that his death was treated with the appropriate shock and outrage and respect. The people in the town, who’d basically, been “tolerating” Laurent, realized what a horrible loss it was, not just to his parents (who doted on him), but also to all of them. He brought the whimsy of childhood to them all, even if they didn’t always pay attention as they should have. I also think it brought a lot of guilt feelings to them, because they didn’t believe him in this last big thing, and they can’t help but feel that if they had believed him, they’d have been able to spare his life.

I’ve been thinking of some of the people and places we were wondering would appear in the next novel, TNOTB, when we were discussing TLWH. Some were: The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Inspector Stewart, Bean, Nichole, and Chartrand. I’m sure Bean will return. Chartrand ? Didn’t trust him .

I don’t trust, or like, Chartrand, either, Barbara. I’m sure Bean will be back, maybe when she?’s a little older. And Nichole – I miss her. I hope she comes back – she totally redeemed herself in HTLGI I think.

Yes, I love the newsletter. Louise is so wonderful about sharing so much of herself and her life. It’s great to see her writing process, as well as how she is coping with an increasingly difficult home life. It breaks my heart, at the same time as it lifts me up.

Dear Julie, I am not at all surprised that what happened to your Aunt gave you real fears about what could happen to you, actually whether you looked like her or not. There is still so much we don’t understand about mental illness and our methods for dealing with it have at times been nothing short of barbaric. One of the biggest challenges in treating mental illness has been to overcome the stigma surrounding it.

I am glad you read the link I posted. Imposter syndrome cripples so many of us. Remind me about it when I panic about releasing my next novel into the ether. If there is one thing I want to teach my daughter is not that she can do anything, but that she is perfectly capable of doing the things she is doing. If she believes that then she has a great foundation to attempt whatever else takes her fancy. It’s never too late to develop a greater belief in yourself.

I thought Anne Perry’ father being a physicist and involved in making an atomic bomb was another curious parallel with TNOTB. I can imagine it is also a source of her pondering evil and good. The creation of such devices does that.

Rereading my last post Julie, it didn’t come out quite right. I just meant that the the prospect of being put in a mental facility would terrify anyone given the reputation of such places in times gone by!

The movie, Snake Pit, scared everyone I think. The history of mental health facilities in the recent past harks back to the stories of Victorian Times. Our laws, today, are supposed to protect people, especially women, from abuse and vindictive relatives.
It seems all women were considered “crazy” or not in control, or inferior so it was only a small step to lock them away. I love history but would not like to have really lived in the past for many reasons.

Yes -Barbara – when I first understood why it was called a “hysterectomy”, I was appalled… but of course, it’s all too believable. The Snake Pit

Hit the wrong button and my post posted too soon. The Snake Pit WAS very scary, and I’m sure places like Bedlam, etc. were just like that! A place to throw people away.

Oh, no… I know you have been able to see just how crazy I am, hahahaha. No, Anna – I knew what you meant. Yes, looking like her just meant that a lot of my childhood, I was compared to her my aunt, so when this happened, of course, it frightened me a bit, because I was used to thinking of her and I as just alike in lots of ways. And I think we were – we were both the most sensitive of our siblings, I think, and we both saw lots of things going on in the family that we thought weren’t quite right… that’s another long story, but just basically, neither one of us could ever turn a blind eye to injustices, while for the rest of the family that was their modus operandi. It was very much a family full of people very happy for you to go first after them when anything was being given out.

Oh, Anna – that’s so interesting! I have a lot of those traits, and I know it has kept me from doing things. I so wish I could go back and tell my younger self a few things!

I wonder if Ann Perry set her books in historical periods partly for the distance it allows her and the manner of the time providing a gentility to the tone and the setting. I can imagine it was a time of interest to her anyway. She lead a very Bronte like existence in a way, isolation filled with stories, only she had no siblings to live with her in her imaginative worlds. When she found a friend who could she was desperate not to lose her.

I think that’s a very good analysis, Anna – as to why choose Victorian, as well as the comparison to the Bronte’s. I was surprised to read that her father was both a physicist who worked on the British Atomic Bomb, and a rector. Talk about internal conflict! They left this poor girl alone a lot, and it sounds like a very hard life. I have to admit that I’ve always found the boarding school type of rearing to be pretty cold-hearted at the best of times, and while this wasn’t that, it was the same kind of mentality, I think.

Whew. Glad you weren’t worried Julie. I thought it was really interesting particularly with the parallels. There are no coincidences. From what I read Ann had a very personal reason to explore the machinations of what drives us to murder and the nature of evil. There is a biography written about her that could be a good read but it would be better if she wrote it. I can imagine that would be very confronting.
We humans are capable of such much at both extremes of greatness and we can also compartmentalise ourselves, perhaps to protect us from those emotions or those deeds.
I was reading about members of the Nazi SS, many or whom were apparently intelligent and well educated, and how they could slip back into their lives after the war.
Maybe we all have to do this, wall off the bits that we don’t like, or hurt too much or maybe we would never move forward.

Anne Perry’s Thomas and Charlotte Pitt is a series I enjoyed for years. Then, I found one book to be uninteresting(I don’t remember which one) and didn’t return. Maybe I’ll try again. I read many Victorian themed novels back then. I have never read any of the Monk series. I usually find stories with amnesiacs frustrating. At one time, the frequency of characters with amnesia in American Soaps was second only to the common cold. I was turned off that story line.

I had no idea of her life before she became Anne Perry the author.

It was interesting to read that her first success was here in the US.

I like the Pitt series, too, Barbara, but again, haven’t read any in years. I don’t know why I stopped, though I think it was because I thought there weren’t any more – there are so very many more than I read that I must have just lost track or something. Interesting about amnesia turning you off – I know what you mean about the soaps – the only other storyline to beat it was the evil twin, hahaha. She treats the amnesia very differently, though – and I think, realistically. But knowing what I know now, thanks to Anna – I’m sure it’s a way of dealing with starting a new life that completely turns its back on the old life. As Anna says – very like Al LePage… Confession time – I had an aunt who was, for a time, in a mental hospital, and I look like this aunt, quite a bit. I spent a lot of my life worrying that someone was going to be able to put me in a mental hospital and leave me there – much like the Snake Pit. I know it can’t really happen anymore, but it still haunts me somewhat, and I think that’s why I’m fascinated with problems like that – such as amnesia. Frances Farmer’s story scared the willies out of me!


Anna, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – Fleming is someone who can spot the “opportunity for betrayal” easily, and sees people only for how he can manipulate them to his own ends. He thinks of others only how he can use them, yet when he is used, he sees it as betrayal… interesting.

Julie, you do know who Ann Perry is don’t you? It’s an interesting story for those who don’t know the background of this author. But if you don’t want to know Julie don’t read any further.

I saw the film Heavenly Creatures years ago, it is 20 yrs old. For those who haven’t seen it and you may not have as it is a New Zealand production, the movie was directed by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings fame) and starred an unknown Kate Winslet as 15 y.o Juliet Hulme. Juliet and her friend Pauline Parker murdered Pauline’s mother. They were convicted and served their sentences. After her release 5 years later, Juliet Hulme changed her identity and her life and became author Ann Perry.
Now there is enough material for a second movie of her life. I can well imagine Ann Perry draws upon that experience for her Monk character, the whole becoming someone else and finding out you were not a good person before. I haven’t read any of her books but I will look.
I see interesting parallels between Perry’s story and TNOTB. Part of the discussion of how the girls came to be murderers revolved around their rich fantasy lives, driven by Perry who had a difficult childhood without much formal education or stability due to her illness, tuberculosis. It made me think of Laurent and his imaginative over excitability (check the work of Polish Psychologist Dabrowski if you want to read about over-excitabilities).
The other parallel was with Al Lepage. The whole notion of reinventing yourself and trying to forget the horror you created in the past. And the fear that the past will find you. Perry talked about that at one stage, how she dreaded what she had done becoming known.

Wow! Anna – I’d had no idea. (Thank you for alerting me ahead of time that I might not want to read the post, but of course, that made me want to read it all the more, hahaha) It doesn’t bother me – that’s not the right word – but it doesn’t make me see Anne Perry as anything less. When you read the books, they’re obviously written by someone intelligent, and someone who has thought a lot about good and evil and the difference. She also seems to know that everyone is capable of murder, given the right circumstances. Her circumstances seem bizarre, but still – rife with the possibility. We think of the serious fantasy lives spurring young people to murder as being pretty modern, but this was in 1954! I will have to find the movie now – that’s fascinating.

In general, I am fine with fictional murder, less so with real murder. I think what Fleming represents to me is all too real, and even though I now know something more about Anne Perry, her characters, and the murders in her books, are very much fictional to me. Odd, when you think that in a lot of ways, it’s the other way around. That Louise (why does she seem like “Louise” to me – I know she deserves my respect, yet she has allowed us into her thought processes so much that I feel that I know her) does not know what it’s like to murder someone and Anne Perry does.

At any rate – you haven’t spoiled anything for me, so no worries. I know I said that I was escaping from the heaviness of Fleming, but I also know that Perry’s books are not light reading – they’re very well researched, and delve pretty deeply into the psyche. Very interesting. What makes for the “relief” for me is that they are set in a very stilted time when people never said things or did things overtly, and so even though awful things are done, they are never couched in that kind of language… I’m not expressing this well, but I think if you read one, you’ll see what I mean. If you read them, start with The Face of a Stranger – how she deals with Monk’s amnesia is amazing.


Rereading one of the betrayal comments I thought this…..

Fleming is watching Cohen talking to his friend who is a guard. It was that friend Adam had given the papers for Fleming’s release to as he was less likely to question them. In that sense Adam was taking advantage of the friendship if it all went wrong and Fleming escaped, then Adam would have betrayed that friendship.
I am sure Fleming has a good nose for potential betrayals as he has committed more than a few.perhaps this section is seeing the world from Fleming’s perspective to give us a glimpse of how he views human interactions.

I don’t remember the section on betrayal, but when I think about that as a general thing surrounding Fleming and his cohorts, I think of the betrayal of Gerald Bull. By that, I mean, that his murder was the result of a betrayal of one or more of the people he’d been working with. It’s fuzzy with me now, and I’ll have to re-read (I’ll be rereading the full book next week, as I know I read it too quickly the first time). Even though I read so slowly, I just didn’t get a lot of these nuances the first time through.

I needed to pull myself away with something else, though, and have rediscovered a favorite author – Anne Perry, who does Victorian era crime stories. She hooked me with the first of her Mr. Monk series because the main character wakes up in the hospital with no memory at all. Her description of the terror he experiences, which eventually subsides to a general foreboding, is really masterful. As the series goes on, Monk rebuilds his life, but never regains his memory, which makes him a different kind of character. What he discovers about his former self, however, fills him with self-loathing, as he realizes what a nasty person he was. In general, I love how he handles it all, and becomes a much gentler, noble person. He goes forward with his career as a police officer, and later as a private detective. Another major character is a woman who was a nurse with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, and this all seems to be very well researched. The series continued for quite a few more books than I knew existed, so I’ve been reading those that are new to me, and enjoying it quite a bit. Since it’s all so long ago, it doesn’t have the overpowering feeling of evil that TNOTB has for me. Fleming scared me quite a bit, hahaha.

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