Three Pines Quebec – Louise Penny and Gamache…
“Three Pines wasn’t on any tourist map. Like Narnia it was found unexpectedly and with a degree of surprise that such an elderly village should have been hiding in the valley all along.
So, who do you get to take you to this magical place and show you the village which has been the star of so many novels? Where Gamache and the team spend most of their time. Where murder takes place but where a village comes together through difficult times. Where secrets are buried and chickens come home to roost? Louise Penny of course!
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Where did you set your book and why?
My series is set in the fictional Quebec village of Three Pines. It is inspired by the place I live. Emily Dickenson said that novels are frigates, that can take us to places we cannot normally go. Emotional places, deep inside ourselves, but also physical places. It’s important to me to use Three Pines for both an exploration of the emotions, and also a way for people to visit Quebec, in all its seasons.
Do you have a personal link to the places in your novel?
Most, yes. All my books are set in Quebec. Some in Montreal, one in Quebec City. They’re all placed I’ve been and many I’ve lived in.
Why is your setting good for your story?
For me, and I believe in many works of fiction, setting is character. And Three Pines is very much a character in my books. It is both a setting and an allegory. Through it I can explore issues of duality (the French and English perceptions of each other, the intentionally idyllic place and the darker reality under the surface, the gap between what people say and how they’re really feeling). I can explore culture, community, our yearning to belong. And what happens when that is threatened. Quebec also happens to have a rich history, a glorious geography and a culture that is profound.
Despite it being fictional, Three Pines is based on many places. Can you describe the area?
Three Pines is in a valley, surrounded by forests and mountains, with lakes and rivers. And that’s pretty much where I live. I describe what I see everyday. In autumn it’s an explosion of colour so vivid it is breath-taking. In winter is it alternately blindingly bright, with sun bouncing off the snow, and terrifying in a blizzard. Spring is short, but so sweet, with lilac and tulips. And summers are hot, bright, filled with the scent of freshly cut grass, and roses. I research it by using maps, going there, using my own knowledge, friends advice Most are places I’m already familiar with
“Three Pines itself is fictionalized, but inspired by my ideas of an ideal village.”
Where would you recommend someone looking for Three Pines to visit
Brome Lake Books in Knowlton– one of the inspirations for Myrna’s Bookshop
La Rumeur Affame in Sutton – a bakery. Inspriation for Sarah’s Boulangerie
St Benoit du Lac Benedictine Monastery – one of the inspirations for the books, The Beautiful Mystery
Manoir Hovey in North Hatley – the setting for The Murder Stone
The Literary and Historical Society in Quebec City – the setting for much of Bury Your Dead
Where would you take Gamache for a day out and why?
To Knowlton, Quebec. To visit the bookstore, and have a drink on one of the terrasses. He and Reine-Marie would enjoy strolling along the streets, exploring the village. Perhaps ending the day with a beer at the marina, on Lac Brome.
Which other fictional detective would he like to work with do you think?
I think he’d very much enjoy Adam Dalgliesh.
I love the small town setting but the monastery in “A Beautiful Mystery” set in a monastery is a particular favourite of mine. Which other settings would you fancy taking Gamache and the others to test them?
Am considering the Gaspe, or St Pierre et Miquelon….islands in the middle of the St Lawrence, just off the coast of Quebec, that still belong to France. Am also considering a trip into Nunavut, the Inuit territories. That’s the beauty of Quebec – there is such diversity.
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What did Gamache do for Canada Day this special anniversary year?
He celebrated with his children, grandchildren and friends on the village green in Three Pines. Helped to organize the games. Then he and Reine-Marie sat on their porch and watched the fireworks.
Would he approve of maple syrup cookies and poutine?
He does – absolutely. While he might not eat them anymore (they’re really a young person’s folly) they are still part of his DNA.
What is Gamache’s Quebec?
It is multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural with a multitude of problems and issues. Of corruption, of racism, of environmental disasters. And the reason I know about this? Because it is also a culture that is facing the truth, and is striving to improve. To admit the problems, learn from them. Improve. To truly become inclusive and just and compassionate. Open. Quebec is often messy, politically, socially. But man, I would not trade it for anything.
Thank you Louise! The Gamache novels were one of the many reasons I travelled to Quebec and stayed there for a while. I always smiled when I imagined I saw Gamache there. The books capture Quebec and the landscape so well and despite all the murders and problems, I still want to live in Three Pines!