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”

My “Look Inside” feature wasn’t working. It was a Java problem I’ve had before. Reloaded Java and it’s okay now. I’m up to page 75. Pretty intense!

Jan, very good instructions, thanks!
40 to 50 pages from the first several chapters of TNOTB are available to read on “Look Inside,” then “First Pages,” on Amazon, everyone. Jan’s directions are much better than mine from last night.
And “HOLY MOLY” says it all!

Millie, glad to see your post, but sorry about all the emotional pulls and needs right now. It helps to just have the Bistro to go to mentally, I think, even when we can’t post. I hope you are imagining yourself there sometimes, so comfortable, so peaceful, so safe, so completely yourself.
I’m glad you included Louise’s musings about order and calm because I loved that too, as well as her other recent postings on the subject. I’ve been really trying to act accordingly and have been taking advantage of my husband’s willingness to remove what we don’t need to the proper places (charities, waste management sites, family members, neighbors, trash). Also, jobs–cats to the vet!

When I went to take a look at the Amazon site, I noticed that there were missing pages (at least looking only at page numbers), so I decided not to read it. The Big Chill is one of my favorite movies, okay, not something to take to a desert island, but up there in what I would watch again. 😀 In it, there is a scene in which one guy comes into a room where another is watching an old movie. On the TV screen, there are about ten men wearing suits and fedora hats, the way they used to do in all those old movies (and probably in real life, hahaha). The guy who’s just come into the room says, “Who’s he?”, “What’s going on?” and “What just happened?” The other guy says, “I think the man in the hat did something bad.”, but this is not enough for the first guy, who continues to ask questions, frustrating the fellow watching TV. He finally says, “Sometimes, you just have to let art wash over you.” This has become my mantra when I don’t know what’s happening in a movie or TV show, and also when I DO know what’s going on, but my poor hubby is struggling to keep up and asks a lot of questions that I can tell will be answered in due time. I say to him: “Sometimes, you just have to let art wash over you.” This is what I’m doing here – I don’t want to know things before I’m supposed to know them, so will wait (even though it’s impatiently) for the whole book. Maybe this is just another example of not looking too closely, so you can’t see how the magic works…

Here’s a link to an excerpt of Chapter 1 from Louise’s site for those having difficulty navigating Amazon.
http://gamacheseries.wpengine.com/the-nature-of-the-beast/excerpt/

Sorry I have not been as active here as I had hoped, especially with regards to the Ruth Filter. I loved reading the other views and speculations. Just lots of sad news about aging relatives. Trying to comfort those I can and dealing with my own emotions about it all makes it hard for me to delve into Ruth’s pain right now.

I would like to add here a few sentences from one of Louise’s recent Facebook posts. Reading it with a ‘Millie Filter’ was most helpful because I struggle trying to multi-task and it just doesn’t work for me. (See Kim, you aren’t alone reading with your own filter!)

“As much as I’d like to think I’m a free spirit, I am not. I like order. Order is calm. Calm is peace. Peace is happiness. Oddly, the more order I have, the easier it is to handle unexpected events because I’m not already overwhelmed.”

Calm, peace and happiness to all my Bistro friends.

Millie – so sorry life is pulling you thither and yon. It’s difficult, and, indeed, does change your filter, so makes it hard to look with a Ruth filter, indeed. I love the “calm and order” post, too. It makes perfect sense to me. About a year ago, I was really feeling the need for order – I felt like I was living in perfect chaos, I had so much clutter in my house. Our house has been in a constant state of renovation since I moved into it 25 years ago – my husband, who is very handy, does it all himself, and for quite awhile, made good, though slow progress, fitting it around working. Then, when he retired, we got quite a bit done – probably about 75% – and then health changes have required him to slow down. He KNOWS, intellectually, that he can’t do these things anymore, but he can’t bring himself to hire someone to do it. He grew up in the depression, and it is just hardwired into him that there are things you don’t hire other people to do for you. But it was all driving me crazy, as each room had tools, pieces of lumber, etc. piled in corners, as though each was a job-site that someone had stepped away from for a few minutes. Every room had a pile of stuff in it. I found it so discouraging to even bother to clean. So I finally decided what I could do about it. I went through the whole house and pulled together all tools, and put them together in one place in the basement. Then I gathered together all building materials and put them together in a closet. Then, I went through all of the things that I’d been putting off – setting up a room as a walk-in closet (I’d bought all the shelving/hanging poles). I went through all my clothes and sent a lot of things to Goodwill. I de-cluttered every room and got the whole house “tidy” – though not necessarily clean. Tidy I find easy – clean, not so much, hahaha. Then I called a cleaning service and had them come in to give me an estimate. After a first big, deep, clean, I’m now on a schedule where they come in and clean every two weeks, and my house is never messy or dirty anymore. Yes, we have walls that have half the wallpaper scraped off them (in that closet room), but I’ve decided not to see that. I feel so much more serene. I don’t feel guilty about it anymore. I’m not embarrassed to have people come over, even if they “drop in”. The discipline that having the cleaners come means that I have to keep it tidy, or they can’t vacuum around the clutter very well. So it’s always tidy, and it’s always clean. I wish I’d done it years before. The funny thing is, even though my husband doesn’t mind that I have someone come in to do what I ought to be doing, he still can’t do that for “his” jobs, so our yard is awful, and all those projects remain half-done. But I have found my peaceful, calm place, so it’s all good, hahaha.

I’ve wondered so long about licorice pipes. I’m assuming they are candy novelties but could someone please give me a better description. I’m American in southern Illinois, far removed from Three Pines area, & we have no licorice pipes down here.

Dalene, I can’t think of another example of the use of the name, either, but I will keep looking and thinking.

And now, a MAJOR TREAT, a PRESENT to reward great patience. Go to Amazon and, for those who would like to, you can read many of the “first pages” of TNOTB! I stumbled upon it and I’m about halfway through the offered pages. Going back now!

On the Amazon LP book site, click on the image of TNOTB book cover until you get to Look Inside. Click on that.

HOLY MOLY!!!!

I’ve been reading Betty for years, Peg, and never noticed it was set in Canada. I did notice the coloring book – very cutting edge – or should that be “coloring” edge…

Millie – thank you for sharing your thoughts on the re-read with a Ruth filter. You have pointed out what I remember from Still Life and more. I know that I read Ruth and Clara with “Kim” filters. My pattern is to muddle along with a fairly even keel until there is too much stress in my life or something comes along that makes me question my talents, capabilities and values. At that point, it takes everything in me to sit on deep insecurities and fears around not being (good) enough and anger, resentment, envy and ugliness come out through the cracks.

Ruth seems to be the opposite. The bitterness is front and centre – covering up caring, sensitivity and compassion – until something comes along that causes fear or pain and then the goodness comes out. The alcohol is a wall to protect her so she doesn’t care too much because people she loved (parents? other family?) hurt her. How? Ridiculing her talents? Failing to protect her from predators? Or just complimenting others while seemingly failing to appreciate her?

I have wondered whether the old murder has anything to do with the lumberjack. And whether the resentment was based on Jane taking the lumberjack or (more likely) fear that the lumberjack would take Jane away. I can hardly wait until the 25th to see how the murder tells Ruth’s story.

Kim – what an interesting take on it. I haven’t really thought about the lumberjack in that way before – that he had a bigger role in Ruth’s development than it seems at first glance… and speaking of lumberjacks, I’m just now reading The Cruellest Month, which has lots to say about things that may be relevant in TNOTB. For one, Gilles, who used to be a lumberjack, but now is always in the woods, communing with the trees he used to murder… who will maybe be there in the woods when whatever is going to happen, happens? And what made him change overnight, so that he could suddenly hear the trees scream? I can relate to that so well, because when I first started to garden, I grew some plants from seeds, and there comes a time when you are supposed to thin out the seedlings. I felt like could hear them screaming when I pulled them out of the soil. I hated that, hahaha.

I have also just finished the dinner party scene where Gamache has asked Clara to invite Jeanne (the witch), and she has reminded everyone of Ruth’s poem about a witch, which, to paraphrase, says something like – they hanged me because I had blue eyes, owned my own farm, and had a sure-fire cure for warts. And breasts. Very powerful – and describing a real woman who was burned in Connecticut, I believe, though her name escapes me now. Anyway – in the discussion around it, she explains that people like Ruth, Myrna, Clara, are the crones of the village – the keepers of the wisdom.

Another theme is introduced – “The Book of Magical Places” – which we know is relevant to TLWH and The Garden Of Cosmic Speculation. This is a book that Gamache is reading as he tries to figure things out – a book he found in the old Hadley House.

Millie – your Ruth filter musings have been so helpful to me. I still struggle a bit with Ruth, because even though I know she has a loving and kind heart, I also know that I would have a hard time being around her. One of the things I think about Ruth is that she must have been an ultra-sensitive person who internalized every slight and magnified it to gargantuan proportions. I know a little something about that..

I have tried to write about the time of GSAW as I was 20 in 1960 but I don’t seem to be able to gather my thoughts or express them. GSAW was very disturbing to me. It brought to mind the struggle it was for all concerned. I have wondered what it would have been like to have lived in another country where the social problems were not so pervasive. My world was ripped apart with my Mother’s death 4 years previously( after a lengthy illness). Then anger, rage and hate seemed to flare across the land. Bold harsh headlines on every newspaper and the TV filled with the contorted faces of men and women of both races as they screamed their views and beliefs. Some how the Country I loved so very dearly survived only to be split by the Vietnam War and later by riots and still we struggle today. We can not alter history no matter how hard we wish. Neither our personal history nor the history of our Nation.

I think you just expressed your thoughts most eloquently Barbara. What a difficult time it must be for you to think about let alone write about. The turmoil of a young girl losing her mother against the turmoil of a nation….very poignant indeed.

I just finished reading Killing Kennedy about the assassination of JFK. Another interesting perspective of the events of the early 1960’s including a small sideline, the Civil Rights movement as it related to the Kennedy’s.

You can’t change the past, that is so true. But we can appreciate its impact on the present. We can do our best to understand it so we can make better progress.

Many thanks to you Julie for tracking down the historical existence of a certain Judge Owen J. Roberts who resigned from the Supreme Court in 1945. Certainly Harper Lee could not have known when she submitted her first manuscript, which was written in the shadows of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education declaring racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional, that in 2015 our Supreme Court Justice would be the honorable John Roberts. What a strange coincidence that their names “collided” in GSAW. I sort of got stuck in a rut trying to figure that one out…..sometimes happens as one moves along with the challenges of aging. Whew! It was most enlightening for me to get an intimate glimpse of the struggles/tensions in Maycomb, Alabama at the same time that I was coming of age in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, never ever having even seen any person of color in my life up to that point. (Huge time-gap here; please forgive, or alternatively be grateful ha-ha) Ironically, the person who later in life impressed me as the embodiment of Atticus Finch of TKAM was an Afro-American professor I encountered when returning to our local university to complete my college degree in the late 1960s. It is thus personally painful and disheartening to see current regressive eruptions of violence and duress in America. I pray for all concerned.

I enjoyed reading GSAW. There was one spot where I thought it needed editing badly but I can’t remember exactly where. My copy is out making the round of friends. We do the “carport drop and pickup”. No one has to answer the door so it doesn’t matter if one is dressed or in a hurry.
I know eccentric older ladies.
I wish there was to be another book. One to tell about Jean Louise’s life in New York after her return. The next few years would have been very interesting.

Barbara, that’s a great idea. I wonder if all this furor might spark some “fan fiction” – a lot of the Jane Austen FF I read are sequels or prequels to original books.

Anna, what you said about Go Set A Watchman put into words just what I have been thinking.
I feel like anyone buying it had the opportunity to make an informed decision.
I have to admit to wondering if the two bookstores offering refunds might be looking at the potential publicity.

You have to think that the publicity would be very attractive to the bookstores, wouldn’t you? Anything to be “part of the party”. Because I really DO think that the BOOKSTORE people had to know what they were ordering, even if they felt that the general public was being duped. Of course, maybe they’ve received that many complaints? You never know.

Julie, the river behind the Bistro AND Clara’s house confuses me also. Perhaps that’s why there is a bridge next to Clara’s house which Gamache and company walk over to get to the fire station? I’ve tried to ‘see it’ in my mind but my sense of direction is not great to begin with.
———
I started the above about five hours ago and life’s daily stuff called me out of the Bistro before I even pressed post comment. I’ll post this try again tomorrow.

Barbara, thank you for caring but none of my or my hubby’s family in CA have been affected by the fires there. Nor have we even had rain in our part of FL the last three days. Counting my blessings.

Catheryn, and others, thank you for your kind words about the Ruth Filter. They aren’t so much thoughts as observations… I haven’t really digested it myself. Just have more questions.
Hugs to all.
OH, today I found I still have my adult coloring book (well, I bought it in my thirties and only did one page…) in one of the boxes! Yes, I still have more than I care to admit and madly trying to finish before Louise’s next book comes out. Talk about incentive!

Millie – so happy you have found your coloring book and your pencils – I have an order for some colored markers in my Amazon checkout basket, but they’re an “add-on”, so they’re waiting for a larger order to come to my house. I’ve seen so many printable pages online that I thought I’d just print some out and see if I like it. I know I’ll like having the markers one way or the other, haha. Yes, I’ve decided the Bella Bella must be a very twisty river, and it almost winds around the village green, so it COULD be in everyone’s back yard.

My husband has just been telling me about two major bookstores who have decided to give refunds to people for Go Set a Watchman. One of them wrote a scathing review as part of its explanation saying that the publication of this as a “new” book by Harper Lee is a very cynical money grab on behalf of the publishers. I can’t remember the names of the bookstores, but I wonder how much money they will lose by giving refunds… I’m not sure they can return books to the publisher after they’ve been sold, and they can’t now be sold as new, either…

I am very happy to have my copy. If Harper Lee did want it read then how awful to hear the harshness. It is an unedited first book of a new author. It should be seen in that historical context not with any great expectations. It is much better than some of the stuff I have read but I see it more as a literary source, like letters from an author might be, so maybe I am unusual in the value I derive from the work.

Just finished GSAW after having righteously cancelled my pre-order at the last minute and then re-ordering it a few weeks ago! I share your perspective, Anna, but I am wondering if you were taken aback at all by the passage in Chapter 17 that features Jean Louise in serious thought within her father’s study. “She looked at a faded picture of the Nine Old Men on the wall to the left of her. Is Roberts dead? she wondered. She could not remember.” Assuming she had been looking at an old photo of Supreme Court Justices I was jarred! Googling for past names of Supreme Court members, I could find no “Roberts” other than our present day Chief Justice. How could this ” be” in a book that is presented as a first draft submitted by Harper Lee in the 1950s? If anybody out there can help me figure out why I am experiencing such puzzlement about this curious time-warp, I would really appreciate a little feedback. (Incidentally, I read To Kill A Mockingbird well over 50+ years ago. One of my all-time favorites, so much so that in 2013 I named my new, very shy, blue British Longhair kitten BOO, because I found myself speaking him so often in the reassuring voice of Scout-to-Radley as featured in the movie version of TKAM.) Weird to have that tone come out of oneself spontaneously and ring absolutely true at this point in time.

Kind wishes and good thoughts to all….

Jan – so glad you have enjoyed reading GSAW – I agree – a thoughtful reading of it, knowing what it is, makes a lot of sense to me. I may weaken yet, hahaha. I wondered about your Supreme Court question and went looking. There was a Roberts, Owen Josephus who was a Justice until 1945, so she may have been thinking of him in the 50’s, wondering if he was still alive. According to what I found, he must have retired, rather than dying in office.

Anna – of course, it wasn’t fair for me to cite just one part of their review (and not to remember who said it at that) – another part of the review DID say that it should have been released as an academic exercise, making it clear that it’s an unedited first draft. Their objection was that, for many of the public, who have not spent months reading about its imminent release, it was advertised as “Harper Lee’s New Book” and a sequel to Mockingbird. That’s the part that they felt was so reprehensible. For you, and all of us – it’s something we knew was coming, we read about it and knew what it was. But for some, it’s just there on the shelves of their stores as a “new” book. Now, why THEY didn’t realize what it was, is a different thing. That seems silly to me.

I think anyone who feels mislead because they somehow missed the controversy in the lead up to the book release should be able to return the book regardless. You can even do that on Kindle so a store should stand by its products. Advertising that fact as though it is something unusual and specific to this book does seem to be cashing in on the publicity train.

Jan, sorry but the Roberts reference was lost on me. Knowledge of Supreme Court Justices isn’t one of my fortes. The events of GSAW occurred before my time so some of the nuances may have been lost. I love hearing what you all think that have a stronger connection to the events of the times.

I do think it is interesting watching Harper Lee incorporate what would have been contemporary and emotionally evocative events in GSAW. I can imagine she felt strongly about what was occurring. Maybe the book was her way of coming to terms with the emotions being generated. TKAM, by being set in an earlier time and through a child’s eyes, gave some distance to those emotions, maybe enabling Harper Lee to put the contemporaneous events into a different, more easily managed, perspective. It is a pity there isn’t a third book, one that could merge the viewpoints, that could perhaps inform a way forward. That would be useful today when emotions are again running high, when giving understanding and perspective to the past could help us, perhaps, appreciate where we are going.

Millie, I too am enjoying your thoughts about Ruth. What if Ruth was telling the truth when she said she told Jane’s parents about the planned elopement to save Jane from making a terrible mistake? Doesn’t Ruth consistently tell the truth?
I like the quote from Ruth that you included, “Let the past lie. It is gone and long buried.” That seems important given what we know about the new book and something buried.

I think Ruth probably, just like the rest of us, tells the truth as she sees it. She may very well have truly believed that she was saving Jane. Ruth was married, wasn’t she? I seem to remember this coming up before – Zardo is not her maiden name. Do we know what that relationship was like? If there were children? Could be there were, but they couldn’t handle a relationship with Ruth and are estranged. Or could she have been so in love with her husband, and then lost him somehow, leaving her heartbroken.

Loving the Ruth filter. Here’s a question…..Ruth is a very complex character. Does she always behave in a manner consistent with her character? Is she so complex any behaviour can be construed as consistent? Or do characters behave “out of character” at times because humans are prone to behaving in surprising uncharacteristic ways?

I remember how we mused over Clara and “uncharacteristic” behaviour in TLWH.

The Californian fires are still featuring on our news. Fingers crossed it is bushland not people and property at risk. Interestingly Barbara, in Australia at least, fire is a necessary part of bush regeneration. Many species rely on the heat of the fire to allow seeds to germinate. What can be destructive on one level can be life giving on another. The fire is the force that makes the cracks to let the light in.

The fires are heartbreaking, and some lives have been lost, I believe – at least one firefighter – and many put at risk. The biggest fire in California has now jumped two highways – the first time, while people were driving on it – it set at least two cars on fire, though I think people were hurt but not killed in that instance. I don’t know if they had time to shut the other highway down before it got close enough to jump it. It’s amazing to me that a fire can do that. Before this year, I didn’t realize fire could jump over something, or that it could become a “firenado” in a funnel-shape hundreds of meters high. It’s most dangerous for the firefighters – I can’t believe what they have to be able to do.

We had coverage of that on the news here too Julie. Very scary, as are firenados which we had in our last fire season. Thinking of everyone caught in the drama.

Ruth Filter 2 – Still Life continued:
In chapter 10, Gamache goes to Myrna to find out what Timmer Hadley had told Myrna about Ruth. Myrna narrates Timmer’s story of Ruth trying to convince Jane not to marry the lumberjack then, that having failed, telling Jane’s parents. Timmer says about Ruth,
“There’s something about her. Something bitter that resents happiness in others and needs to ruin it. That’s probably what makes her a great poet. She knows what it is to suffer. She gathers suffering to her, collects it and sometimes creates it…” Timmer does say that perhaps she was being too harsh.
I want to believe so, especially viewing Ruth’s character development throughout the series. Sigh. I’ve grown to really like Ruth! This is fertile ground to expand upon, though. Darn it.

Chapter 11, when Gamache visits Ruth right before the reading of Jane’s will is full of snippets of Ruth telling Gamache, when he asks probing questions about what Ruth did to Jane in her late teens. What else did Ruth do in the past?
“Let the past lie.”
“It was long ago, gone and buried.”

And our first introduction to the poem that I thought I knew so well.
Who hurt you once…
More on that later. And there are two more points in this same section, as well as a Bravo Ruth in the last chapter, that I hope to get to later today. Ruth is such a complex, multidimensional character.

Ruth Filter 1 – my bookmarks and questions from Still Life.
In the first chapter we are introduced, through Myrna’s eyes, a Ruth who gets down on her hands and knees to help scrub clean the Bistro. Only Myrna saw the pain in Ruth’s face as she got down, but she helped all morning… That is an act of incredible kindness.

Then in Chapter 3, when she goes to sit with Gamache at the Bistro we are introduced to an entirely different side of Ruth. She is sarcastic, rude and whacks her cane. In apology, after Gamache demands to be treated with respect she seems to ‘deflate’ and says,
“Forgive me. As you’ll discover, I’m just like this. I have no talent for choosing my battles. Life seems strangely like a battle to me. The whole thing.”
Why? And how sad…

Then in Chapter 7, when Clara finds Gamache at the Blind, she starts to quote, and Gamache finishes one of Ruth’s poems which Clara thinks must be inside the person who has killed Jane.
“I’ll keep it all inside, festering, rotting. But I’m really a nice person. Kind. Loving. Get out of my way you mother fucker. Oops, sorry. That just slipped out. Escaped. I’ll try harder. Just watch. I will. You can’t make me say anything. I’ll just go further away where you will never find me. Or hurt me. Or make me speak.”
That is just heart breaking.

Moving on to Chapter 8 before dinner at Clara’s while she and Myrna are working out the details of selling back and buying books, Ruth walks in and says,
“I’d make a good detective. Unlike you Clara, I see people the way they really are. I see the darkness, the anger, the pettiness.”
Isn’t what we see in the world, in others, a reflection of what is inside us? Isn’t that why two people seeing the same event can come away having witnessed two entirely different things?

So interesting. I’ve long thought that Ruth acts one way but speaks another. All her acts seem to be acts of kindness (except, maybe, for drinking everyone else’s scotch), but her words are vitriol. Something that happens is that people love her for what she does, but they are wary of her because of what she says. I think you’re exactly right, Millie, what’s inside us colors how we perceive the world, and how we think everyone is thinking… So if you are a generous-hearted person, you think everyone thinks well of you, too. Ruth must have been hurt so badly, that she has to interact with the world this way. I think for a long time, I’ve made sure that if anyone was going to put me down, I’d be the first to do it, so it wouldn’t hurt so much when others did. (still a result of my parents, who were so like Peter’s) I work hard to see the world as a sunny place, and for the most part, I succeed. But my heart is absolutely on my sleeve, and right near the surface – easy to touch my heart – and easy to wound it.

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