LOUISE PENNY’S

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”

I think life without struggle is like traveling a long flat road, little change, little effort required but not much to entertain you. We have a long flat road in Australia, it’s called the Nullabor, which means no trees, and it’s dead straight for a 90 mile section!

No, life needs ups and downs for colour. We may not think it when we are in the down bit but how else do we appreciate the up.

It’s like a story needs climaxes and drama. The bit from Elizabeth George may well have been metaphorical but she is right. There is nothing in a story if there is no conflict and drama.

I agree Millie, it’s often a case of looking at a story and thinking life isn’t so bad but also the hope that resolutions in a story bring, particularly when we have trouble seeing how our own challenges might end happily. Hope.

I’m reading the same book, Anna. I took that more in a metaphorical sense. Aren’t we, as readers, comforted when we read about other’s struggles and can say, “Whew! At least my life isn’t THAT bad”? I don’t think I would have used ‘boring’ as much as, “very few people have such perfect lives that there may not be much for the reader to relate to…” But I agree, my favorite books have characters that help me take a breath and laugh. Or at least chuckle and who most definitely offer hope!

One of the things that amazes me about Louise’s writing is her ability to create a “hero” like Gamache who is strong and wise but flawed. I was reading Elizabeth George’s book on writing talking about an author who’s story was about happy people who loved each other and what they did and everything was rosy and it was boring. At the same time, I can’t read books where it is all depression and ugliness. Louise gives us happiness but it isn’t boring. She gives us despair, like Jean Guy, with hope.

Let’s also remember all the fun quips between Gamache and Reine Marie . No, I can’t remember them specificly right now but I love their crazy comments. Very much Louise’s sense of humour.

Oh! Yes! Gamache playing along that he was the pool boy or whatever and admitting R-M was so much better at it than he. Dignified but sassy sense of humor… Most couples of many years have ‘inner jokes’. It makes him more human and loveable.

Me too! What I find fascinating about Louise’s characters is much of what you all said – but there’s more to it somehow… The people are real – I know them. We have gotten to know them over a fairly long time, now, and each time we meet up with them, more is revealed. Yet, Louise’s genius is that she can show us more, and it changes things, but it’s completely believable to us – it’s not “out of character” even when it’s way out of character, like Olivier in The Brutal Telling. We have to accept what he’s done, because he did it, even though we’d never have dreamed he could do such a thing. But the characters and stories are so real to us, that instead of thinking that Louise got it wrong, we just realize we didn’t know enough about Olivier yet. That’s not easy to do!

Slow, slow reader checking in, Anna! I’m in the middle of a huge crisis in The Cove – adrenaline is flowing madly! I am in awe that you could do this in your very first book! While I don’t know the answers yet (but I think I know who dunnit, and I’m hoping that things are going to turn out okay) and I might have to do one mighty read to finish it up. I can’t hold my breath that long, hahaha.

Do remember to breathe Julie! It’s so hard to finish reading when you are hypoxic!

Humm… Your comments, Anna and Robert, gave me a new insight on Peter! Peter was Gamache’s foil! Peter’s contrast to Gamashe is yet another example of the ‘chiaroscuro’ which, if I remember correctly, fascinated you so much.

That’s interesting, Millie – I like to think of Peter as Gamache’s foil. I wonder what he’ll do now? I am hoping for some closure regarding Peter (trying to tiptoe not to include spoilers if people haven’t read that far) in the next book… some conclusion that satisfies me in a way the ending of the last did not quite do. I think we are left hanging somewhat on Clara’s next steps…

Robert – if there’s anything we can do here at the Bistro, it’s accommodate a new context, hahaha. I, too, love Gamache for his strength, his wisdom and above all, his morality. He is a man who knows who he is and is at peace with that. Even with the darkest corners of his heart – he has been afraid, but he has looked anyway. Most of us shut that door and run the other way. Jean Guy is a perfect example of a good man afraid to look to closely inside his heart… I loved watching him on his journey, and what Gamache did to help him at each step, even when he seemed not to be helping him.

Julie, bête noire – singular bêtes noires- plural
You have more than one thing that drives you nuts? Or just one? I have tons. :-p

Of course there should be an s on “bête” – these early mornings are going to do me in, hahaha. Up this morning because someone has stolen our credit card number and gone shopping on the internet in the middle of the night. Little did they know I’d be checking my email in the middle of the night, and get a report on it! Of course, there wasn’t much to do until the Fraud department opened this morning, so of course, I had to wait until morning to call. Ick.

Yes, I have several things that drive me nuts. Many are the little spelling errors that have now become common. “Alot” instead of a lot, “should of” instead of “should have”… Many of these are because a whole generation of children went to school at a time when it was decided it would be detrimental to their egos to mark them down for spelling errors… so now there are many people trying to get ahead in business and not understanding why they can’t get that promotion that they “should of” gotten. But the one that has plagued me all my life (and really, why do I care so much?) is “I could care less.” If you could care less, then you care. If you’re trying to say you don’t care, you have to say “I couldn’t care less.” Add to all this the fact that I never know whether to put the period inside or outside quotes and parentheses, so who am I to be judging anyone’s English? hahahaha.

Did I strike a nerve with the comment? My aunt used to say her pet peeve was “irregardless”… and I know that almost everyone has something like that that drives them crazy. Here’s a funny one – my hubby is extremely intelligent and well-educated, but somehow, he’s gotten it into his head that “diffident” and “indifferent” are synonyms. Every time he describes someone as “diffident” I cringe, but I have been not saying anything about it for 25 years, so it seems a little late to bring it up now… I think that’s one I’m going to have to take to my grave…

P.S. Sorry to hear about your bank card problems. It’s hard enough for me to do mornings when it’s for something fun!

Gamache is indeed a man of morals and decency. I love too that he is human and accessible with it. He maintains his own morality without judging others for their mistakes. I am thinking his saving of Jean Guy and other members of his team.

Hello Robert,
I’m delighted you just jumped in. We tend to create our own ‘context’ so don’t worry about it. And I’m sure it is that ‘true old fashioned gentleman’ nature of Gamache that so many of us are so drawn to. His refined manners are indeed refreshing and welcome. Please feel free to comment again on any topic you wish.

This comment may be out of context however I wish to express my adoration to Louise for creating a character with basic honesty and strength of inner self belief. A true old fashioned gentleman. I do not see the same character out of other mystery writers.

It was so nice to see so many people who were familiar with the museum and have fond memories of growing up around there. I think I’ll have to drop back in often…

Julie, just some broad strokes of observations you made cause I really need some sleep
1. I too didn’t see the ‘envy’ in the eyes of the woman of the painting Louise chose. Loved your comment tho. Bottom of page 22?

2. I too don’t care much for the new kind of ‘fantasy’ films coming out. But Into The Woods is not like that at all. Here’s a YouTube link to the song ‘Agony’ I mentioned my sons sang. In the stage and film, both Conderella and Rapunzel’s princes are brothers. It’s funny and beautifully filmed. Enjoy. And good night. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wrggORKra2k

Conderella? Right! I’m tired but still. Cinderella. Sheesh! I do wish sometimes that we could go back and edit. LOL

Hahaha – you had me wondering who Conderella was! Other times, my brain can make that jump to fill in what you meant, but for some reason I’ve got nothing but cotton-candy up there this morning… I will go and listen and look for the movie…

Meanwhile, one more bit on the article about readers… I have a website I visit daily on Jane Austen, populated by writers of fan fiction. Every day, one of them writes a “scene left out” of one of JA’s books. They take those moments left for us to fill in and fill them in. Sometimes, they are fun, and sometimes, I don’t like to have it filled in for me, as I was thinking something altogether different!

Gotta go see a Real Place now…

According to Psychologist David Comer Kidd, at the New School for Social Research, “What great writers do is to turn you into the writer. In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others.”

This Millie! The characters actually need to have room to be completed by the readers so the reader can be part of the story, filling in the detail and creating the character for themselves in a way.

That was what I was referring to in the article that I thought Louise (and you) do so well. If I knew everything about Lily she wouldn’t intrigue me as much as she does. And Mattie, too. And the entire Cove! Like we are always wanting to know more about characters in Louise’s books. I’m thrilled we get to know more about Ruth soon. All we really know is she arrived young, was married and he died and writes poetry. Yet we adore her! Talk about broad strokes.

I agree Julie. I thought we Three Piners could identify… And that’s the whole point. As readers we don’t start out a discussion with everyone thinking the same way but we can accept different points of view graciously while holding on to our own. And in the process, we all gain tremendously, not only in the understanding of the book, but also of those whom we encounter in ‘real life’.

Millie – that’s a brilliant article. It helps to articulate something I’ve discovered about the Jane Austen society and fringe groups that I belong to: Readers are readily willing to accept a world constructed by someone else, and actually want to go live there! Those who want to live in Three Pines are so close to my heart. And so are those who want to live in Pemberly! 😀

The Power of the Bistro
Barbara, I got a few hours sleep. I must say I laughed when I read you live in the ‘Deep South’, Georgia. I always joke with my husband that we life too far South to be really Southern. You have to go to really Northern Florida to be ‘Southern’. 😉

And, I must confess, I shed quite a few tears of relief that you’d be interested in my story. Not to press the point of Easter being a time of rebirth and renewal (at least for the Northern Hemisphere), but your words, along with those of Cathryne and Anna, left me feeling as though I had ‘died and gone to heaven’. I really am floating on the proverbial cloud nine.

I feel complete. My greatest dream was to be a mommy (now doubled since I’m also a Nana), I have a husband who is my knight in shining armoire and has been since the day we met in our mid 20’s – is there any doubt why I love the Medieval period… 🙂 And now to find my general premise is applauded, not ridiculed, is such a relief. Such a joy. The rest is ‘just’ putting words on paper. Not that I want to hurry the process in any way, but IF I were to pass away tomorrow, I would have no regrets. How many people can honestly say that?

The ‘Bistro’ truly is a magical place – a place where kindness exists. How could it be otherwise? We came together because we like Louise’s books. We’ve stayed together because we found we liked each other and our collective supportive nature too much to be separated.

And a big ‘thank you’, Paul for keeping the Bistro alive and the warm fire glowing. I echo Anna’s feeling, ‘bet you never imagined how many lives this place would touch in such positive ways…’

Knight in shining armoire……Husband in a wardrobe. Rolling on the floor laughing Millie! Erin says brilliant….he must be from Narnia!!

Sorry….wasn’t being insensitive. I love your comment. I only spotted that when I was re reading and it created such a delightful image. Somehow even more appealing than armour!

Not insensitive at all. After I reread my own post I realized my oops. That’s what I get for allowing the auto fill options to finish typing out what it thinks I meant to say. I just rolled my eyes. Hadn’t thought of Narnia, tho. Tell Erin she’s brilliant. Love her sense of humor. (PS: in the US it’s spelled without the ‘u’, just to complicate things. 🙂

Hi Gigi and Welcome to The Bistro. Sorry to be so long posting to you. This week has been too busy for my tastes so I write only quick little blurbs.
I would like to meet Louise Penny but doubt that I will unless she comes here to the Deep South, Georgia. Atlanta maybe someday. I started reading her books when I saw a review on Still Life when it was first published. I feel very fortunate about that. When the reread of the books was announced last Spring, I thought it an interesting idea. I was very hesitant to post as I didn’t think anything I wrote would be worthwhile. Everyone made me so welcome that I lost my fear. The only time I had ever participated in a discussion online was when Barnes and Noble had a wonderful site some years ago.
I’m so glad I plunged in. Then The Bistro was set up following the reread so we can stay in touch while waiting for the next book.
I look forward to reading more posts from you. I love Canada but have only visited Ontario Province a few times with organizations my husband and I belong to.

Anna, a Platypus. How cute. I remember learning about the duckbilled platypus as a young child. I couldn’t wait to share the new found and astounding news with one and all. My family, bless them, all reacted with great enthusiasm if I remember correctly. Any chocolate Roos ?

Good point, Anna. The main female character knows since childhood of an ancestral tie but just starts to find out more about who and his importance to the family and their riches as the story unfolds. And there are a lot of greedy people she comes across. Who can she really trust?

Ok folks, this little bird may spread her wings yet. Baby flaps do turn into soaring effortlessly with thermals under the wings. I just have to keep believing that someone other than me might find it interesting after all.

Millie, Really , The Medieval Era, a little known pope, a mystery also. How wonderful……You’re going to write a book just for me! I can totally see people wanting to read it. I have friends who, like me, will enjoy reading that combination. No pressure intended but I’m ready when you are.

I think writing a character “based upon” someone is perfectly legit. This is fiction, not a biography after all. I do understand the need for authenticity but I have found that you have to be careful not to ignore your imagination! Spread your wings and borrow what you need from the period and invent the rest, that is what imagination is for after all.

I got very bogged down at times by my desire to be authentic. Then I started to treat the process like painting or drawing. You don’t need to sketch in every detail, broad strokes, shadows and suggestion leave so much more room for the reader to fill in the detail and thus become part of the story themselves.

Maybe paint your medieval characters with broader strokes, hint at the richness and detail and let everyone’s imagination out to play??

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