The Bistro

The Bistro

The Bistro Banner
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”

Thanks, Paul. I can’t believe someone who actually lived across from the pink house knew it and its history found out about the site and wrote. Wow, his story is exciting.
Thank you to Bob Heath for sharing with us.

I just finished re-listening to A Fatal Grace, so not their yet. But I would venture to agree with Barbara. Ruth doesn’t miss a thing and loves shock value… She’s been deeply hurt at some point(s) of her life and that’s her way of keeping people at arms length so she isn’t hurt again. But she cares deeply for the people in her circle.

Millie, Earlier today I suddenly had a thought about Ruth. I had always considered the “hurt” to Ruth was emotional hurt. I wonder if her husband was abusive and she killed him in self defense. Perhaps his belt buckle is what the sun glinted on in the excerpt from the Nature of The Beast. Then again, maybe my imagination is working overtime. We’ll see.

Ruth’s poem: “Who hurt you once that you would greet each overture with curling lip? It was not always so. Alas.”

That poem haunts me, too. I was amazed to find that all the poetry Louise uses already existed – that it wasn’t written explicitly for the books, as it always is exactly the right fit.

Maybe I thought it was just a joke last time I read it, and that’s why it didn’t stop me, but I know that Ruth is sharp as a tack – just wish I had a better handle on this – I can’t help thinking it has a deeper meaning…

Another thought about Ruth…approximately how old do you think she might be by now? Almost six years ago, Louise remarked about Ruth and ” her extreme age, her limp, and her diabolical temperament” in The Brutal Telling. Currently, it seems we are getting a very ominous build up of sorts about her background and something very terrible happening in TNOTB. Suppose this new book surprises all of us as it unfolds, leading ultimately to an ending of redemption and joy for Ruth? Hard for me to imagine, but Louise weaves truly astonishing literary tapestries. Would hate to lose Ruth , but then maybe there might be a way for her to haunt future stories, lol. Bet she would love that….

Not sure how old Ruth is but she was still leading the volunteer fire brigade a while ago! For all her outward age she is spry in mind and spirit

I think Ruth was having a joke at everyone’s expense. The English accent, Rosa in a dress, that awful mix in the bowl for dinner, the toodle-oo goodbye and all of it. The saltines and peanut butter is good with hot chocolate. Never tried celery with Velveeta. Suet rolled in seeds? No thanks. Peanut butter stuffed celery would have been OK, too. However, I think she knew exactly what she was doing. Maybe we will find out why Ruth is Ruth in August.

The Brutal Telling – I’ve just been to the “dinner party” at Ruth’s house, and I don’t know that we’ve ever talked about that – it was so strange. She was so odd – friendly and polite (though speaking with an English accent), dressed Rosa in a dress for the first time, and served the oddest food. First the canapés – saltine crackers with a smear of peanut butter (at least, they hoped it was peanut butter), then celery sticks stuffed with Velveeta cheese (for those not from around here, that’s a soft, very orange, “cheese food” not real cheese), then round balls of suet rolled in seeds. Lastly, olives stuffed with mandarin orange slices. Dinner was a bowl of canned peaches, bacon, cheese and Gummi Bears. Those who accepted Ruth’s offering of a scotch got a glass-ful poured in their bowls.

On some level, all this is what a child thinks might make a good dinner party. On another level, Ruth seemed almost to need psychiatric help during this episode. Gamache was relieved to hear Ruth, after calling out “Toodle-oo” to everyone as they left, mutter “Fuckers” just as she shut the door. I think this shows that she hadn’t lost her mind, but I’m at a loss as to figure out the meaning of the dinner party. Obviously, gracious hosting is not Ruth’s forte, but still… is this how Ruth normally eats? Can’t be. Or can it? I guess you’ve got SOME vegetables and fruit, peanut butter is probably a nearly perfect food, and if you wash it all down with scotch, maybe it’s palatable (at least, all except the suet balls – they’d need tequila).

I know that one of you will be able to explain this to me, as I am struggling here trying to make sense of it.

Mille, I just looked at the photos of Hovey Manor. How beautiful. I could spend hours in the chairs looking out over the water. The grounds are just perfect. Doesn’t the Library make you want to get a book and curl up in one of the chairs ? Oh I know, enjoy the outside in good weather and then nest in the Library during the cold weather. Wonderful.

I thought you’d like it! I’d still be inside a lot though, Barbara. I seem to be a mosquito magnet, like Jean Guy. lol…

I couldn’t see the pictures without thinking, “Oh, that’s where they set up the incident room…” And on.

While I’m here, I’m reaching the part in book two where Gamache figures out why they called Bea, “Mother”. Makes my think perhaps Louise does look up the meaning of some names, at least.

You’re a mosquito magnet, too. I was bitten 4 times last weekend while outside for a short while. Hubby…no bites!

I was noticing how many pictures at Hovey Mansion were of different times of year, and trying to figure out the best time to go. Blending in with prices (you’d want Low Season for savings) and when it would be most comfortable (for me – it’s all about ME, hahaha) – I’d choose either late spring or earliest possible in the fall. Winter would be too harsh now that I’ve not been in a real winter in 25 years, and the heat and mosquitos of summer would be awful. But I could handle spring or fall very well. The house and grounds are so beautiful – and so like the Manoir in the book, but I’m not an outdoors person at all, so I’d be hanging around the library, or lounging “just outside, but right up against” the house on the verandah, hahahaha.

When I left Winnipeg, (Manitoba’s provincial bird is the mosquito), West Nile disease was unheard of – mosquitos were merely annoying. There are no mosquitos in Seattle, or rather, there are about 5 individual flies who arrive every summer – very slow and dim-witted ones that give you lots of notice before they actually bite. I’d been watching the news and heard that West Nile had just crept into Washington on the eastern border, and then looked up and saw a mosquito landing on my arm. I actually screamed, hahaha. Scared him to death, I think.

Bitten only four times in an entire weekend? I should be so lucky! Every summer, it seems my body has to build up resistance to their bites. I start with quarter sized welts which overlap. Not a pretty sight. Lol… And like you, Barbara, they don’t touch my husband. So that leaves Spring for me to visit Hovey. I feel like Bean! “Dream on…”

Anna, Cathryne, Millie, Julie. Thank you for your positive remarks. You are certainly correct. Degrees do not alter an individual’s value or worth. My Mother was not an ideal parent but she did teach us to value each person as an individual. Her deep Christian faith required this of us.
Julie, Hats off to you. I admire you. It must have taken determination and great effort to earn a degree by attending night school.
Cathryne, Thanks for the info on Ruth’s name. Name meanings are surprising. I once looked up, Hightower, a family name and read it meant “one who lived near the high tower”. Okay. Not too much info there.

Oh dear Barbara, talk about literal when you may have been hoping for something more cosmically mystical! Still, I like the name Hightower. Mind if I tuck that away for future use?

Oh, isn’t that funny – my Dad’s last name, and therefore, my maiden name is “Hall”. My Dad said it meant that we were probably servants who worked in the great hall, hahaha. So funny – I have gotten to know a few “anachronists” for want of a better term – people who play at being in a different time, like dressing up. They usually choose a name and persona, and it’s NEVER of a servant-girl – always a Lady, hahaha. When I went with the Somewhere In Time people to a garden party for Oscar Wilde’s birthday, there were Lords and Ladys abounding – I think I was the only lowly person there (mostly because I didn’t want to invest in much of a costume). I went as a “shop girl” who once sold Mr. Wilde a pair of doeskin gloves, and accidentaly got invited to his party. I put on my best clothes, which were, of course, my work clothes – a long black skirt and a white lacy blouse and tried my best to blend in. It was great fun – the party was held in a beautiful garden at the home of a couple whose place looked like it was ready for Architectural Digest to arrive for photos. The garden was gorgeous and it was so fun – everyone brought tables, and wicker picnic baskets laden with food and dishes and silverware, and we enjoyed a lovely lunch “en plein air” on the last nice day of the autumn. Really quite a lovely day.

Julie, I just read The Somewhere in Time website. It looks like it would be so much fun. I wish we had a group here. We have attended a Society for Creative Anachronism fair as spectators but not in costume. The Sherlock Holmes week at Cape May, New Jersey interests me too. I like the stories and dressing as a character would be exciting.

Barbara – these people are so fun, and I have found it very freeing to find a whole bunch of people who like to play “dress-up”, hahaha. I think it’s a sign that we are never going to outgrow the need for imagination and play.

Sounds good. In my grandparents generation and previously, they seem to have been tall and thin. Daddy’s generation was shorter and mine shorter still.

I meant to reply to Anna. Oops. This entire day has been out of kilter. Too much going on earlier.

You did reply to Anna, only so did Julie. So yours shows up under Julie’s not indented beneath Julie’s. Not to worry. But sorry your day feels off kilter… Boy, do I know the feeling! But, “I get by with a little help from my friends”.

That song popped into my head. Have you heard, “Old Man”? If not, I’ll post a link to it after I stop drooling over the photos of the Manor. Someone there posted a link to over a hundred photos. Be still my heart! Get stronger, my back and knees! lol… so many stairs. I don’t do cold or stairs well.

Barbara, you would love the photos of the library at the Manor. I think the library alone is bigger than my entire house! LOL

Any chance we could have a side bar link to the Real Places from the Bistro if possible Paul? Would make flipping back nd forth easier? We can do it from there to here but not the reverse.

I’ve been looking at the English book cover now shown on Louise Penny’s home page. Quite interesting, I think. Dark vs. bright light centers framed by ovals.

When I look closely at the section of the U.S./Canada cover shown in one of Louise’s posts, I can see more detail than I can in the pictures of the whole cover. I wish we could place a finger on any part of the cover for a close up. The details seem more varied than was first apparent and beautiful.

Interesting I agree Cathryne….and they both draw you in and forward. I get a sense of wanting to go “in” with nothing!

By the way Julie, well done. No degree is easy to obtain and I am sure if you were at night school then you had a lot of other things going on as well as study.

Barbara, read the first paragraph of Chapter 10 in Still Life. Louise beautifully addresses the real value of Jane Neal.

I have worked, and now live, in a world of academia, and I, too, have “only” a bachelor’s degree, and THAT was hard-won, as I did it at night school… So I know what you meant, Barbara – but I agree with Anna, that the next degree wouldn’t make you more intelligent, OR well-read, I believe. You have such great insights into characters and books… The bistro is such a lovely place…

Interesting idea about questions for Louise, Millie. I remember when she was here and I had the opportunity to ask a question, my mind seemed to go blank! Can’t even remember now what I DID ask, or what she answered, hahaha. If I get a “next time”, I’ll poll this group to see what we REALLY want to know.

Hi to all! I enjoyed all your comments on favorites. My first introduction to Louise was The Brutal Telling; my daughter actually saw Louise here at a Barnes and Noble in small town Pennsylvania years ago, and bought the book. I quickly caught up with the others. I think like Julie, my favorites (yes ; I cannot pick just one!) would have to be the trio of Bury Your Dead, The Beautiful Mystery and HTLGI. They kept me hanging on the edge of my seat! My husband and I were fortunate enough to spend a couple of days in Old Quebec City in Sept. Did a walking tour of the city; beautiful! Missed the BYD tour by 1 day, but lots of Louise info passed along in our tour. Could actually imagine Gamache there! The history is amazing! My child hood friend and I plan on going to Winter Carnivale in 2016! Should be fun. If any of you get a chance to go, I highly recommend Old Quebec City for your bucket list!

Hi Amy. Quebec City is definitely on my list. We may be in North America Dec 2016 so we might get to Carnavale. Wouldn’t that be amazing. Will let you know if we do.
A Beautiful Mystery is also right up there on my favourites list. To be fair there is only a whisker in it for most of the books. There is something very special about Bury Your Dead though and the atmosphere of the library and the old city are part of it but also the snow. Love the snow. My favourite seasons are autumn and winter. We are in autumn right now and it’s the colours and the crispness and the curls of smoke in the air. Ok, it’s the food too. Love wintery food.
I envy your daughter seeing Louise, and you too Julie.

Thanks Cathryne. I didn’t mean to rant but I am in a place of truly seeing the value in people. Too often we are rated against external markers that don’t tell us anything about what really matters, then we downgrade ourselves unnecessarily.
I value you all more everyday.

After much thinking and recalling, I still reach the same result. My favorite book is Bury your Dead. I started with Still Life when it was just published and they have all been great . I loved the history and the setting of the library. I do love libraries and museums in older buildings. The part about the history of Quebec sent me to reading other books and to some very interesting historians and their books on other aspects of History. Good books have always led me to other good books. I only have a Bachelor’s Degree as I only started my masters and never completed it. I am able to converse with much better educated people than I because I have read so much. Books, Books and books. Thanks to many authors for enriching my life and expanding my horizons.

Barbara please don’t say you ONLY have a bachelors degree! You are obviously a highly intelligent and well read person. A Masters degree wouldn’t change anything except make you better read more on a particular topic or area. My mother wasn’t allowed to go to University by her family because she was a woman. My dad struggled with a distance degree but was working long hours and raising four children. They are both very very intelligent and having or not having a degree doesn’t change that.
Aren’t we lucky to live in a world where gaining knowledge is so easy if we want it. There are books and the Internet to answer almost any question. But the real education we receive is understanding the power of ourselves and other people to change the world even in little ways through the power of our words and our ideas.
My world is very different through reading Louise’s books and through her inspiration and the amazingly powerful support you all give me through words alone, I am a different person. I am new courage and strength which I need every day.
Don’t any of you underestimate who you are and the positive difference you bring to people every single day!

Cathryne, thank you, but you give me too much credit. I’m not ‘dealing’ with the flooded room all that well – it’s more like I’m not allowing it to paralyze me completely. lol…
You’re name etymology was fantastic. Thank you.

Anna, that a great idea about how to choose character names.

Julie, authors say they get tired of being asked the same questions. I wonder if anyone has asked Louise your question??? It’s a good one.

And thank you for pointing out Niel Young’s song. I had not heard ‘Old Man’ before. I was surprised to realize it was the same singer who did ‘Heart of Gold’. That one I knew. It was interesting to me that in one he’s searching for a Heart of Gold, but he’s getting old… And in the other he’s looking for love, for something or someone permanent. Both speak of being alone for so long, of aging, of heart ache… I have to reread Chapter 1 of NOTB again with those songs in mind.

My favorite Three Pines book? Like most, if I must pick only one, it would be The Beautiful Mystery. That was my introduction to Louise Penny and I was so completely hooked, I had to buy them all and start from the beginning. I just had to know what had led to the rift between Gamache & Jean Guy! But ‘How the Light Gets In’ had me riveted. I loved it! The tension, the bits of humor, the need to trust, the community rallying to help no questions asked, and Ruth literally saving Jean Guy’s live so he could save Gamache! Masterful.

Millie, regarding the most recent excerpt from TNOTB, I hadn’t thought of Ruth’s habit of entering the homes of others at will! Still, the reference to the thin wood of the door made me think she’s at home, her small, thin home.

I did, too, think it was Ruth’s own home, where she had run to hide. Hopefully, it will not be in vain, and she will be safe there. I love the meaning of the names, Cathryne, and since they fit Ruth so perfectly, I have to think that Louise chose them for their meanings. I wonder if all the characters are so perfectly named?

Amy – my favorite is probably Bury Your Dead, though I have to say that the three together of when everything came to a head with the Surete – Bury Your Dead, The Beautiful Mystery and How the Light Gets In, work really well in my mind. A Trick of the Light is in there, yet, I don’t recall that being as much about the Surete problems – maybe I need to go back and read again, hahaha. Since I am currently rereading The Brutal Telling, that won’t be a problem. I think that’s the one that brought up the most feelings of dread in me. Each book seems to have its own tendencies for me. Bury Your Dead is full of sadness, yet growing strength, and of course, the amazing suspense as we find out what happened to Morin. So sad – I’m just seeing the beginnings of Morin now in Brutal…

Wise friend and champion. That’s Ruth, I am sure Jean Guy would agree.

It’s been hectic here today but I love checking in when I can and seeing what you are all up to. Really nice to see Amy chiming in.

I, too, was remembering recently the reference to Ruth Zardo, née Kemp in Still Life. I was looking up Ruth’s three names but haven’t had time to post the results. Maybe I can today. If Anna can deal with her Dad’s pneumonia, her Mom’s so dearly wishing for Mother, and Millie with floods, I should be able to pull things together!

Here are some interesting things I found from a variety of sources:
One who has a great inner desire to create and express herself, often in the ARTS.
One who tends to be a powerful force in those whose lives they touch. Capable, charismatic leaders who value truth, justice, and discipline and may be quick-tempered with those who do not. Very clever.
Ruth, biblically, was a young wife robbed by death of her husband, left without material resources of support.

KEMP – A CHAMPION. In the Middle Ages, a champion was a professional fighter ON BEHALF OF OTHERS, as to challenge to battle anyone who denied the king’s right to the throne. A soldier engaged in single combat.
Kemps (and Kempes) migrated to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States starting in the 17th century. Motto was generally a war cry (how Ruth!) or the slogan “”Lucien spero” – “I hope for light.”

ZARDO – From Old Norse-Germanic Wiscard.
Wis = wise, shrewd, cunning, smart
Harduz = hard, strong
To Italian Guizzaro, then Guizzardo(i). Guizzardo is virtually unique in Italy, probably due to a clerical error in the previous Guizzaro, absolutely a rare name. Zardo, rare, an apheretic of Guizzardo.
Present day distribution in Western Hemisphere: U. S. A. and Brazil, but very few in number.
Hard to find anyone as rare as Ruth Zardo!

Interesting! Ruth, the friend and champion, the fire chief, the battler. I remembered her saying in Still Life that all life seems like a battle to her.
And her poetry, so often a battle cry!

Thanks for the name information Cathryne. Well done. I wonder if Louise knows what the names mean when she uses them. I don’t, maybe I should.

I don’t have a favorite because every time I try to choose, I think, “But what about ______ and _______ and _______?” If forced to pick one, it would be “Still Life,” also the first I read.

HI Amy, Thanks for posting. I thought something was mentioned that made me think Ruth had been married. Of course, I didn’t remember what had been written or where. Isn’t it great how we can look to the group for info. Thanks.

thanks Barb and Millie for your responses. I have been a Louise Penny fan for several years; just saw Still Life; not sure how I feel about it, but I know I LOVE Louise’s books, her positive attitude, and of course, adore Gamache! Anybody have a favorite Louise book?

The movie was not a great showcase of Louise’s work Amy. Thank goodness we all started with the books. Or did we? Did anyone see the movie then read the book because I am not sure I would have seen the beauty of Louise if I had only had the movie?

Hello Amy, I’m glad I did another brief scroll-back and saw your post. So true that Ruth is first introduced as Ruth Zardo, née Kemp. So she was indeed married! Amazing how many little details I’ve forgotten. I don’t have time to re-read them but I do have them on audio as well. Definitely time to put on the earphones. Thanks, Amy.

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Skip to content