Tag Archives: small town

Still Life‘s setting

When Jen described her idea for Detectives around the World, I was really excited. First, of course, because I love mysteries. But in the last few years I’ve really come to love books with a strong sense of place, regardless of the genre. Those books where the setting is so relevant that it’s basically a separate character? Yeah, I *love* those. So an idea that combined mysteries with a look at settings was right up my alley.

But when it came time for me to focus and write this post about the setting of Still Life by Louise Penny [link to my review], I’ve had a difficult time knowing what to write about.

I thought about writing this post strictly about each of these individually, at at least one point:

• Penny definitely used cozy food and beverages — from Thanksgiving dinners to the bistro — to help set the scene.

• All the talk about the weather (next storm coming in, cold front, hunting season) reminded me of rural small-towns I’ve lived in.

These are both valid, even important aspects of Still Life‘s setting. And I adored how Penny implemented these aspects to draw Three Pines. But these mostly, I think, define Three Pines as merely a rural small town. That’s part of it, but Penny gives us more.

• Penny’s use of language (particularly the smattering of French words thrown in) to bring us down to earth in Quebec, Canada.

I’m a lover of words. As part of that passion, I love languages. It always thrills me to read a book that has bits of another language here and there. And this book is no exception to that.

Now, not being fluent in French (or any language other than English, I’m ashamed to say), I mostly rely on the context to help me understand what’s going on, so I don’t have to run for Google Translate mid-sentence. But even if I can’t figure out each word, I love having those words there. I think for a book set in Quebec, this was an important thing for Penny to do, and I think she did it well.