LOUISE PENNY’S

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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 fourth week of cloudy days with the sun shinning for less than five minutes when it pops out a few times day. Fighting to control the depression. I have reread many of the warm and caring posts here in the Bistro. What a special group. Thanks.

Aiken County, just across the river from us, had much damage over the weekend. South Carolina is experiencing emergency situations over most of the state. Columbia is in dire straits with hospitals and USC without water. Myrtle Beach, which depends on tourism, is also heavily damaged. The high winds that were expected over the weekend all the way from the coast inland to us did not occur. After all the rain, the wind would have brought down trees. The ice storm in 2013 cleared many of the older and weaker trees, but there are still many very large trees all around. Our utility lines are above ground in all of the city and much of the county. More recently built areas have underground lines but the trunk lines are above ground and power is lost when they go down.
Good thoughts and hugs to you.

Julie, The shooting in Roseburg was chilling. It seems that we hold our breath hoping it will not happen again but knowing it will. Too many people are missing obvious clues. Parents, teachers, and friends must notice something is wrong with these people. These people could not have passed as normal. I hate to put more on educators but if they were better trained to spot the disturbed student maybe these incidents could be avoided. Parents and relatives hesitate to “cause trouble”. Although, some teachers and relatives have been ignored when they tried to alert authorities to a problem. Maybe a nation wide program to educate the public would help.
Sympathies to all.

I think Annie has a combination of both Gamache and Reine-Marie’s best (or worst?) traits. She has a quick intelligence, which I think they both have, great compassion, or she couldn’t have waited for Jean Guy to get his act together, and she gets that from Reine-Marie. Her stubbornness – I think that’s from Reine-Marie, though in the mother, it’s shown more as the strength to last through goodness knows what, and her sense of right and wrong, which is needed for feistiness, comes from her father, along with her unwillingness to turn away from an injustice. I love that Gamache used to sing the Lion Sleeps Tonight to Annie, that she is symbolized by a lion, and that Laurent sang that song, too. I think it was a comforting thing for them – a reminder of when they were safe and in their father’s arms.

Annie and Jean-Guy have become my favorite characters. From the very beginning we have known JG is uptight, has a closed door in his psyche. OF course it is that he loves Annie. It has taken several books before it all came to light. Then he finds out he was her first crush. He was in the depths of hell for sure, and when he came to the light, she took him back. I think they will be a successful couple. Can’t wait for Baby Beauvoir. That may take 2 more books!! I love this series.

Thank you, Anna – I had completely forgotten that – but I agree – that’s a moment’s realization, and I think, a moment that Clara already had the wherewithal to reach on her own. That is, it would have happened sooner or later, but luckily for Clara, Ruth was able to spur it on faster. I think Ruth being able to make this confession and get rid of a little of her guilt will be the beginning of some healing for her. I hope so, anyway. She’s been carrying a lot of guilt for a very long time. I hope Beauvoir can help her with that – so far, she’s always helped him – it’s time he helped her. In a way, he already has – he was talking with her when he got her to “confess” where she sent Fleming, and what she did next. Just the confession has been good for her, but I hope he can help her to see that it wasn’t really her fault…

In my re-read of Still Life, I keep coming across things that make me smile a bit. First of all, everyone’s cell phone works. I couldn’t help but smile and wonder when Louise realized she was later going to need Three Pines to be more cut off from the rest of the world?

And we’ve had a glimpse of Vincent “The Asshole Saint” Gilbert in that Gamache and Myrna discuss his book “Being” in their first conversation. Love finding little tidbits that eluded me not only the first time I read them, but also the second…

I have noticed the comments on the reading guide site tend to be letters to Louise. Hard to know where to discuss the questions It was a bit of a bother jumping back and forth until I just opened two windows…doh.

I like thinking about Reine-Marie. I know we talk about her a bit. I like that she is a strong character in her own right, not just an attachement to Armand. She compliments him delightfully. They are both so calm. Where do you think Annie gets her feistiness from?

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.

SPOILER ALERT
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.

SPOILER ALERT

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.

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