Monday, 26 January 2009

A Cure for Despair

Clear, Cold, temps minus 20

Hi - below is the blog I wrote for today's Moments in Crime, the St Martin's Minotaur I mentioned in yesterday's blog, I'll be doing it all week. And putting the same blog up here, since I'm nothing if not lazy. You'll notice I've included some context you might already know if you read my daily bog often. Hope you don't mind.

My husband Michael and I are in Quebec City, for a month, researching an upcoming book. As soon as I finish this blog we're heading into the bitter cold day to bag our breakfast...which should be a bowl of cafe au lait, a croissant - or maybe a pastry. the local boulangerie (bakery) offers the regular eclairs and mille feuilles and tartes - but they also offer specific Quebec treats like an almond confection called a Jesuit and a wonder, warm sugar and cinnamon pastry called a Pets des Soeurs. A Nun's Fart, if you can believe it. Nothing like going up to a very nice young woman at the counter and asking for a fart, please.

Maybe I'll stick to french toast.

My plan in the upcoming book is to have my detective, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec, visiting his mentor, now long retired and living in this magnificent city. It will take place a Quebec Winter Carnival - which is about to start. Of course, a murder happens. I visited the site of the murder yesterday - but won't say where.

Now, in order to write the book Michael and I needed to come here, around the Winter Carnival, to really experience the old city. So we've rented a stone house within the walls. Quebec is a fortified city - the only walled city in North America. And the home we've rented was built in 1752. It's stunning. Made of fieldstone with narrow, steep, worn stairs and beams and exposed stone - and almost no heat. Dear Lord, it's cold! We wear top to bottom long underwear - long johns as we call them - though Michael announced he had the whole team - long johns, long peters, long marks...everybody. We fill hot water bottles and hug them to us. And wrap ourselves in blankets before the fireplace.

One morning I'm sure I'll be breaking ice in the sink or toilet.

Still, it's worth it. Not only is the home gorgeous, but the city almost makes me weep it's so beautiful. Gracious and solid and comfortable. From our gabled, beamed master bedroom at the top of the house we see out over the metal roofs and chimnies. Wisps of snow swirl off the corners of buildings like ghosts.

This is a city haunted by memory. The provincial motto is: Je Me Souviens. I remember.

And what they remember is being conquored, by the English - four years after this home was built. They've never forgotten the loss.

As a novelist it's a perfect theme to explore. The place of memory in who we are, how we perceive the world - and how we hold on to anger. Would violence end if there was no such thing as memory?

Must go - we're off to a bakery on rue St-Jean - half a block up from this home...where we get our coffees and breakfast. I despair for my waistline - though honestly with all this long underwear I think that's a battle long lost. I'm a conquored person. Besides, how much despair can a person feel when surrounded by Jesuits and les Pets Des Soeurs?


msjaneb♥♥♫♫♥♥♫♫ said...

I just read all three of your books this weekend! I am suffering from cabin fever and just needed to escape to a better place. Three Pines did the trick. Thank you, Louise for your most enjoyable descriptions that enable us to picture everything. The only problem is that I get hungry reading about the great meals and appetizers! I found your web site today and really enjoy living vicariously through your writings about Quebec. What a fine winter escape, as we await another snowstorm tonight!
Jane - Des Moines, Iowa

Jo B. said...

My e-mail friend in Phoenix was at Poisoned Pen when you spoke. She gave me your name to add to my author list. I found your blog and am enjoying it from not so sunny, but at least not snowy, Kennesaw, Georgia! Can't wait to sample your books! Jo B.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Jane,

What an amazing musical signature. Love it. And thrilled you've found my books - and my blog! We in Canada know all about cabin fever...but a good croissant cures that too. Even if it's fictional.

Welcome to the village. Enjoy the storm...hope you don't have to go out in it.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Jo B.,

Please, thank your friend for me - cannot tell you how crucial it is that people spread the word about books...and how moved as a writer I am when someone recommends my books.

Hope you like them - please let me know.