A Fatal Grace, Part 2

Recap (Starting with Chapter 22)

Clues and questions and suspects continue to pile up for Gamache and his team. Having learned that CC de Poitiers, who claimed to be the daughter of Eleanor and Henri de Poitiers, invented both her name and her past (Eleanor de Poitiers, better known as Eleanor of Aquitaine, actually died in 1204), Gamache needs to find out who CC really was. Are there any significant clues to be found in the video cassette of The Lion in Winter that turned up in CC’s garbage after the murder?

Meanwhile, Gamache is astonished when Clara proudly shows him the Li Bien ornament Peter gave her for Christmas, which is exactly like the ball CC supposedly used as the basis for her garbled philosophy. The glass ball is painted with three pine trees, the word Noël, and a single capital letter, L. Was it the picture of the trees that prompted CC to buy the monstrous old Hadley house in Three Pines? Awkwardly, Peter is forced to confess that while he meant to buy Clara something for Christmas this year, he actually found the ball in the Williamsburg dump.

When Gamache meets Émilie Longpré—age 82, captain of the curling team, and one of Clara’s Three Graces—and her dog, Henri, on an early morning walk, she tells him about an encounter with CC at Mother’s meditation center, where CC arrogantly proclaimed that since she was calling her own book and company Be Calm, Mother would have to change the name of her center or perhaps close it altogether. After breakfast, the tiny Émilie gives Gamache & co. a curling lesson that convinces even Beauvoir, who has always scoffed at curling as a sport, that it’s a lot harder than it looks. And Gamache, who finally grasps what it meant when the 78-year-old Mother loudly “cleared the house” at the curling match, suddenly knows how the murderer got away with it.

The questions about CC’s mother keep circling back to the Three Graces. Do they know who the L of the Li Bien ball was, or could it possibly even be one of them? And what might 92-year-old Kaye Thompson, who was sitting next to CC at the match, have seen as she was murdered?

When Saul’s photos are developed, they somehow do not include any shots from the time of the murder. And as eager as Saul seems to be to start a new, better life in Three Pines, he still has one undeveloped roll of film that he hastily throws in the fireplace when Gamache and his team visit him at the chalet he has rented.

With the help of an idea from Clara about the discarded video, the case seems to be coming together, when a raging fire breaks out at Saul’s chalet, and the unlikely trio of Gamache, Beauvoir, and Agent Nichol try to rescue him. Émilie finally tells Gamache the heartbreaking truth about CC’s mother, and the Three Graces prepare to pay the price for what they have done. And then Gamache suddenly realizes there is one last horrible secret in CC’s family.

The book ends at New Year’s, with Reine-Marie’s first visit to Three Pines. Both of them know that the plots against Gamache are growing more sinister, but as they drive home:

In the rearview mirror Armand Gamache could see Three Pines. He got out of the car and stared down at the village, each home glowing with warm and beckoning light, promising protection against a world sometimes too cold. He closed his eyes and felt his racing heart calm.

“Are you all right?” Reine-Marie’s mittened hand slipped into his.

“I’m more than all right.” He smiled. “I have everything.”

Favorite Quote

Gamache: “I knew then I was in the company of people who loved not only books, but words. Spoken, written, the power of words.”

Conclusion

I am not sure how many times I’ve read A Fatal Grace, but I still find it as extraordinary as I did back in 2006. I think it’s magnificent on so many levels: as a complex and masterful detective story, as a glorious character study, and as an exploration of universal hopes and fears. I love that it can be hilarious one minute and heartbreaking the next.

I also love the way Louise focuses on the power of words, from the literal handwriting on more than one wall, to the hidden meanings of names like Mother, Elle, and Crie (what kind of parents would name a child that?), to the ways that words can kill or heal. I also marvel that someone like me, who is at least as much of a skeptic as Jean-Guy Beauvoir, can find myself wondering about such mysteries as lemon meringue pie.

Discussion Questions

1. There are so many clues hidden in plain sight in A Fatal Grace, I lost count at 6 or 7 (all of which I missed the first time through). Did you spot any of them, and did you solve any of the various puzzles before Gamache did?

2. What do you make of Gamache’s relationships with the different members of his team, from Beauvoir to Nichol?

3. How do you feel about The Three Graces?

4. Near the end, Gamache says, “This whole case has been about belief and the power of the word.” I’ll say. What are the ways in which words have power?

5. Speaking of belief, what do you make of the apparent brushes with God: the beggar who loved Clara’s art (which Em maintains she had never seen); Gamache finding God in a diner eating lemon meringue pie; Em’s road worker with the sign saying “Ice Ahead”; Billy Williams, etc.?

6. Do you agree with Gamache in Chapter 33 that “when you’ve seen the worst you appreciate the best?”

Hope DellonHope Dellon's first job in publishing was as an assistant to Joan Kahn, the legendary mystery editor whose authors included Dorothy L. Sayers, Dick Francis, Patricia Highsmith, and Tony Hillerman. In 1975 Hope joined St. Martin's Press, and is now an executive editor at both St. Martin's and Minotaur Books. She has been editing Louise Penny since 2006. She also tweets about books and authors and anything else that interests her at @hopedellon.

Discussion on “A Fatal Grace, Part 2

  1. Deborah Wall McGraw says:

    I was also pleased with the words, “when you have seen the worst, you expect the best.” There is something about having experienced very difficult events that gives a confidence that we can survive. Once we have that confidence, we are able to see that those around us are no more scary than we ourselves are and are also just trying to make it through this life.

  2. Rhonda Collins says:

    I agree with Deborah but I also believe only after after experiencing the worst can we appreciate the best. It is like taking sunshine for granted until you have days and days of rain!

  3. Laura Kay says:

    From the very beginning, when Reine-Marie and Gamache found the letters B K L M in L’s box – my mind immediately heard ‘Be Calm’. When the other women, Bea, Kay, and Em were introduced, I knew L was connected to them and Three Pines. I didn’t know how, but that part never felt like a mystery to me. Maybe it’s because my middle name is Kay and , when introducing myself, people ask me all the time if ‘Kay’ is just the initial. But I loved that those characters thought like that – connecting their names to words and connecting to each other because of it.

  4. Donna LeBlanc says:

    I picked up on Richard Lyon as soon as The Lion in Winter was introduced and kept waiting and waiting for the connection to be made public. I also suspected Crie when it was said that she was a whiz at science.
    As a fat kid myself I squirmed everytime I read a discription of her and her appearance. I will put that into my personal file.
    I particularly enjoyed Gamache’s interactions with Emelie in this book. Sensitive and believe able …. Well done, Louise.
    For me these books are not re-reads….so I have not had time to ruminate over much time.
    Only finished Fatal G late last night. Insomnia has its uses.
    Namaste.

  5. May I just say the land, sky and trees are as rich a fabric as the people and
    animals. Everything is on solid ground even as what is unknown or miss-perceived becomes revealed.

  6. Elizabeth Stroop says:

    I watched curling during the last Winter Olympics. I have pondered the believability of Mother and Em hurling granite stones down the ice, even if they are not famous for playing well. as a Norh Carolinian! I do not know if this would be probable. ca

    Can any northerners assist?

    • Elizabeth Stroop says:

      Sorry for my poor typing. I am recuperating from surgery and my dominant hand is rather out of commission.

    • blf says:

      Curling is played by people of all ages and shapes. It is not impossible for Mother to clear the house with a roaring rock since she has weight behind her. Skipping involves the strategy behind the game so as long as Em is able to set up the rocks by telling her team members where to put them, she can skip.

    • Julie says:

      Curling is a game of skill far more than strength. Remember the lesson Emelie gave – it was about balance, symmetry and follow-through. She advised not to push the stone, but simply release it. You don’t need to be strong to play well.

      • Barbara H. Johnson says:

        My husband and I were introduced to curling when watching the Canadian series “Corner Gas”. We had read references to curling in books and newspapers but had never seen it played . We enjoyed every minute we saw during the Olympics. Those who say curling is boring, as some comics have done, are wrong. I wish we could see matches here at home, but since home is in Georgia, USA, that doesn’t seem likely.

  7. Jane Fricker says:

    1. There are so many clues hidden in plain sight in A Fatal Grace, I lost count at 6 or 7 (all of which I missed the first time through). Did you spot any of them, and did you solve any of the various puzzles before Gamache did?

    I will start at the beginning of Chapter 23, where Gamache is ticking off the number of clues he has to CC’s murder thus far: “Puddles of anti-freeze, niacin, The Lion in Winter, booster cables, Psalm 46:10 and a long lost mother. And that was only what he’d uncovered so far. CC was two days dead and what he really needed was an epiphany.”

    I think from the beginning, it’s clear that with the different elements that caused CC’s death, it had to be premeditated. Usually the husband or other relative is the prime suspect, but in this case, Richard Lyon had an alibi from Myrna, who insisted she would have noticed if he’d left the curling game at any point. For some reason, Gamache and all the other investigators never seemed to consider Crie as a suspect. I wonder if that is just natural thinking on the part of police, as they generally don’t believe children are capable of such complex thinking or action, or if it was more that they felt sorry for Crie, and when you feel sympathy for someone, it’s really hard to suspect that person as capable of murder.
    As Donna Leblanc wrote in her post, she suspected Crie as soon as she read that she was really smart in science. Of course, if Louise Penny had had Gamache suspect Crie at that point, the book probably would have been a lot shorter, and a lot less interesting. Sometimes it’s fun, as the reader, to think you’re ahead of the detective in charge of the case.

    • Julie says:

      Gamache says at one point, perhaps to himself, that Crie was so abused, no wonder it ended in murder. The first time I read this I didn’t notice it, and it doesn’t even seem to have caused Gamache to consider Crie a suspect. In hindsight, a whopper of a clue hiding in plain sight!

    • Sharon Norris says:

      But, as always, most of the clues are irrelevant. “Lion in Winter”, for example, is relevant to C.C.’s persona and self-delusion, but not to the murders, as is the name of her worthless husband. What I never understood was what caused Gamache’s realization by the lake that the Graces were covering up for the murderer instead of having themselves committed it. I thought this a weakness in the book. He makes these sudden jumps not wholly explained by the author, and in a later book he jumps too quickly and turns out to be wrong.

      • Pam says:

        In rethinking his conversation with EM, he realized she had been surprised by the shoes with the cleats, which were necessary to complete the circuit of electricity…..a clue that she wasn’t aware of all the necessary components. I agree that that was a surprise. I had guessed it was the 3 women together. I had previously thought Crie might have done it, but even with her knowledge of science, I thought she was too young to think out and carry through with such a complex murder. How on earth does Louise Penny think up these complicated plots?

      • Hope says:

        Sharon–I think Gamache’s realization by the lake is explained in Chapter 38:

        “‘I thought it was the three women,’ Gamache admitted, sipping his wine. ‘They completely fooled me. But then I remembered those baby sealskin boots.’

        “‘Wicked,’ said Ruth with a slurp.

        “‘In her letter Émilie described the niacin, the anti-freeze, the booster cables. But she left out one crucial thing.’ Gamache had their undivided attention. ‘Had they done all the things they describe in that letter, CC would still be alive. In her letter Émilie didn’t mention the boots. But CC had to have been wearing the Inuit mukluks with the metal claws. They were the key to this whole murder. I told Émilie about them yesterday
        and she was sickened. More than that, she was surprised….’

        “‘I realized the women couldn’t have killed CC. But they knew who had…. According to Mother, Kaye saw it all, and what she didn’t see they figured out later. For instance, they didn’t see Crie slip niacin into her mother’s tea. But they did see her spill windshield washer fluid behind the chair. And Émilie saw her hanging around Billy Williams’s truck. None of these things meant anything at first but when Kaye saw Crie deliberately put the chair off balance, and hookup booster cables to it, her curiosity was piqued, though she didn’t expect murder. CC was concentrating on what was happening on the ice, of course, but when she grabbed the chair and was electrocuted Kaye knew at once what had happened….”

    • Barbara H. Johnson says:

      I agree that people sometimes think that children are not able to plan violence and execute the plan. I never suspected Crie because of the way she is described when Gamache first saw her – almost catatonic- and that we had not heard of her ever challenging her mother. She could not have a face to face argument with her mother as she was too fearful. She had to be in control with no possibility of CC responding.

  8. Jane says:

    I had thought that these books were pretty simple and have not considered rereading them. I was attracted to them because of the setting and because I like mysteries. These discussion have caused me to get the books out again and I have been rereading Fatal Grace so I can participate. I enjoy Gamache’s relationships with his team members, especially Jean Luc. I find him to be a perceptive boss who is able to develop those under his direction if they work willingly at the tasks they are given.

    As far as the references to God go, I find that the most intriguing part of the book. I believe we can encounter God as we encounter people. All it requires is an open mind and heart.

    • KB says:

      That God is in the mundane and we brush against each other often is my truth. There are so many gifts that come at unexpected, but needed, times. Not always quotations, writings or spoken words. Sometimes there are symbols. Goodness exists. (One of my favourite reminders.)

    • Pam says:

      Did he really encounter God or was it just a happy guy eating pie?

      • Jane says:

        Well, that is in the person who has experienced it. Anyone can be a naysayer, but the person with the experience knows how it felt to them. In this matter, I believe everyone has their own truth.

      • Curious says:

        It depends whether one believes in the supernatural. I’m atheist, so I would see a happy guy eating pie. However, “believers” see a manifestation of their god because that fits their belief structure.

  9. Karen I Ford says:

    I do agree with Jane Frickler about Crie and the police not wanting to suspect a child. But Crie had more than enough reasons to commit matricide. CC had been the poorest excuse for a parent. She was cruel and made no bones about her hatred of her daughter. No matter what Crie did, she was never able to please her mother. And her husband was so inept and downtrodden himself. It made me wonder why CC had ever married him and what she had done to totally demasculate him.
    The “Three Graces” — all through the book I wanted to see this portrait of the three. I have in my mind’s eye what it would be like but I still wanted to see this painting.
    This book really sealed Peter’s fate in my eyes as a selfish bore! That he had to find a present for Clara at the dump just made me mad, I think I thought at the time I considered him an egotistical bore.
    As with all mysteries, looking for the clues and red herrings is just a part of weaving the story. Louise is an expert weaver!! When the body of the old woman was found I began to wonder why this had any significance — how did she know Clara? What was her “back story”? What interested Reine-Marie in this obscure person who had died?
    I was not that surprised by the epiphany Gamache had eating the pie. A long time ago I read a book by a priest I knew who claimed that Communion was not just at Sunday Mass, but in having toast and coffee with friends gathered around a table — this was as much of community as going to church.
    As a curling enthusiast, even though older and with crippled shoulders, I can still participate at the curling rink. The role of the skip is vital — that person is the strategist for the team. It does not take strength but planning and being able to “read the ice” and finesse!

    • Terry says:

      I don’t think it’s the choice of a gift from the dump that highlights Peter’s weakness, but that he doesn’t own it! Clara loved the Le Bien ball and would have loved that Peter understood that about her. But because he was sneaky about it he again showed his neediness.

      • KB says:

        I agree and disagree with Terry. Decisive, n’est-ce pas? Clara comments that “once again, Peter gave her garbage”. At this point, she was disappointed with where the gift came from, despite having appreciated its beauty. She might have felt better about it if Peter had been able to say that he found it at the dump (where he found himself, out of habit) and had been attracted by its beauty. In a way, he was saving something that obviously wasn’t garbage (unlike CC who had the “gift” of turning beauty into garbage). But, in my heart, I believe that Clara wasn’t ready to accept any gift from the dump this Christmas. In a year or two, it would be different.

        • Linda Maday says:

          I agree KB. I think she will eventually feel differently about the ball. The problem was that Peter wasn’t truthful. I also think intuitively Clara knew it was even deeper. The ball was beautiful, she’d appreciate it, but it also was free. Couldn’t he have gone shopping anyway? It was almost like “Whoopee. Something pretty! Now I don’t have to expend any more effort!” He seems to not know or care that, at least for THIS Christmas, the effort and luxury of shopping would have been part of the gift. I wondered if part of the cause was that the inheritance that made shopping possible was Clara’s and not his own.

          • Julie says:

            I agree, I think it’s really more about the effort than the money, though the money IS a factor. It’s symbolic for Clara that finally they didn’t HAVE to pay nothing for their gifts, and she had a lot of joy in shopping. For Peter, it was simply a chore, and when he “accidentally”completes the core at the dump, he’s relieved. I think his Mother’s gift to Clara of a packet of drIed soup speaks volumes about where Peter comes from. I also think it speaks volumes of Clara that she has a generous enough spirit to assume it must be an exotic bath balm.

          • Connie says:

            Linda, I agree with you that Peter’s probably (actually almost certainly) jealous that the money is Clara’s. Another theme that develops over the series.

        • Sharon Norris says:

          As far as the Clara’s attitude about the Li Bien ball is concerned, I don’t think she would have minded about it being dumpster-found had Peter also taken the trouble to buy her something in addition. It was the fact that he wouldn’t go to that trouble when he had the money that caused her disappointment. I think this is the first severe crack in the marriage.

      • Susan Weber says:

        Peter is so much less than Clara deserves…that he would forget to buy her a Christmas gift…that he would intentionally make her doubt her worth as an artist…he cannot love Clara…the more I read of him, the more I doubt he is capable of love at all…his actions turn my stomach and make me feel so sad for Clara

  10. Joan Farrell says:

    I am re-reading the books, and just finished”A Fatal Grace”. What I find interesting in the re-read is that I’m picking up on a lot of the threads that culminate in “How the Light Gets In”. I won’t say more here as I don’t want to put any spoilers here that could ruin the stroke of genius as that final plot played out.

    • Linda Maday says:

      There is also a reference to BURY YOUR DEAD, said to Nichols.

    • KB says:

      Absolutely. I’ve re-read most of the books in this series more than once and am struck by how poems, ideas, characterizations, themes, etc. are interwoven so that it seems as though Louise spent years developing the outline for the series before she ever wrote the first word of Still Life.

    • Betty B says:

      Joan, I also am having a wonderful experience re-reading these books…I originally read them soon after they were published. I too picked up on the connection to How The Light Gets In…in fact I was surprised to read the lyrics in this book as I had not remembered they were in this early book. I’m really looking forward to reading the other books as they just seem deeper and better the second time around.

  11. Deana says:

    If you live in a small community or are part of a group, in a larger community; I think you will always find people like the Three Graces. Maybe a different way to think about them is by searching for the different types of Three Graces that have been a part of one’s life and how they have evolved.

    • Cathryne Spencer says:

      Deana, what a good idea.

    • Diane Grindol says:

      My mom lived on a street where three husbands died in one year and the women started doing things together. So their church called them The Three Musqueteers, but they were in the spirit of the Three Graces.

  12. Amy says:

    I agree with Gamache when he says “when you’ve seen the worst you appreciate the best” . I think this is what makes Louise such a great writer; she has stated she writes from that experience. Experiencing sadness and loss can make you stronger; as Emilie says in Chapter 23, those of us who experience sadness and survive have a responsibility to help others; ” we can’t let someone drown where we were saved ” . We are all here to share each others’ burdens!

    • Linda Maday says:

      The more we reach out, the more success we have at throwing lifelines to others. We may never know when something we say, or do not say, may help another. Notice the comfort Clara felt when the begger spoke to her. El never knew what a difference she made.

    • KB says:

      Certainly it is easier to appreciate what you’ve had when things get tough. When everything is good, it is easy to become complacent. It is easy to take it all for granted and to let little irritations distract and bother too much. The number of times that it has mattered too much when the kids don’t put away their stuff or when something gets spilled or the dogs are crazily barking at a shadow across the street….. When difficult things happen, all of these irritations fall away. When illness, death, accidents and loss have touched my family we have become stronger. We pull together. We appreciate each other and become much freer with compliments and expressions of love. And we realize we are blessed.

  13. Meg R says:

    TWO STRANGE COINCIDENCES! :~D
    Just got back in town late this afternoon – after Mom’s Day weekend with our ‘tribe” & 90 yr-old Mum. Haven’t had a chance yet to read intervening post since I was last on here, but will try to go back to late Part I & do so.

    Two strange coincidences occurred today & yesterday. I finished reading last chapters there last night. Reached Chapter 35 as Jean-Guy and Lemieux are screaming at the hockey game on tv. Was hearing echoes of the same from my mum. She too was watching the New York Rangers playing our Pittsburgh Penguins for a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Here I was – not only reading about the lousy NY team that Canadians were playing, but catching flashes of play as they literally pummeled the Pittsburgh players! (For anyone interested, they’re tied 3 games each. Next game on Tuesday decides who moves on.)

    Then, I drove back to the ‘burgh on two lane highway from Mum’s city to 4 lane that leads here. Had been a rainy & cloudy night and early morning. All of a sudden, I could see blue skies peeking between rain clouds and a little sunshine! Drove around a bend – and there it was! I billboard with “Be still, for I am God” in huge letters – provided by some Lutheran church in that area!
    For any other reader who may think Penny’s lemon meringue pie, a baglady art critic or a fisherman writing on a wall might be a tad of s stretch – the strangely unexpected does occur! (lol)

    • Jane Fricker says:

      For Meg R, in re your comments about the hockey game your mother was watching, that reminded you of the game Beauvoir and LeMieux were watching in the book, and the billboard you saw that read, “Be Still and Know That I Am God.” It’s said that fiction imitates life, but the reverse can be true, too. We can read about something in a book, and then be more alert to finding something in “real life” that is so similar to something we just recently read. I think it’s because there’s a circular link between what happens in life and what the writer records. Louise Penny may have written those scenes in her book because she had experience herself with watching one of those hockey games(or being around male relatives or friends who were watching!) and also being somewhere that had a wall hanging, or indeed maybe a billboard like you saw, Meg, and that stayed with her. Writers, like the character of Gamache, observe. What they observe, they often use in their writing. Since they are part of society, it makes sense that what they record in their writing can still in fact be experienced by others, and that is what makes this kind of writing so relevant for readers like us. But I agree–If I’d seen that Billboard, I’d have had goosebumps, too!

      • Meg R says:

        MS. JANE: Haven’t we all experienced fortuitous happenstances like this at different times during our lives? Some we pay attention to and others we ignore or quickly forget. Just wonderful little gifts when we actually ‘see’ them!

        Haven’t been on site except for hockey game billboard post. This week is really one of frenzy for me and I probably won’t get back to discussion until next book starts. Wanted to thank you for picking up the challenge & starting to track Ruth info. You’re a gal after my own heart. Some college prof or dramaturg – many, many moons ago – suggested looking for repeated patterns, images, parallel events, conversations etc. to more clearly figure out what an author/ playwright/ director etc. was doing with a specific piece —- that in the patterns a clearer picture could be found. Suspect that we both possibly read this same way. It’s funny, once you begin doing this, it becomes second nature! Thank you for your thought inspiring posts!

        LINDA M. – A Thank you for looking into the derivations of our three graces names. That helped a bit to enrich our understanding of them. A brother-in-law introduced me to a new author decades ago. First line of his novel was, “As he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendias remembered that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” Immediately fell in love with G.G. Marquez, but was immediately hooked by that opening line — Why would a man basically named ‘ a golden good day’ be in front of a firing squad & why ice? Spent joyous days discovering the answers to those whys! So, Thank you Linda for adding name enrichments for us too.

        LORY-JANE: You wrote that “I would have lots of rewrites before I could get my point across – I can better verbalize than write.” You initially so reminded me of my old students! Have to admit that I’m one of those folks who can’t do a perfect first draft that looks like a final version! I plod along like Beethoven, download what I think I want to say, look at what I wrote – and then go back and use the delete, cut & paste etc. to make submission make sense to someone else who would read it. Most of our heads go faster than our hands and first drafts seldom make sense to someone not in our heads! :~D Very, very few people can pump out perfect compositions like Mozart could! If you can speak it, you CAN write it! Don’t worry about ironing out last little wrinkles or about retying shoe lace. Get you thoughts down & share them! Your ideas are what are important. And — none of us are infallible! I erroneously typed in that CC’s husband must have been called Robert (& not Richard) some place & wrote that Clara (instead of Emilie) put on the record of the violin concerto after the reveillon. World didn’t end!

        Really wish I could continue with rest of week’s discoveries and enrichment of ideas that everyone else brings to this. Family stuff (nothing of a disasterous nature – just time gobbling) has claimed the rest of this week. Hopefully, I’ll be able to return next Monday. – meg

    • Penny Schmitt says:

      I LOVE synchronicity. Very lovely experience for you–so glad you were awake to receive it!

  14. Wanda G. says:

    I would not have considered reading these books again either, as someone else had mentionned but I would say I am enjoying them even more this second time through having finished the first two.
    The writing is so rich and detailed. I love all the characters and love all the descriptions of the various relationships. I am especially intrigued by Clara and Peters relationship !
    I, too would like to live in 3 pines. Can I eat and drink at the Bistro please and visit Myrna!s bookstore.

  15. Nancy N. says:

    1) I wouldn’t think of trying to outthink either Gamache or Penny, two plotting geniuses.
    2) It appears to me that Gamache may be over his head with Nichole. She reminds me of one of those slippery veins that won’t take a needle.
    3) Clara is a genius of instinct, and those three elderly women are together a beacon of joy to her.
    4) Sometimes the word is just a way to seem wise when you are just guessing. Even Gamache is in the dark until the end for all his pithy comments, until more is revealed.
    5) I don’t think it was ever explained how Elle knew who Clara was or that her art was admirable. Maybe I’ll catch a clue next time around. These are the first books I reread, and even listen to on audio books.
    6)Worst and best are absolute terms. Gamache is talking about murderers and good people, and he has seen some dreadful things. Some policemen become cynical. The question is: is anyone really as good as Gamache, or is he and people like him a fictional invention?

    • Donna says:

      I have been stewing ever since I finished Fatal Grace about Elle’s (the beggar) words to Clara. How had she seen her paintings, since their paths never crossed? Did I miss something, or was it left as a mystery? I can understand how Clara in her pain could hear these words as if from God, but I don’t know what possessed the woman to say them.
      I am so,enjoying these re-reads. Only problem is,I can’t read Louise Penny this slowly.
      I have long thought that if it were real, would visit Three Pines in a heartbeat and enjoy having coffee and a croissant with Gamache!

      • Sharon Norris says:

        I think Penny leaves too much unexplained in order to be mystical, in this case so we will believe with Clara that Elle was representative of God. Presumably she could have visited her friends in Three Pines any number of times and have seen some of Clara’s pieces which she had for sale, but we are not given any indication this was so. Nor do I understand why Gamache thinks the man eating lemon pie was God. But then I may just be reflecting my personal doubt about the existence of God in the first place. Clara’s belief that she saw God when Elle spoke to her makes sense; Gamache’s vision less so. It is narrated as part of his trip to catch Arnot, but it’s not clear whether it was before or after he got stuck and might have died…I find the sequence confusing. Maybe I need to reread it again!

        • Linda Maday says:

          I don’t think Louise is leaving out explanations to appear mystical. In real life explanations aren’t tidily handed out for all things that happen. Most of the time we are left alone to reason things out for ourselves. Sometimes answers are whispered to us in ways that best fit our own individual stories. Clara reasoned that Myrna may not necessarily agree that God had spoken to her through the voice of a beggar. Gamache’s experience in the diner was his own individual epiphany.

          Truth is truth but there ate many paths to it and we must each make our own journey to reach it.

          • Linda Maday says:

            I thought I typed “are”. I haven’t had breakfast yet so the “ate” may be very revealing. ;-)

      • Meg R says:

        Donna, you are absolutely correct! There has been NO explanation for why/how Elle could have seen Clara’s artwork in order to make that comment. Is this just one of those things we have to accept as readers – like the road worker with the “Ice Ahead” sign, the fisherman with lemon meringue pie writing on the wall, Billy T giving Reine-Marie a piece of pie and napkin with note to Gamache? I agree with you – in that I want to know just how Elle could make that comment – but at the same time, I also enjoy the not-knowing mystery of it. Does this make any sense at all?

        • Curious says:

          I don’t enjoy the supernatural aspects of the story. I don’t see the characters’s beliefs in a god add anything. Perhaps I’m missing it?

    • Penny Schmitt says:

      Nancy–I think it is less about what Elle actually said (who knows) and more about what Clara HEARD (revelation of her own inner knowledge of herself and her art). Just like the fisherman’s smile, the “Ice Ahead” sign and the mysterious utterances of Billy Williams, the presence and voice of God are inside us, and something outside us triggers an opening of a spiritual door that empowers us to hear / see / experience. I have no idea if this is a phenomenon of mind or supernatural, perhaps both. We experience whatever we experience through our physical being–so perhaps we are instruments occasionally strummed by music of the spheres, or perhaps our synapses ‘line up right’ from time to time. Saying dismissively ‘it’s all in our heads’ doesn’t cover the territory. Our capacity for mystical experiences, however generated, is a beautiful and wondrous aspect of being human.

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