Reading your way through Brome-Missisquoi
Immersing yourself in our region through the words of our authors
As I bike and hike my way through Brome-Missisquoi, I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to live here. Travelling down route 235 towards Morse’s line, a Raôul Duguay tune pops in my head “Comme le Kébek est beau à Saint-Armand-les-vents… douhou… ! ” His play on words as he describes the beautiful windy hills around St-Armand relaxes me as I head up and down the curvy road to Frelighsburg and Pinacle mountain. Although I know the region well, it seems to constantly reinvent itself through its local music, the arts, its terroir products and yes, its authors as well. As they play with our imaginary, the area takes on a whole new unique appeal! Each, in their own way, has taken some form of inspiration from this somewhat mystical and colourful countryside. I invite you to discover a few of them.
A Murder in Rabbit Hole
In this neck of the woods, a friendly innkeeper/author will welcome you to her abode at the end of Chemin des Érables, as you head towards Eccles’ Hill. The Fonberg Inn is where Luce Fontaine, a school teacher originally from Bedford, finds her inspiration. After writing several books for young readers, she has taken on the challenge of writing thrillers. In Mortelle Destinée (Editions ROD, 2017), We follow Valérie Morin, an ex-cop, innkeeper in the town of Rabbit Hole (perhaps in reference to Pigeon Hill?) who finds herself investigating sordid crimes committed in a pastoral landscape with its majestic maple trees and country roads.
Inspired by Vast Spaces
If you’re looking for Pigeon Hill while travelling down on St-Armand Road, don’t blink because you might miss it! Yet, this small hamlet is a fertile literary source of inspiration for author Christian Guay-Poliquin, winner of the prestigious Governor General Award, Prix littéraire des collégiens and the Prix littéraire France-Québec for his novel Le poids de la neige (La Peuplade, 2016). Although the area is never named, I can’t help but find inspirational elements all around; whether it’s as I overlook the vast expanses found here or, by following, the sometimes straight, sometimes swerving roads, a feeling of awe comes over me every time!
From Mystery to Mystery
Louise Penny has chosen to set the scene of her crime novels right here in the Eastern Townships, with the Sutton Mountain range as a backdrop. This Times best-selling, internationally acclaimed author has written more than a dozen thrillers, translated in over 25 languages. She has attracted the attention of such celebrities, as the Clinton clan, who wanted to experience first-hand our picturesque Townships village life. Her Inspector Gamache shows off his panache as he follows trails that will lead him in solving the most troubling enigmas. In fact, by going to the Brome Lake bookstore in Knowlton, you’ll find a map indicating all the interest points that have inspired Ms. Penny’s characters and crime settings. Such towns as Stanbridge-East, Frelighsburg, Sutton and Knowlton can all be found and visited! Three Pines Tours also propose guided tours of the places that inspired Inspector Gamache’s investigations!
You can start by reading her first novel, A still Life, winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards, published by Published on July 11, 2006, by St. Martin’s Minotaur.
You can purchase them all plus a lot more by visiting the Brome Lake Books, bookstore.
Finally, William S. Messier*, born in Cowansville with deep roots in Saint-Armand and Bedford, paints a landscape of tall tales which has the locals smile as he depicts events set inside this bigger—than-life nature of our border region. His incredible and timeless stories introduce us to such characters as the ubiquitous Jacques Prud’homme, a roadkill disposal manager in Épique (Marchand de feuilles, 2010) or little Gervais Huot in Dixie (Marchand de feuilles, 2013), witness to an often-violent adult world. From his tales of stolen meat and prison fugitives to those of jobbers and local sports legends in Townships (Marchand de feuilles, 2009), the author transforms the region of Brome-Missisquoi into a surreal world, where events collide and stories go beyond the local history, reinventing it as each plot unfolds.
So, no matter how you choose to explore our Wine Route or the Townships trail, let yourself be inspired by these authors to discover or rediscover our Brome-Missisquoi landscapes.
*For the sake of transparency, please note that the author of the present article has ties with William S. Messier.