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”

SPOILER ALERT

Yes teaching and mentoring are fortes for Gamache but he has to keep his hand in active investigating too. Teaching integrated with work is actually different to teaching in a college type environment. While I think he could do either I wonder if he wouldn’t prefer the former.

I don’t want Gamache to go too far but Louise does love Island time so maybe he could do a short trip away with work. That would be a book like Beautiful Mystery, a more isolated environment.

Like Julie, I would like to see something for Reine-Marie. She adapts so well to any situation but she is an intelligent woman capable of so much. She deserves an opportunity to doc that and her skills are so valuable for investigations. Mmmm….what job might she do that could give her access to information Gamache might need?

I thought Ruth was softer in this novel, well fewer sharp edges. I can’t see her changing too much more. The villagers wouldn’t cope. They need Ruth as a foil for their jokes!

SPOILER ALERT
One of the biggest things for me in this novel, was Ruth and her part in the story. She has been eaten up with guilt for so long… I’m sure it’s the biggest part of what has twisted her sense of being able to trust. Will that change now? I don’t expect she will suddenly become a grandmotherly-type, baking cookies and helping everyone. But I do expect she might begin to relax a little of her constant “on-guardedness”.

SPOILER ALERT

There was something near the end about an offer from the United Nations, and heading up a force in Haiti, which JG had recognized as being a perfect job for Gamache, and near to his heart. But he didn’t want Gamache so far away. Me either. I want him to have something to do with bringing up new recruits and training them properly, which was a suggestion of Isobel’s. Therese Brunel wants him to be the new Superintendent for major crimes, which would include Homicide, but I also think that would be putting him right back where he was, even though at a higher rank. It feels like a step backward. I love the idea of him teaching, or revising the recruitment criteria, etc., to ensure that fewer guys like the little jerk who was sent to watch the crime scene get in.

What I think should happen (it would in a world where I was in charge, hahaha) is this time, he and Reine-Marie make a move to a place where she is able to have a dream job… We haven’t seen much of her work, but in several cases, both her research abilities and her high security clearance to get through online archives have helped cases. I’d love to see more for her to do but smile and be supportive. Still, Gamache is the heart and soul of the stories, and he would have to have the right fit, too.

Louise has left many suggestions out there – I wonder where she’s taking us…

SPOILER ALERT
A teaching or an official consultant role would work for Gamache. It would be a way to allow Gamache to introduce new officers so that we could continue to move in and out of Three Pines. I think the head of the Surete may be too obvious – and it would be strange if all of his attention was taken up by homicide. Plus Gamache has always been in a position where he doesn’t have all of the power…. he is a foil for the “just following orders” characters as he puts his position on the line by choosing to follow character and conscience over authority when necessary.

SPOILER ALERT….

Good thoughts Kim. I wondered if the next mystery might take them beyond just murder into a broader intrigue. Maybe Gamache will take a role that brings organisations other than the Surete into the story as this book did.

I agree that Gamache can be an omnipotent being, his vulnerability keeps us on the edge of our seats as he doesn’t always have the power to stop bad things happening.

SPOILER ALERT…..

A recurring theme in this book is “What Next?” That makes me happy because it is thinking about a future thus implying we have a long way yet to travel with our Three Pines crew.

There were lots of clues given for what might be next for Gamache and certainly a role with an element of teaching and mentoring seems suitable but he is also a consummate investigate so that has to be worked in there.

What about everyone else? Did anyone spot the clues that might be a hint as to a direction for anyone else? Obviously big changes coming for JG I imagine but what about the others?

Millie, I think that’s the best way to do it, too – I often forget to go back and look for later comments, plus, I often get lost and forget what I’m looking for, haha. My mind is sometimes my weakest link, it seems.

I’ve been enjoying the discussion of evil acts vs evil creations – lots for me to think about… I’m terrible at starting a new topic, so hope one or more of you will direct the conversation…

No offense taken, Anna! That’s the marvel of how well this story is written. It evokes emotions. Lots of different emotions depending on the filter of the reader. I’ve just had a really busy day. And tomorrow doesn’t look good for me to sit and chat. 🙁 But I will. I hope I don’t get totally lost. If everyone comments independently at the bottom and refers to who and what we are commenting on, rather than replying to someone else’s comment, it’s easier to pick up where we left off. It worked really well before. Just a suggestion…

Rosenblatt, Fraser, and Delorme will all be back I think. We have much to learn about them. Fraser and Delorme ……Don’t know if they are good guys or bad, but I think both would do whatever was necessary to fulfill the mission.
Rosenblatt is not a simple little retired guy either.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT
Rosenblatt will be back, I’m sure of it. Whether he’s friend or foe, I don’t know – but he is definitely not just a “harmless professor”, that’s for sure. I kept waiting to find out his involvement – maybe he’s fighting on the side of good… who knows? While the Project Babylon issue was related to the central murder(s), it was one of the villagers who was guilty. Which means, to me, that the central figures we’ve seen so far might still be around in a later work, Rosenblatt chief among them.

I love how Louise leaves some mystery in her characters. I try to have ones that are more lightly drawn so I can get to know them later. I wonder if Louise knows even now what role some of these characters will play as she moves forward. I am sure she has some ideas but what I love is when my characters surprise me.

Kim, I understood what you wrote! Between Spanish and the Latin, that was a requirement, I can get the gist most times. Like ‘livre’ in French is ‘libro’ in Spanish is ‘book’ in English! Thank you for offering to help me practice, but I’m still learning words. Much to my dismay when we moved from the States to Puerto Rico, I found there’s a huge gap between understanding a language perfectly and speaking it. I was stubborn. My parents would speak Spanish at home but I wanted to learn to speak English without an accent. Mission accomplished but little did I know I’d need Spanish in my mid teens to early 20’s. At University I had to tape the lectures, go home and replay them and write it out in English my first year before I could study, especially classes like philosophy! I didn’t have time to tackle another language then.
Recently, I asked my mom why did I study so hard? Her response made me laugh. “So you could get a job as a bilingual Tour Guide / VIP hostess when we moved back to the States? My favorite ‘job’!

I think it’s wonderful your minor was French at University. But I know what you mean about not having many opportunities to use the language. I was lucky that mom sent me to a high school in Puerto Rico that was a college prep academy geared towards daughters (all girls school) of American businessmen who needed a crash course in Spanish but the other classes were in English, or girls who knew they would be attending University in the States. I remember the morning I woke up running into the kitchen to tell my mom I had dreamt in Spanish! That was when I felt ‘bilingual’! But after my few years at Disney, and marrying an Anerican, I’ve had few opportunities to practice my Spanish other than the daily calls to mom when I try to speak it with her but I fall back to answering in English a lot. I’m still good at it but not like I used to be. And my parents spoke slowly. When I watch a TV show in Spanish, especially from Spain, they speak so fast my brain gets tired. Lol…

After grade 12 and again in University, I had 2 immersion summers in Quebec – the first in Quebec City (where I didn’t learn as much) and the second in Chicoutimi (where I became reasonably fluent). But that was a long time ago and I’ve become rusty. If you are looking toward listening to some French, try the news. The reporters tend to speak formally, so you don’t get caught up in regional accents and slang. And, if you follow the news in English, there is some overlap to help in guessing the substance.
In teaching a second language, we were encouraged to follow the “listen, speak, read, write” approach as the natural progression in learning a first language. That works well with children, but I think most adults’ “ear” for language gradually shuts down, making reading and writing easier than listening and speaking.

I’m checking back to the previous page as so much is being written and I don’t want to fail to see everything.
A lovely picture of LP greeted me as I walked into the Library yesterday. She is on the over of Book Page with an excellent interview. Book Page.com, Print Edition has it. She tells of writing first drafts and how she puts everything in it. No ideas are forgotten because the weren’t written down. I have always made the mistake of rewriting until each sentence was perfect. I now see the folly in that. You can’t go forward.

We certainly do stifle creativity in children. Even today, very young children are told that when they color the grass must be green, the sky blue, and the dog can not be orange. None of that is even true. Grass is not always green, the sky is not always blue and an apricot poodle might well be considered orange. Forcing a child to follow the “rules” isn’t even honest. Even though the sky isn’t green and grass isn’t usually red so what. I have colored flowers, etc. unusual colors recently simply because I chose to. Made a picture I found very pleasing.

Millie, I am reminded of becoming very agitated in class one day and knowing Mother needed me. Her condition had worsened since I had left for school and her Dr. wanted her back in the hospital. My ability came from her. She warned me not to tell others as they would think me crazy. Poor dear, I can imagine how she was ridiculed by those she grew up with. Even after all these years and many proofs my husband refuses to believe that sometimes I just know.

SPOILER ALERT……………………………………………………………………………………………………

Antoinette believed the play was worthy of production. It was not a about praising or excusing evil. Though I have no experience in the theater, I have read of instances were plays have opened in spite of protests. The play was not evil but was written by an evil man. I would not have wanted to see it just as I would not want one of Hitler’s paintings. I would dwell too much on the evil of the man. At the same time, would I refuse medical treatment if a terrible person had developed it ? No, I would be thankful the treatment existed. Judgment of creations that carry the stain of an evil creator becomes very confusing and illogical.

Interesting what you say about medical treatment Barbara. There was a lot of medical knowledge gained by terrible experiments that the Nazis performed. So much debate about whether to use the knowledge. The information became tainted with how it was developed even though it was valuable.

As for your abilities Barbara….hard to explain them I am sure but accept. They are you and they are important. Actually quantum physics +/- string theory certainly has room to explain such things. Particle entanglement comes to mind. Your husband is just coping in the only way he knows how.

Anna, Nazi experiments came to mind as I was writing.
Being married to me has not been easy for my husband, I know. His life would have been much more ” on course” if he had married someone more like him and his. He knew we were very different but thought it would not matter so much. I really think he thought I would change or mellow. Love can conquer all but it doesn’t always.

Hey, you’re very right to be angry with Al. He DID do a horrible, unforgivable thing. I just see him as two completely different people in each of his circumstances. But I can understand being unable to find the good in him, no matter how hard he tried… And you’re very right – if he’d let Laurent know that he was right – if he’d followed him into the woods to “find” the gun, it might have saved a great number of lives. He is directly responsible for Laurent’s death in that case… yet another unforgivable act.

But at that point in time, nobody was aware that Brian was looking for the WOB and the plans. And Laurent blurted out his “find” to the villagers and only told his parents later. If Al wasn’t aware of the searchers, he wouldn’t have been on guard.
I don’t know Al’s age when he committed his worst evil. I pictured him as young and impressionable, believing in the intelligence of his commanders. He would have been taught (indoctrinated) that war calls for situational ethics. And he only thought it through after it was too late. What a horrible “too late” for all! Lambs to the slaughter. Laurent, the little lamb. Laurent to the slaughter. You can’t run away from mistakes…they show up again in choices or fate.

SPOILER ALERT

Millie, I agree absolutely that war is hell and can create a psychological environment that allows humans to do awful things. But, and it’s a big but….”just following orders” is never a defense. It didn’t work for the Nazis at Nuremburg and it doesn’t work in today’s military. Not following a lawful order in wartime can be punishable by death but there is such a thing as an unlawful order and killing innocent civilians would fall into that category. Carrying out an unlawful order is a crime in itself.

I didn’t feel sorry for Al really. He did a terrible thing and he ran away afterwards. If he truly felt he was doing what he had to do then he should have stood up and faced his accusers and given a defense. But he knew it was wrong. When he said “I was alone……..but I did it anyway I lost all feeling for him. He reminded me of Dleming at that point. And he was cowardly. He was cowardly then and he was cowardly when his son found what he found (I am still trying to be cryptic to avoid obvious spoilers which is really hard!). Why not tell his son that he was right? Why not say he wasn’t lying? If he had spoken up then his son wouldn’t have had to die.

It is much harder to be good than bad sometimes. Julie said that Gamache was a thoroughly good man and he is. No wonder he is tired and in need of the space of Three Pines. But he is too good to stay there.

SPOILER ALERT – we’ll be discussing the book as a whole, so go beyond this point at your own peril if you haven’t read the book. 😉 (I did a copy and paste. Thanks Julie.)

Anna, I thought about your question before the opening of discussion: how could someone do terrible things, yet live and love and not do monstrous things? What immediately came to mind were soldiers and the untold number of veterans that have PTSD! My sons have friends who served in either Iraq or Afganistan. They have a haunted look deep in their eyes. One can’t attend fireworks displays any longer. A car backfiring makes him jump out of his skin. Then he looks so embarrassed. Another can’t even bring himself to date. He’s afraid he will die soon. Another has developed OCD – her world must be ‘just so’… I’m very fortunate that these young men and women feel comfortable talking to me as if I were their own age. I’ve heard many a story of the anguish they feel for having to have ‘carried out orders’. For having to follow orders to kill or to have witnessed buddies die in their arms… The training is so ingrained to ‘follow orders’, and the stress level so high, that’s what they do – follow orders. Personally I felt sorry for Al at the end. He had already lost his son. Karma / justice? He lived through his personal hell and truly loved his son and wife. But was he as monsterous as Fleming? I don’t think so. I believed him when he told Jean-Guy, and company, he was following orders, they were the enemy… That said, I thought the exchange between him and Ruth at the very end was beautifully written. He cared about what would happen to his wife and asks Ruth to care for her. That does not come from an inherently evil heart.

Now, consider ‘secret’ or covert operatives. They are even more rigorously trained to ‘dispose of problems’. Semantics, but can you imagine a career where your job is to kill whomever you are ordered to? Because some organization or political persona finds them too difficult to work with? I can’t, but they exist. But are they themselves evil? I don’t think so.

I don’t remember if it’s in this book or another, but Gamache quotes something to the effect that no one is as evil as the worse thing they did – except Fleming perhaps. Gave me the willies!

Yes, Julie, the scene of Gamache interrogating him was the one I had to skip over if I was alone. Like someone here said before, Holy Moly! I think Fleming is a masterfully depicted embodiment of evil. One of the classic ‘stereotypes’ in literature. But we don’t live in a world of all or nothing. As for Gamache? Louise, up until this story has made a point of someone telling Gamache he wasn’t always right. He is a very good man, but flawed like the rest of us. I think we’ll find he made a very big mistake in thinking Rosenblatt is the ‘taproot’. Right from his introduction we are given many examples that he has a good heart. He hears a child is killed as says he’s sorry to hear that. And just for fun, I thought there would be no way Louise would give a ‘bad guy’ the name of her beloved Michael. Call me sentimental!

One thing that really bothered me (because it jarred me into ‘think out of my comfort zone’ mode) was Gamache saying “the creator and the created are one.” Ultimately, spiritually, I think so, yes. But that still doesn’t give anyone the right to judge others – either people or their creations – based on ‘the sins of the father’. I side with Reine-Marie on that one. Ergo, I don’t think Antoinette was intrinsically evil. Opportunistic? Absolutely. A pain in the derrière? Her neighbors thought so, but that’s a long way from ‘evil’.

But let’s take a look at Laurent for a moment. That was another ‘think outside my comfort zone’. Granted he’s another classic storytelling stereotype (the boy who cried wolf). [BTW: my use of stereotype is used in strictly literary terms and not meant as jugemental. Some of the best literature rely on stereotypes] But Myrna says most children grow out of their imaginary world. Do they naturally do so? Or are children taught what to believe is real or not? I’ve mentioned before that I have empathic abilities. In terms of physics, if we believe that everything is ultimately energy, I’m just more attuned to the energy of other people, places and things. It’s hereditary. I get it from my dad’s side. When my sons were toddlers I asked my mom to watch the boys a few hours but didn’t tell her why. It was so hubby and I could have a very serious discussion. I wanted to try for a third child, he did not. When we picked up the boys later, my mom told me that our elder son had started getting agitated telling her ‘Mommy’s crying’ and she told him not to be silly. I told my mom yes indeed I had been crying and why and to never discount what my sons felt again. Both my sons grew to trust their ‘gut feelings’ and has even saved their lives on several occasions. Like feeling they should wait a moment after the light turns green and lo and behold a car runs the red light.

I’m not saying someone like Laurent should be allowed to get away with flat out lies, like his parents’ house being on fire. No. But I do believe that creativity, imagination is stifled too much. Goodness, if a kid is just being a kid, label him ADD and drug him into placid compliance? That does not seem right to me either.

OK, I’ve been sitting here for more than my 20 minutes. So I bid you a good night for now. Let the discussions continue.

SPOILER ALERT……

Is Antoinette’s stubborn refusal to adandon the play related to evil? Was she right or wrong? The play itself was not evil. Do we abandon the creations of evil people even if the creations are not. Is it like the sins of the fathers being visited upon their children?

To take this theme – is the creation a part of the creator, and therefore, if the creator is evil, does that make the creation evil… that’s a very difficult thing for me to say. I think back to (a much lesser example) Woody Allen and his taking up with a young woman who had been his stepdaughter in all practical senses. She was definitely his son’s sister. I had loved Woody’s films up til then, but after that, I couldn’t watch them anymore. His acts had tainted his work for me. So, to me, the artist and his art cannot be separated. Still, I know that many others disagree with this and feel that art stands on its own, apart from whoever created it. It’s a very interesting problem…

So, after all that – I don’t know what to talk about first – but I think what you’ve already touched on is good – the historical aspects. I was astonished to read what Anna put up (I think it was Anna) about the actual people involved, and Baby Babylon… that was incredible to me, as it seemed so far-fetched to be true! The description of Gerald Bull, as a super-salesman seems to be right-on, too. To be so cavalier about selling such things to the highest bidder seems shocking to me. Not, I guess, evil, so much as completely uncaring.

The struggle between good and evil was unbelievably well drawn, too. The interview between Gamache and John Fleming is heart-stopping! More and more, Gamache is, to me, a thoroughly good man. Even though he’s not perfect – he makes mistakes – but his heart is pure and he somehow always finds it in himself to look evil in the eye.

SPOIlER ALERT

Where do you think John Fleming really comes into all of this. What depths are we going to trawl there?
There seemed to be a manifestation of different types of evil in this book.
Fleming definitely of the psychopathic kind
Bull of the arms dealer kind, of which there are many individuals and corporations for whom the business of war is precisely about profits. Hence the term profiteering from the war.
Then there is, shall I say, situational evil. Is that perhaps the kind ordinary people find themselves faced with in situations where evil is normal practice. Think ordinary Germans in Nazi death camps. Is the situation ever a reasonable excuse? There are many cases of atrocities in war. Are all the perpetrators evil or good people doing evil things and is there a difference? If you read my book you will guess that I ponder this not infrequently.

I am not long up Julie but our paths cross for several hours. Of course the exigencies of the day often interfer unfortunately in that time. I have been staying up later and getting up earlier so my time zones cross more with my daughter who is visiting NY. They are at the Statue of Liberty right now. Such a small world really.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT

I agree, Anna – there are gradations of evil in this book… Fleming at the very epitome of evil. I think, if anyone can be thought of as being as bad as their worst act, he is it (as is Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and other so-called serial killers). Nobody else can be thought of this way, I don’t think. Bull is simply someone who doesn’t care about other people one way or another, as opposed to plotting to hurt as many people as possible in the worst way possible… and I don’t want to spend a lot of time down in these depths, because I do tend to get upset by it all. But I also have to think about Brian – how do you do what he has done – and especially to the person he has lived with all those years – just to try to find those plans? This floors me… the day in and the day out of it all… biding your time, waiting for the exact opportune moment, and then striking. Did Antoinette know all he had done at her end? Could she fathom the scale of it all? The betrayal is so hard for me to think of.

I often find people’s actions hard to understand, in real life, as well as in well-written books, so Antoinette’s behavior – her insistence on going on with the play, especially after everyone knew who wrote it, is mystifying to me, but I have not worried too much about figuring out why. I could accept any of several answers – it was a connection to her uncle, whom she loved – the play was very good on its face, no matter who wrote it – she didn’t believe any of them were as bad as people said… She doesn’t really bother me – there are so many mystifying people in the world, what’s one more? hahaha.

Al is someone I do feel had changed. I think he had done his worst deed, and after that, couldn’t face any more of that. He deliberately turned his back and started a new life – became a new person. I think he truly loved his son and wife and the loss of his son to him was so tragic it was beyond any kind of justice he needed to face. I think he was the gentle man he seemed to be – but one born out of despair and guilt. If that’s Karma, then people are right – Karma’s a bitch, hahaha.

Poor Laurent – he’s been adored by his parents his whole life. In a way, he’s been encouraged to use his imagination, and has not had that stifled. Do we all start out with that ability, and have it stamped out? I do think so. At least, I do think that traditional schools stamp it out as best they can. I expect that it’s not as bad today as it was when I was a child, but I remember so many left-handed children forced to write with their right hands – to be made to conform. Color inside the lines. Do it the right way. There is only one right way. It’s a wonder we get out of there with any of our true selves left intact.

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

Okay – we are beginning the discussion of The Nature of the Beast – and we’ll be discussing the book as a whole, not just the first four chapters, or anything like that, so go beyond this point at your own peril if you haven’t read the book. 😉

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