Series Re-Read: The Long Way Home


I first met Louise in 2006 while working at BarnesAndNoble.com. We had a fabulous lunch at a Greek restaurant in New York City to celebrate the publication of STILL LIFE. She signed my copy of the book as follows:

“For Paul, such fun undermining St. Martin’s together”

Little did we both know that just four years later I’d join St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books and, together with Louise and the wonderful “Team Penny”, we’d undermine the publishing status quo and rocket Louise’s books to the top of the Bestseller Lists!

Gamache Series.com, the website you are now reading, and the Re-Reads initiative was originally conceived to promote THE LONG WAY HOME so to say I have a certain connection to this book (and all of Louise’s novels really!) is to say the least! This website – a community really – with an enormous amount of content and connections was built on the back of THE LONG WAY HOME.  

The really unique thing about THE LONG WAY HOME Re-Read is that it was led by readers just like you, in real time, at the point of publication. Now – I doubt it – but if you haven’t read the book yet, beware, spoilers lie ahead! 


The Re-Reads initiative was initially launched in the lead-up to the publication of The Long Way Home. After the book was published, readers came together once a week on GamacheSeries.com to discuss the book, ten chapters at a time. What you’ll read below includes many of the insights from those readers. 

Ch. 1-10: From the opening chapters, readers point out that this book is very different from previous books in the series. After all, How the Light Gets In ends with what feels like a natural conclusion: the internal struggles within the Sûreté du Québec are resolved, Jean-Guy gets the help he needs and marries Annie Gamache, and Armand and Reine-Marie retire to Three Pines. 

The Long Way Home opens on the bench in the Three Pines village green. Armand has been sitting at the bench every morning, holding a book – The Balm of Gilead – but not reading it. Clara has taken to joining him. As they sit, Clara wonders why Armand never seems to read his book. Armand wonders if Clara has been sitting with him because she pities him – or because she needs something. 

After some time, Clara tells Armand what she’s been struggling with: the year before, she and her husband Peter, also a painter, had separated. Before he left, they made an agreement that they would have no contact during their year apart, but on the first anniversary of his leaving, he’d return to discuss their relationship. But it’s been a few weeks since that day, and Peter still hasn’t come back. Clara is worried. 

The neighbors gather for dinner, and Armand tells Jean Guy – who still can’t bring himself to call his new father-in-law anything other than patron – about Clara’s concerns. When Clara finds out, she’s furious at Armand: a fury that readers found frustrating and disrespectful. But Gamache, thinking Clara might not want his help after all, is relieved. 

But she does need his help. When Gamache asks Clara why Peter left, she tells him that he was always supportive of Clara when she was struggling, but wasn’t supportive of her after her success. As Clara’s career took off, Peter’s plateaued. 

First, Gamache pays a visit to Peter’s mother, Irene – a cold woman – and her husband, Bert Finney – a kind man. The couple has art all over their walls, paintings from the finest Canadian painters, but none by either Peter nor Clara. Neither have heard from Peter recently.

Doing their due diligence, Gamache and Jean-Guy check Peter’s credit card records, and find that he’s traveled all over the world – Venice, Paris – in the year he’s been gone. One place in particular stands out as unusual: Dumfries, Scotland. But the records also show that he returned to Quebec City recently, just four months ago. 

Clara and Myrna travel to Toronto to speak face-to-face with Peter’s siblings: his brother Thomas, and his sister Marianna. Neither have heard from him either. 

And Clara meets with Peter’s siblings to see if they know anything about Peter’s whereabouts. At his sister Marianna’s, we encounter Bean: Marianna’s child. Born out of wedlock, Bean’s gender identity is a mystery that Marianna refuses to share with her family, out of spite – though the readers in the comments speculate that Bean is a girl.

Ch. 11-20: 

Clara and Myrna visit the Ontario College of Canadian Arts, where Clara and Peter went to school. They meet with the charismatic Professor Massey, who tells them Peter was recently there, but that he doesn’t know where he went after he visited. 

Here, we learn more about Clara’s time at OCCA: she spent most of her student years as a bit of a reject – her art was shown in Professor Norman’s Salon des Refusés – until Peter, who was more conventionally talented and popular, noticed her.

Gamache and Jean-Guy go visit Dr. Vincent Gilbert in the forest to ask him about Paris. Later, in the Garden with Reine-Marie, Clara, Jean-Guy, and Myrna, Armand says he thinks Gilbert and Peter were drawn to the same place in Paris: LaPorte. The Door. A community created by a priest to serve children and adults with Down’s syndrome. Vincent Gilbert volunteered there, hoping to find himself, and the theory is that Peter did too. 

In these chapters, commenters point out, a new side of Peter begins to emerge. Clara realizes that the paintings on Bean’s wall weren’t Bean’s, but Peter’s first attempts at painting something with feeling. “Peter Morrow took no risks,” Louise writes. “He neither failed nor succeeded. There were no valleys, but neither were there mountains. Peter’s landscape was flat. An endless, predictable desert.” Perhaps all of Peter’s wanderings were his attempts to find himself.

Marianne sends the paintings to Clara. Commenters point out that Clara feels a twinge of jealousy, looking at them. Where Peter used to only paint with muted colors, the new paintings were bright and colorful. Suppose they weren’t abstract, Gamache wonders? Suppose Peter was painting what he saw?

The Dumfries, Scotland question is still outstanding. Gamache calls the Police Constable in Dumfries to ask if there are any artist colonies there. Constable Stuart couldn’t think of any artist colonies, but did say they had gardens. Gamache sends him a picture of Peter’s painting, and Stuart recognizes it: he had painted The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. 

Later, Constable Stuart asks around town about the garden. An old man, Alphonse, tells him about a time he went to shoot hares there. He sees a large hare, who stares at him, unmoving. And then behind that one, he notices 20 others. And then notices one turn to stone in front of his eyes. Back in Canada, Armand notices a circle of stones in the photos – a stone circle not visible on the garden’s official website. One commenter pointed out that the garden reminded her of Peter, straight lines and geometric shapes, but with a little magic thrown in. 

Ch. 21-30:

Peter’s paintings continue to reveal new meanings. Clara and Armand look at one of the paintings in a new perspective, and see an image that they recognize: The St. Lawrence River. 

They travel to Baie-Saint-Paul, a tourist destination near Charlevoix, where a meteor had hit millions of years before, creating a natural ecosystem unlike anywhere else in the world. Readers point out that just like the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, this is another “cosmic” location. Is there a reason Peter was drawn to both?

There, they split up to visit galleries, but no one had seen Peter. In their search, they meet a man named Marcel Chartrand, who runs the Galerie Gagnon, showcasing the works of Clarence Gagnon (you may recognize one of Gagnon’s paintings from the cover of The Long Way Home!) He introduces himself and offers them a place to stay, since all of the hotels were full. He knows Peter: Peter had spent many hours in the gallery back in April, and had ended up renting a cabin down the road. But he left before the summer, and Marcel does not know where he went.

However, Chartrand gives Gamache another clue towards Peter’s whereabouts: Peter had asked after No Man, someone who ran an artist’s colony in the woods. Was it No Man – or Norman? Could it be the same cruel Professor Norman who set up the Salon des Refusés at OCCA?

To find out more, Reine-Marie and Ruth go visit Professor Massey – who seems quite taken with Ruth – to ask him about Professor Norman. Massey says that Norman believed in the tenth muse: that there was a muse for art. Massey says Norman was eventually fired for being insane, and for creating the Salon des Refusés, a gallery for failures. 

Massey doesn’t have any photos of Norman – in the yearbook, instead of portraits of the professors, students chose to feature a piece of each teacher’s art. The self-portrait by Professor Norman was wild, a portrait of insanity, and the signature on the art did not say Norman, but No Man. Had the pursuit of the tenth muse turned Norman mad?

Back in Baie-Saint-Paul, the group is unsure whether they can trust Chartrand. How connected to No Man’s artist colony was he really? Was he a former member, returned to Baie-Saint-Paul after the colony folded? Or how about the owner of La Muse, a brasserie in town – was he a former member? Jean-Guy asks around and finds out the man’s name is Luc Vachon, and that he did, in fact, live at No Man’s colony for a few years. 

In these chapters, commenters point out that it’s not just Peter’s personal journey we are watching in this novel. We’re also seeing huge changes in Jean-Guy, too – in his calmness in sobriety, and in his acceptance of the villagers he used to disdain. 

Although Clara is officially in charge of this investigation, Gamache goes to the police station, where the agents recognize him from the previous year. There, he meets Agent Morriseau, who tells him that No Man’s colony was a cult. Quietly, Gamache asks the agents to arrange for sniffer dogs, to check the area for any bodies.

And then Chartrand asks them if they’d like to stay at his home that night – not his apartment above the gallery, but his remote home in the woods. Clara says yes. 

Ch. 31-end:

At Chartrand’s home, the villagers continue to inquire about No Man. Was he simply the leader of a commune – or was it a cult? Chartrand says he lectured there. Was he invited in, as an outsider – or was he already there, as a member?

Jean-Guy finds out where the owner of La Muse goes to paint: a remote village called Tabaquen, which means “sorcerer.” The only way in and out of Tabaquen is by boat or plane, so the villagers purchase tickets to fly, and at the last minute, Chartrand buys a ticket to join them. 

The plane ride is harrowing, and the pilot points out that artists typically arrive by boat – but that neither option is a smooth ride. They show the pilot a photo from the art school yearbook, of Peter and Professor Massey, and ask him if he’s seen Peter. He says yes.

Clara then asks the pilot to land in Sept-Îles. She wants to retrace Peter’s steps as he would have done it, by boat. Jean-Guy wants to get to Tabaquen as quickly as possible, and is sick of following Clara’s lead. Gamache reminds him that they’re here to support Clara, nothing more.

On the ship, the Loup de Mer, there are two cabins. Thinking it would be the bigger cabin, the men take the Admiral’s Suite, which is barely big enough to fit the three of them. Gamache asks the porter about Peter, and the porter says he recognizes him. That he watched him closely on his journey, to be sure he didn’t jump from the deck. Meanwhile, the Captain’s Suite, where the women are staying, is luxurious. 

Gamache recalls something from the flight: when the young pilot said he recognized the man in the photo he showed him, it wasn’t Peter he recognized. It was Massey who he’d flown to Tabaquen the day before.

The sniffer dogs found something suspicious, a substance buried in a container: it was asbestos, found along with the canvases. Whoever would have handled the canvases would likely die, eventually, from inhaling asbestos. The principal of the college confirms that asbestos was detected in Professor Massey’s office. Had Norman sent his asbestos-infected paintings to Massey in an attempt to slowly kill him?

After traveling through tumultuous waters, the river eventually flattens to glass and they arrive in Tabaquen. Clara stays in town – unsure of what they’d find – and Gamache and Jean-Guy head to No Man’s cabin. There, they find Peter sitting on the porch, looking unkempt. And inside the cabin, they find a body: Professor Norman. Peter says that Norman had sent him away, and when he returned he had found him dead. Luc, from the brasserie, had been there too – but Peter had sent him to call for help. 

Here, Gamache realizes that he had everything backwards: it wasn’t Norman adding asbestos to his painting to harm Massey, but the other way around. Massey had been sending him asbestos-infected canvases for years, because Norman was a threat.

And here, Peter asks Gamache if Clara had seen his new paintings, and what she thought about them. He has changed: her opinion is all he cares about now. Peter tells Gamache that he wanted to return home to her, but before he could face her, he wanted to confront Professor Norman for what he’d done to her back in school. But when he arrived, the old professor was sick, and Peter stayed on to care for him. 

“The tenth muse is not, I think about becoming a better artist, but becoming a better person,” Gamache tells Peter.

But meanwhile, there’s the issue of the dead professor. Thinking the killer would be Luc, the group heads back to town. But in town, they find Massey, holding a knife to Clara’s throat. “I love you, Clara,” Peter says, as he takes the knife for her.

Commenters seem to agree that by the end, Peter had become a brave man in a brave country – a man finally worthy of Clara’s love.


“Fear lives in the head. And courage lives in the heart. The job is to get from one to the other.”


What an amazing journey revisiting my friends from Three Pines in the pages of THE LONG WAY HOME. I can’t believe it’s been eight years since the book was published (and this website was launched!) and almost twelve years since I started working with Louise! 

The activist and journalist, Ella Winter, once said, “Don’t you know you can’t go home again?” Thomas Wolfe would then use the quote to entitle his posthumously released novel YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN. 

I, however, in the spirit of Ruth Zardo call bullshit! 

Of course you can go home again. Even if it’s a long way home. We, as readers and lovers of the World of Louise Penny, are fortunate enough to go home to Three Pines every year! 


  1. Clara first approaches Gamache with great ambivalence: wanting (though fearing) to
    know what happened to Peter, while reluctant to disturb Gamache’s newfound peace.
    How did you feel about the decisions they both make at this point?
  1. “I thought he’d come home,” Clara says of Peter. Did you? How did your view of him
    change in the course of the book?
  1. What does it mean to you to be a “brave man in a brave country”? How does courage—or
    cowardice—feature in this novel?
  1. On the first page of the book, we hear about Armand Gamache’s repeated gesture, “so
    tiny, so insignificant.” What is the true significance of this and other seemingly
    inconsequential actions in this story?
  1. What do you think of Ruth’s role in this story? For example, consider the scene in
    Massey’s studio, where she “seemed to have lost her mind. But found, Reine Marie
    thought, her heart.”
  1. Both Peter and Gamache’s father, in a sense, disappear. What is the impact of this kind of
    loss on Clara and Gamache? Have you ever experienced anything similar in your own
  1. There is so much about art and the creative process in this book. How do we see that
    unfold in the lives not only of Clara and Peter, but also of Norman and Massey? For example, what do you make of the Salon des Refusés? What do you think it meant to the
    artists themselves?
  1. What roles do creativity and acclaim (or obscurity) play in the lives of both Clara and
    Peter? In their marriage? Do you believe that Clara and Peter’s marriage could have been
  1. Louise has sometimes talked about the importance of chiaroscuro — the play of light and
    shadow — in her work. What are the darkest and the lightest points in this novel? What
    are some humorous moments, and how did you respond to them?
  1. Peter’s paintings look completely different from different perspectives. How does that
    apply to other characters or events in the story?
  1. In Chapter Six, Myrna observes about jealousy: “It’s like drinking acid, and expecting the other person to die.” How does jealousy play out in the lives of various characters here?
    What effects have you seen it have in real life?
  1. How does Clara’s quote from one of her favorite movies, “Sometimes the magic works,”
    play out in the story?
  1. While a number of Louise’s books end in unexpected ways, the conclusion of this one is
    particularly shocking. How did you feel as you were reading it, and what do you think
    when you look back at it now?
  1. In some ways Clara’s quest to find Peter recalls such classic journeys as The Odyssey and
    The Heart of Darkness. What are the most significant discoveries the central figures in this novel make along the way?

Reading Group Guide

Now that we’ve made it Home, here are the official reading group questions for The Long Way Home. Join us in a discussion of these questions. Also, enter to win a signed first edition copy of Still Life!


The Long Way Home, Chapters 31-41

Join us for a discussion on the final chapters of The Long Way Home.


The Long Way Home, Chapters 21-30

Continuing the discussion of The Long Way Home with chapters 21-30.


The Long Way Home, Chapters 11-20

Continuing the discussion of The Long Way Home with chapters 11-20.


The Long Way Home, Chapters 1-10

Join us for a discussion on the first 10 chapters of The Long Way Home.


1,023 replies on “Series Re-Read: The Long Way Home”

I’m so sad to hear that the beloved voice of Armond, Ralph Cosham, has died. What a loss for his family and for us all! He made the audio books come alive. He will be missed so much.

So many of you have said how much you love listening to him reading the books – his loss will be felt far and wide, I think. So very sad.

Paul, please give the Cosham family our deepest condolences. Three Pines is in mourning over the loss of the voice that brought it alive. The audios so many of us, I’m sure, turned to when we needed kindness and gentleness and humor. My heart breaks for his family.

LESLEY, you’re last comment on the ch 31-41 section discussion was wonderful. Please copy and paste it here. It sheds wonderful light to the ‘classic journeys’ question.

Peter may have seen the light, but only to the point where he was amazingly lucky enough to see answers about Life before he died. In a really fine story (go all the way back to the Greeks) those things Peter did earlier needed to be accounted for. That he was able to clear up so much with Clara before he died, is the miracle. Sometimes things that happen in a marriage cannot be forgotten and forgiven. He was given a ‘great Greek tragedy” way out here. And in our lives so much makes no sense or seems unfair. Ms. Penny’s books are a real and genuine reflection of real Life. There are many scoundrels who should have left us long ago and are still around and many good-hearted kind souls who left too soon. That her books reflect this truth about real life only adds to the glory of these mystery stories.

Your mention of the Greeks crystallized for me the epic nature of the journeys the characters are undertaking, particularly Peter and Gamache in this 10th book. Like Odysseus returning to peace and civilization after 10 years at war and 10 more in misadventures, Peter and Gamache require the help and intervention of women.

Good point, Julie. “I always get the idea that Ruth knows the answers long before anyone else does, but she can’t quite figure out how to communicate it to others.” (Or maybe even to herself.) Maybe the only one who could read and speak Ruth was Jane Neal. I was so relieved to find out that Ruth was, in fact, afraid of Massey, not infatuated. Her behavior was, as you say, out of character. It gave me the creeps!

Ruth’s strange behavior around Prof. Massey had me completely fooled. I was with Reine-Marie, in thinking that Ruth liked him. Like-liked him, hahaha. To find that, in fact, she feared him was a big awakening for me. If she’d been with anyone but R-M, perhaps they would have realized that something was wrong with Massey long before. Because Ruth wasn’t just acting strange – she was completely out of character.

I always get the idea that Ruth knows the answers long before anyone else does, but she can’t quite figure out how to communicate it to others. Her cryptic comments always have meaning, I think, but can’t be interpreted by those around her. Someone needs to learn to speak Ruth, I think.

Ruth said she thought he was frightening, but was explicit in telling Gamache that if she had thought he was a danger to the others she would have said something. Ruth is always pretty forthright when she has something to say.

I think The Bistro would be a good name for a perm enact virtual gathering place for Three Piners……..any thoughts Paul’s?

Me too, Paul and all of you!! The whole idea of our little group in the village of Three Pines, enjoying the Bistro together is wonderful! These chats have been something I look forward to each evening!

Good catch, Julie! “If she’d been with anyone but R-M, perhaps they would have realized that something was wrong with Massey long before.” You are so right, “she was completely out of character. It seems that Gamache realized something was ‘off’ and that promoted his call to Ruth. Gamache knows Ruth at her core. However, I don’t necessarily believe that it is a matter of Ruth not quite figuring out how to communicate things to others as much as being hesitant. She communicates through her poetry. For her that is ‘safe’. Gamache figured out that the poem was about Peter… So many thoughts, so little time.

Gamache’s not being able to read past the bookmark. When I truly realized what this was, it about broke my heart. I can so sympathize with him, not wanting to read beyond what his father read. To go on without him. I can see, so clearly, Armand feeling that he was with his father as he read the same words, in the same book. But when it came time to go past there – well, he couldn’t. That he was able to go on at the end of the story is miraculous. I think it speaks to a level of healing that Gamache had by then. Healing that, perhaps, could never have taken place if he’d not gone on the investigation with Clara, Myrna and Jean Guy. So, maybe, what Clara asked wasn’t so much after all.

I agree, Julie. Maybe Gamache had gained as much insight sitting on the bench above Three Pines as he could. Interestingly, he found many more benches on which to sit, talk, read, and contemplate as the trip progressed.

2. I thought he’d come home. I did. And in some ways, of course, he did. He came home to a place he’d never been before – bravery, love, compassion. Clara “talked him home” at the end, and he knew he had her love, and could be at peace. He also came home to a place of great art, which came from his soul… something he’d never had before. His other art came from his brain.

I also feel very sure that we WAS coming home. He had every intention of it. He got caught up in Norman’s slow death, and couldn’t, in good conscience, leave him, but he WAS coming home to Clara as soon as he could. I think his letter proves that.

Coming from Peter’s family…it’s amazing that he was alive at all as an adult, many others have caved under the weight of all that disfunction. I loved the first introduction of Bean, loved Bean in this book as well, and look forward to much more about her/him…and in honor of her/him I have named by new stray black kitten a name that can go toward either sex as I have no idea what “it” is…Harpurr…. It was wonderful that Peter was so brave for Clara at the end, no nice she has that and the letter to remind her of his love for her…

I love that name,Linda – Harpurr! I agree – it’s a wonder Peter did as well as he did. And that he seemed to even flourish when he really set his mind and heart to the task. I was so very hopeful for him.

Brave man in a brave country – this belongs to Peter and to Norman. Courage: Clara’s decision to find Peter, Gamache’s decision to help, Ruth taking a flight despite her fear – to help a friend, Peter battling to develop a new artistic style, Peter and Norman finding inspiration at Tadoussac, Lacoste developing skills as the head of homicide, Gamache finally making it past the bookmark, Norman setting up the Salon des Refuses (IF the intention was like the original: honouring creativity missed by the less courageous professors). Cowardice: Massey getting his friend fired and sabotaging him, Massey’s jealousy directed at Norman instead of being brave enough to improve his own work, and ultimately in pretending to be a friend who was helping Norman while actually working to cause his death.

KB, I do think that Professor Norman’s intentions with the Salon des Refuses were good. The historical reference was obvious, and I think Norman would have sympathized with the rejected, because he didn’t fit in either. He was an artist who dressed like a banker, everyone thought he was crazy because of his obsession with the tenth muse, and he was a very gifted painter who inspired jealousy. We don’t really learn much about him, but I think he must have been a generous sort of person. The 10th muse was very real to him, but he tried to share this source of inspiration rather than keep it for himself.

Another moment of bravery- Reine-Marie cheerfully seeing Gamache off to find Peter despite her many misgivings. I think that Peter definitely became a brave man in a brave country. And now, will be that forever, since he didn’t get the chance to see if he could have sustained that strength.

Cowardice – the ultimate act of cowardice, to me, was Massey’s murder of Norman by “proxy” – sending off the asbestos infused canvases and just waiting. Talk about not having to face your foe…

2. I expected Peter would have come home. It wasn’t his choice to leave. Three Pines was safe. Peter craved safety. I loved his story throughout this book. He became brave. For him to stick with trying out putting emotions on canvas, despite knowing that he was producing crap technically showed immense courage. To allow others to see his fledgling works was even more astonishing. And for him to care for his dying professor was such a change from the man who didn’t know what to do when Clara cried and “had nothing at his soul”. He went from being one of my least favourite characters to one that I wanted to see develop. (I thought he might become another type of “asshole saint”.)

1. I think Clara’s reluctance to get Gamache involved spoke to her internal ambivalence more than it spoke to her trying to respect Gamache’s new life in the village and the peace he sought there. I believe that she wanted Peter to come home. She wanted to find out what they had, if anything, but she was afraid. Afraid that he might have stayed away on purpose because he had learned who he was and thought that he was better off without her. And afraid that he had stayed away because he knew he hadn’t changed enough and that their relationship would ultimately disintegrate. She didn’t know what she would find when she found him. And she knew that Gamache would find him. I think that, ultimately, she decided to be brave and to put her wishes first. She decided that it was important to move past limbo. Although she believed that Gamache would help her, she knew that he could have refused. Her decision showed growth in her character. Gamache’s decision to help was consistent with his character. He thinks of Clara as a friend. That he would help a friend is not surprising.

And maybe he felt he was helping two friends. From the beginning, he seemed much more aware than Clara that Peter might be in trouble or dead.

Gamache did seem to know that the possibility of a tragic outcome was more than a possibility. I think he expected to find Peter dead, not a suicide, but by an accident or murder.

I think that, certainly, Clara had her own wants foremost in her mind, but I don’t think she was completely without worry that it was too soon for Gamache to be getting back on the horse. I think that, in part, was why she hesitated so long. But the rest was definitely that she wanted Peter back, she didn’t want him. She wanted to know if he still loved her, she didn’t want to know. She wondered if he’d changed, she was sure he hadn’t. All that was there in her hesitation.

For Gamache – I don’t think it’s fair to say “he could always say no” – I don’t think he could ever turn down a friend in need, and Clara was definitely that. As well, he thought of Peter as a good friend, too, and he would have wanted to help if Peter were in trouble. And I think he knew, somehow, that Peter was in trouble. Early on, LP says something like “There was no doubt in Armand’s mind that Peter loved Clara with all his heart.” So he would have expected that Peter would come home when he said he would. That he didn’t come was ominous to him, I think.

You gave me a good laugh about Clara being of two minds. I can see her thinking one thought and then the opposite. For once, I can identify with Clara.

I was touched by the changes in Peter by the book’s end. Though unexpected, his ending seems fitting. What growth! I loved the idea of the letter for Clara. I also enjoyed the whole “Gilead” book within a book idea. How brave of Gamache to move forward! I laughed over the ship cabin debacle, especially the “bath” metaphor. Those poor guys! As for jealousy and acid, yes, yes, yes! I just taught a Sunday School lesson on Cain and Abel yesterday. You could definitely make a good contrast between Massey and Peter at the end of the book. Peter showed growth beyond the envy, whike Massey was simply consumed by it.

If Clara hadn’t insisted on searching for Peter and waited a little longer….I always wonder about the “what ifs”.

Me, too, Kathy. If the letter had arrived. If she hadn’t gotten up the courage to ask Armand for help. If Armand had said “no”. If she’d just stayed put in the diner. So many “if’s”. It’s why I worry for her. I know that there is no real reason for her to blame herself – only Norman is responsible. But I know if it was me, I’d have self-recriminations.

In regards to whether Peter’s family attended the funeral, I can’t imagine that Mrs Finney would not attend. This is a situation where I expect Bert would insist. I think Marianna & Bean would also come but Thomas & Sandra are doubtful. I felt Peter’s death packed a huge emotional impact but I didn’t find it a huge surprise. Yes, Peter seemed to have changed both as an artist & as a person but he has not grown in the way Clara has. While I felt very sad for her, I am hoping that she will find someone to love her in the way Armand loves Reine-Marie (and vice versa).

Unfortunately, I agree. However, I’d prefer the next tale to have much less Clara and, as someone else said, less of the art theme (and scene).

Of course, if there is romance in the future for Clara, and I do hope she finds someone who loves her as Armand loves Reine-Marie (and vice versa), it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the next book! Louise may take a totally different tack with only a few hints about a relationship in the future for Clara. I don’t think anyone expects that she would embark on a new relationship quickly. So it can take a book or two or more before we get there.

I agree that Peter’s Mother would have attended the funeral, but not in grief or with self recrimination. It would have been at Bert’s insistence. There might have been a bit of ” Now you see what he has done….hurt me by getting himself murdered” or some such equally inappropriate feeling.

Isn’t that the truth?! Interestingly, I don’t see her suddenly acting as if he was the perfect child/person, as she did with Julia. Is there any reason for me to think that?

Well, for us to think that, because you seem to feel the same, Barbara. Why was Julia raised to sainthood, but we don’t see her doing that to Peter?

Julia had been the unfair victim of Peter’s nasty scheming with the graffiti on the washroom cubicle wall. Julia wasn’t mentioned as having done anything particularly nasty to anyone. Then again, the person who murdered her did so out of hatred for her husband, not her. She’s much more eligible for “sainthood” than Peter was throughout his life until the end, when he really did seem to have undergone a transformation.

I think there is, Cathryne – when Armand visited her, looking for Peter, he commented that she didn’t have any Peter Morrows hanging and she said he hadn’t earned his place. To now decide that he was perfect would be difficult to achieve without people remarking on it, I think, and she would avoid those remarks at all costs.

Contrary to what others think, I don’t think she would have be dragged to Peter’s funeral by Bert, though. I think that she would have expected that her presence, of course, was to be wished, and a place of honor at that. It’s what’s expected, and she’s always done that. What Bert would bring, that she wouldn’t, is genuine feeling. For the same reasons, I think that Thomas and his wife would be there, too.

I don’t think Bert could make Peter’s mother do anything. I believe she would be at the funeral because to not be there would be frowned upon socially. She’s all into appearances.

I prefer to believe that Peter’s mother might now recognise what true love is. What a rich life Peter had with Clara, it will not change her but perhaps she will realise that Peter found “love in the hardware store that was their home in Three Pines.”

I loved this book, and do not think Peter’s death was such a bad thing. He was so damaged as an individual. His manner of death will insure that he will always be remembered as a hero. Clara’s last memories of him will be good, and she will never know whether he would have reverted to type or not. One thing that bothers me about the end of the book is that there is no mention of any of Peter’s family being at the services for him, so we may not ever know what effect Peter’s death had on them.

It does say “friends and family” we’re at the funeral, though it doesn’t call them out by name I believe it unlikely that Peter’s very proper family would be absent.

I agree, Linda – they would have been there, and been so very proper and cool, that other than to say that they “were there”, there was nothing to remark upon. They had such a huge effect on Peter, and by extension, Clara, but she is free of them now, and I think they are of little consequence to her now. Her real “family” is in Three Pines.

Yes, Linda, I noticed “friends and family” were present at the funeral and wondered previously howcome no one said anything unpleasant. I thought there would have been a bit more of showing them there.

Someone else (besides Jean-Guy) whose family we have never heard anything about is Clara. Where was her family? We don’t know anything about her background, but there weren’t any family members of hers at her vernissage. There’s still plenty to explore about our dear friends.

Yes, a few people were wondering about the family reacted. I imagine Peter’s mother been bound up about it. Bean response is the one that interests a lot of people and wondering if Bean will be an artist? A child of such potential.

I was thinking about Clara’s comment that she thought Peter would come home. I think he would have if things hadn’t intervened but I wonder. He had been quite absent at times even during the marriage. Physical distance is less of a relationship downer to me than emotional distance. I have been without my husband for months at a time but he was always ‘present’.

Christina, she does say, “Friends and family gathered in St. Thomas’s chapel and sang and sobbed and grieved and celebrated.” P. 371. But which family members? I like to think Bert Finney and Bean only, but I imagine they were all there, looking down their noses at the rustic, small chapel and simple, small town.
I think his death affected Bean and maybe Bert, but I wouldn’t think the others. Will we find out? Maybe, the family may descend on his estate.

I thought of that too! Maybe in the end, with Peter’s art supply dried up, he will gain the fame he feared he had lost.

I do think his “old art” – the very detailed pictures, will rise in value to some extent. But not too much, as I think there are a lot of them. The ones that will have great value, though, I think are the ones that I think of belonging to Bean now. – those six or whatever – three on paper and three on canvas – now they are going to be worth something, I think. Will Bean be pressured to give them up to her/his grandmother? Will Marianne insist they belong to Bean? Will Bert step in, since Marianne and Bean are really Finlays and not Morrows? Will any of them sell them? Will Clara keep them? So much to think of. Maybe that’s what Chartrand was hanging around for – maybe he wants them?

Had Peter lived, would he indeed have been a changed person? I haven’t answered this for myself yet, but I have huge doubts. His hateful mother is still alive and I don’t see how he could overcome all those years of her influence.

Yes I wondered the same thing about whether the change was sustainable. It’s hard to undo years of negative influence but not impossible. So easy though to slip in to old patterns of behaviour, easier to follow those ruts than stay on a hard fought new path.

I think that he was a changed person: I believe that the marriage would have worked, but not without some work. I think that when he learned to love and care for the professor that he had always hated he turned the corner on the road to happiness. Life isn’t just about me, it’s about all the people around me……I think that is part of the lesson that Peter was learning.

I think I need to do another re-read! Several people have mentioned that Peter hated Prof Norman… I only recall Clara saying Peter took his class and thought Norman was nuts. Then during one of Massey’s encounters with Three Piners Massey says he brought up Norman to Peter… I thought Peter hadn’t given Norman a second thought until he visited Massey… Then used extracting an apology from Norman to Clara as an excuse to not having to apologize himself. A failure to take full responsibility for his own actions. I know I’m in the minority with my feelings for Peter. I really wanted to like him, but there are just so many times anyone should be expected to ‘get away with murder’ – her art, her self confidence…

Peter made a commitment to return to Clara on a specific date. True, he found Norman was in need and he sent a letter to Clara. But he didn’t keep his word. Could he not have found someone else to care for Norman for a few days at least and keep his commitment? That would have taken more courage than he had. Actually, I don’t think Peter was ever faced with having to show real courage until the very end, where as Lesley pointed out, he was a true tragic hero.

Millie, I think that Peter’s reason for going to confront Norman was pointless at best, but I think he stayed out of true compassion. He took small steps, doing a little more and a little more, all the time caring more and more about Norman as a person. The locale is described as isolated and finding someone else to care for him seems unlikely. Peter is described as “looking at the dead man with such tenderness. Seeing past the blood and the gaping wound. To the man.” Peter says, ” I wanted him to go to the hospital at Sept Isles, but he didn’t want to leave. I could understand that. He wanted to die at home.”
On p. 363, Gamache looks all around the view from the cabin. “How bleak it must have been for Noman. For Peter… How tempting it must have been to leave. But Peter Morrow had stayed. Right to the end.” He says to Peter, “You found a way to be useful.” I think Clara would have stayed and sent a message to Peter if the situation had been reversed.

I started the Gamache series with Trick of Light, and have quickly become a huge fan! I also did not think highly of Peter, I found him to be extremely childish and immature. Yes, he was wounded but often his motives seem to come from a place of ‘getting back’ at his family. In fact, I have never believed he truly loved Clara, especially after reading how he reacted to her humiliation in college. In fact, that explained to me, some of his behaviors in the previous books. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I did not believe his story that he was taking care of a dying man.

I was appalled by the idea of the “Salon des Refusés”. It would be a crushing blow to a young, impressionable young person, especially one with very low self-esteem.
Even though I had very harsh feelings towards Peter in the previous books, I was not really prepared to completely lose him. I had doubts about Peter being able to turn his marriage around until I read the last chapters when we began to see a truly changed person. I was in tears as I read the end of the book. I hurt for Clara — I was widowed fairly young and it brought up all of that grief that has never been completely healed.
Jealousy is the crux of this story! It is why Peter and Clara’s marriage was a shambles. It is why the Norman was so obsessed!
This was a hard story as it answered so many questions but has left so many unanswered.

Sorry to hear you were widowed when you were young Karen. We have all been emotional but this book must have raised all kinds of additional feelings for you. Hugs!

Can you expand on some of the questions that are unanswered? Curious as to where that might lead next.

Although there was a memorial for Peter: 1) where was his dysfunctional family, did they even attend the funeral? What happens next for Clara? How does she fit into the village? How does her art change? How does Peter’s death effect the other villagers, especially Ruth, Myrna, and Gabri and Olivier?
I can’t imagine Clara leaving the safety of the village. It is and has been her safety net and support but now her life has changed. In a society where many are married or in committed relationships, being widowed or divorced, people look at you differently. You feel like you are a fifth wheel and it can be very uncomfortable.
Now what will Armand do? He is still a fairly young man and he has gifts to give and as he heals, he will not be completely happy doing nothing. What has happened to his son and family in France? What happens to Annie and Jean-Guy???

All great ideas. I’m chanting under my breathe…..write faster, write faster. I think I am even more anxious for the next book than usual.

If you look at the Wilkipedia entry on ‘Le salon des refusés de 1863’ (Paris) you’ll get a different point of view on it. Most of the real artists of the time were in it while those who made it to the ‘proper’ exhibition have long been forgotten. Being in ‘Les refusés’ was a badge of creativity rather than shame. So the idea of such an exhibition was neither new nor cruel, maybe the teacher was trying to say ‘ If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” (Maya Angelou). Yet it is when Clara becomes more ‘normal’ – painting portrait rather than warrior uteruses – that she becomes famous…. A contradiction here?
I’m going to take a controversial stand here: I feel the novels have been unfair to Peter, he loved Clara (who isn’t that easily lovable), took good care of her, was brave enough to turn his back to his family, put his own art in question and ends up giving his life up for her… I didn’t find his death surprising but merely convenient so Clara can fall in love with another man from the same art world.
The novel is beautifully written and a pleasure to read .but I hope Penny will get away from the arty world, their petty jealousy and inflated ego in her next novel and reconnect instead with more easily shared universal feelings

The Salon des Refuses, I think, was absolutely meant by Norman as the original had been – a mark of true creativity, which couldn’t be seen by those embracing what was popular or stylish at the time. However – I think that the original was organized with the full knowledge and help of those who had been refused by the “official” show. In the school, the first Clara knew her art had not been accepted was when it was unveiled, front and center, at the Salon. With the word “Refuses” over it. In Toronto – an English-speaking place. While I know the art students would all have known the real meaning of the words, and the context, it would still be hard not to see their art labeled as “refuse” – garbage. But the worst part of it was that they had not been invited to exhibit here – their pieces had been hijacked. I absolutely think Norman had good intentions, but his methods left a lot to be desired.

I agree that Norman meant well, but he was Norman and didn’t get it quite right. He should have asked the artists’ permission. I had not considered that Toronto is English speaking.

Knowing the story of”’ le salon des refuses”, I was confused at first. I too would like a change from the the art world’s cattiness. A local artist assured me that LP portrayed the art scene correctly. In all fairness, all the arts have a share of people who are sharp tongued and petty. Just like the rest of the world. Liked the MA quote. Love her work.

The cattiness and pettiness is pretty prevalent in the world of theatre as well, I believe. It’s all these creative people trying to be top dog!

Karen, I’m so sorry to hear that you were widowed so young. That would be very hard, and I can imagine a story like this would definitely stir up those feelings. I, too, was not ready to say goodbye to Peter, especially as I felt he was on the threshold of becoming whole and wholly worthy of Clara and Three Pines. It was such a loss, to me, that he didn’t get any chance at all to see if he could actually live his new-found ways.

I too was saddened to see Peter die. I saw a man finding himself and might have been able to rejoin his community, his wife and his art with a richer contribution. I hope this was not the end of the Gamache series because it leaves me aching for the next step in all their lives.

I appreciate so greatly the “long way” that was required to make this book pitch perfect. I believe the characters began with extraordinary intentions of great honesty. I told my husband I was going “to be gone to Canada” for two days. I’m not sure I’ve quite found a way to get back! I wonder if Gamache will return “home” safely too. Thanks, as always, for the trip Ms Penny, I love your heart!

I like that Canada has a hold on us. We go to Whistler each year but time limitations among other things have stopped wider exploration. Have had to be content to explore via Louise’s writing but planning a big trip as soon as we can to see the Eastern Townships etc.

Agreed! We’ve been to Montreal several times. I’m aching to get to Quebec. Last year we vacationed in Vermont on Lake Champlain. We ccould see Canada across the lake. We drove to Canada through very similar area. We were about an hour from Knowlton, I believe it is. We were in the country side and it felt like Three Pines. I kept expecting it to pop up any minute! We visited a lovely vineyard there. Canadians are lovely, friendly people.

Love that you were “gone to Canada”! Wasn’t that part of Quebec lovely? Of course, I think I enjoyed the stopover in Scotland the most!

Shall we pop over to the reading guide and start there. The question about courage and cowardice speaks to me at the moment and the one about chiroscuro. I have always loved the great Renaissance painting and their use of light.

Was intrigued by this comment, admittedly is Dr Wiki but go with it:

Chiaroscuro modelling now is taken for granted, but had some opponents; the English portrait miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard cautioned in his treatise on painting against all but the minimal use we see in his works, reflecting the views of his patron Queen Elizabeth I of England: “seeing that best to show oneself needeth no shadow of place but rather the open light… Her Majesty… chose her place to sit for that purpose in the open alley of a goodly garden, where no tree was near, nor any shadow at all…”[6]

I prefer to see the shadows so the light is so much clearer………oh…….that puts my current place in perspective. That’s why our bistro is so welcoming…..the flickering fire against the darkness.

Just an aside. When painting in oils it’s easier to start with a dark canvas and add light. Remember the light of hope in Ruth’s eye was added by Clara last. That adds a little in understanding chiaroscuro.

When painting in water color it’s easier to start with a light painting surface, adding shadows as you paint.

Interesting! My brother is a wonderful painter in oils. I prefer pastel sticks. He starts with a white canvas and adds the shadows. I cannot do that. I start with very dark paper and add light. This actually fascinating me.

I love pastels too Millie. Want to try oils but more work to set up for me. Haven’t used the pastels for a while ……

There is chat on the reading group thread. It’s a new discussion page.

It’s has to do with the fact that you can lay white or light on dark with the oils. It’s hard to add white on dark with water colors or colored pencil, the medium is so thin.

Love the talk of art and the light and dark juxtaposition. Off I go to the new discussion page – missed all this yesterday as I was out all day.

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