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The Waitress Was New

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3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  221 ratings  ·  52 reviews
“A tiny fragment of life, simply told and yet touching in the extreme.”—French Book News

Pierre, a lifelong Parisian waiter, watches people come and go, sizing them up with great accuracy and empathy. Pierre doesn’t look outside too much; he prefers to let the world come to him. When the café goes under, Pierre finds himself at a loss. As we follow his stream of thought ove
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Paperback, 117 pages
Published February 1st 2008 by Archipelago Books (first published August 17th 2005)
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France in Contemporary Fiction
53rd out of 161 books — 123 voters
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Set in France: Fiction
233rd out of 274 books — 86 voters


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Community Reviews

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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
The Book Report: Over the course of three days, fifty-six-year-old barman Pierre's life at Le Cercle cafe goes from six-year-long trudge towards retirement to unemployment as his creep of a midlife-crisis-ridden boss apparently abandons wife and business for the arms of a younger woman. Said wife even sends Pierre looking for her husband in all the usual suspects' haunts. Pierre, faithful to his own code of honor, does his best to make the situation work by hunting boss-man down, but comes up em ...more
Diane Barnes
This was a perfect little novella about 3 days of a barman in a French cafe. He is proud of his work, and goes above and beyond to do a good job. "Let the world turn around us, beyond our spotless bars, in the end every day will be carefully wiped away to make room for the next". He believes he performs a valuable service, so when the bar is closed because the owner has a mid-life crisis and disappears, he is lost. What does a 57 year old barman do when he's too young for French social security, ...more
Alan
just had an email to say this is in at the library (after an eon of waiting) but as they're closed today and I can't make it tomorrow, and then it's Easter it will be next week before I'm 'currently reading'.
But am looking forward to this, not least because the protagonist is 56, same age as me, and maybe the resonance will resonate and I will be resonating all round the place.

A lovely book, both in terms of the elegant cover and square pages (although I found it hard to read the blurb) and the
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Larissa
I came to The Waitress Was New through the website Three Percent's "Best Translated Book of 2008" longlist (here, if you're interested). Narrated by Pierre, a fifty-six year old barman in a cafe on the outskirts of Paris, Waitress provides a quick and quiet glimpse into the life of a man who has spent his life observing others and catering to their whims, but is only just starting to develop the same acute awareness of himself.

Pierre is profoundly alone—a state which only occasionally seems to
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David
Apr 18, 2008 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to David by: Lilian
Not long ago I and a bunch of folks I know read and loved Stewart O’Nan’s Last Night at the Lobster, a beautiful melancholy novella about a restaurant’s last shift, so you know I was intrigued when a friend told me about a book she said was like the French version of O’Nan. Indeed, in many ways the books are doppelgangers: brief, wistful stories of what happens to the staff when the restaurant they work in shuts down. The effect is similar yet also strikingly different, O’Nan’s book set in the b ...more
Caroline
A veteran bartender of Le Cercle, Pierre, lives a simple life. He is the unassuming listener of customer stories and covers up for the boss of the cafe when he disappears for a day or two with his latest fling, and helps out at the cafe until he returns.

On the day a new waitress is hired at the cafe, the boss disappears in the afternoon without word to his wife or Pierre. Bu this time he doesn't come back the day after, or in a week. In the meantime, Pierre has to suddenly not only manage the c
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Edward
The "waitress" in the title of this novella is surprisingly unimportant. She is filling in for a absent employee and is only around for two days until she quits. She's insignificant except as a harbinger of the change that is coming to the 56 year old narrator's life. He has been a bartender for years and is comfortable in Le Cercle, a bar and lunchroom restaurant in a working class suburb of Paris. He gets along well with the boss, the boss's wife, the cook, and in a casual way with the regular ...more
Rachelfm
A nice little short French novella with a soft, persistent narrator. It was like looking through a microscope, rather than a telescope, and was a worthy bus and coffee companion today.

I chose it because it was short and the author's surname was the one closest to my own when shelved. A pleasant surprise for a random shelf pick!
Mikee
A barman. Alone. Facing life. Like everyone. An elegant meaningless little book.
Julian
In this small novel, or perhaps novella, but I have never liked that term, Fabre accomplishes exactly that which he sets out to achieve: a story about the possibly overlooked margins of life, of ordinary drama, and average daily struggles, fears and achievements.
The story centres on Pierre, sometimes called Pierrot or Pierrounet, who believes he is at the end of his life, his vitality, or his working life, or perhaps all three. He mostly silently watches the events unfolding around him, silently
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Amy
"I'm only a barman, and when I forget that, the world around me seems like a bunch of different movies running at the same time. There are romance movies and sad movies, and if you pay attention most of their stories start to get all mixed together, till there's no way you can go on telling them to yourself. It's like they're all chasing after each other..."




This excerpt shows the complications inherent in the life of the "simple" bartender. Rather than being the nameless face behind the bar, imp
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Nancy
Apr 27, 2010 Nancy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nancy by: Carla
Shelves: fiction
Pierre, what else?, is a bar tender in a Paris cafe. He is aging and thinking about retirement while the owners of the cafe are thinking about closing the business.
This is a quiet little book about a lonely and sad man who follows his daily routine from home to work and observes the life around him.
The book jacket talks about the loneliness of aging, but that does not say it all and I don't think that is the point. He is lonely and has been lonely for a long time. He has abandoned relationshi
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Monica
A man in his fifties, proud and satisfied with his job as a barman in a busy cafe in Paris. Worried about working enough weeks to retire and collect his pension...no girlfriend, some loneliness, musings about his customers...and you have a wonderful character study of Pierre. A brief vignette into the life and mind of a man that left me thinking and wanting more.
Tanmayee Thakur
Pierrot is the kind of character that we come across in our lives but rarely ever notice. To have front row seats in his mind while he shapes up his customers is a joy-ride. A must read. There is no suspense to be revealed, you wont be gasping from any plot twists but i can guarantee this: you'l want to make space for this book in your shelf.
Robert
Books about lonely middle-aged men have a lot of potential pitfalls. But instead of lapsing into some rote statement about the essential indifference of the Universe, the alienation of consumer society, etc., Fabre allows his narrator to be a human being. Pierre is solitary but it's mostly of his own making, and while his life is composed of humdrum routines, it's these very routines that provide him the greatest solace. Like most of us, several currents are running through him at any given mome ...more
ems
so, so french.

"all in all, he seemed like a kid who needed a blowjob and then a mars bar, or maybe even both at the same time."
El
Pierre is a divorced 56-year-old barman in a Parisian cafe who has come to find the cafe a sort of home and safety net for himself. He knows the customers and he studies them, often living vicariously through their lives, or, barring that, taking cues from them as he witnesses them. It's a quick read, just over 100 pages, and told entirely from inside Pierre's mind. He considers himself a "fixture" in the cafe, so when changes occur around him he finds himself needing to rethink his place in lif ...more
jeremy
a quaint novella, the waitress was new is the first of dominique fabre's works to be rendered into english. this is the touching little tale of a late middle-aged french barman, pierre, content working in a small café and observing the daily lives of passersby. i didn't care much for the stream-of-consciousness style, but it does easily convey pierre's temperament. while the story alights upon themes of loneliness and aging, the book is far too whimsical to ever delve into morosity. the waitress ...more
Aligato
This book was beautifully, lightly written. It isn't only a sad book, because there is so much lively insight sprinkled into the dialog Pierre has with himself. I read this in one sitting (it's a tiny book) and although it won't stick with me forever, it's a quick and thought-provoking dip into French culture, the mind of a barman in Paris who has essentially no life, and a man who sees his impending mortality "picking up speed" amidst the building and crumbling lives around him.
Amy
I normally don't like stream of consciousness writing, but I definitely will make an exception for this book. It's such a lovely slice of Parisian life from the point of view of an older waiter. Maybe it was the fact the book was so short and condensed that I could tolerate the rambling, but it seemed like there was a purpose. It also could be that it was set in Paris and you really get a sense of place in this book. Very good.
Donald
Jan 24, 2008 Donald rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
I read this in galleys months ago and loved it, was thrilled when the book came today. Dominique Fabre's voice is as unassuming as it is deeply humane. This is a quiet and moving meditation on the everyday work world from the perspective of a career bartender, seemingly not up too much, and yet the grist he bestows as the restaurant he works in folds over the course of a few days is truly sublime.
Kate
Lovely, lyrical little book. Translated from the French, but I felt that I still got the essence of the author's skill in creating characters and finding the drama in seemingly mundane lives. The book is about what so many of us spend our lives doing--working and thinking about other people and speculating on their thoughts and going home and thinking some more--and I found it all quite engrossing.
Christopher
The Waitress Was New by Dominque Fabre, translated from the French by Jordan Stump.

A glimpe into the life of someone on society's periphery. Refreshing to read about a worker that performs his job well and with great pride.

Best Translated Book of 2008 Longlist by Three Percent, University of Rochester.
Marianne Ruggiero
This book really won my heart. The problem is (spoiler alert) I fell in love with the narrator, started mentally rooting for him and trying to direct the path of his destiny. Just totally wanted something wonderful to happen to him. Maybe it's the Hollywood syndrome or something. Written with (it would seem) an effortless blend of charm, whimsy, sadness, and some cynicism.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Reminiscent of Remains of the Day, The Waitress Was New takes us into the mind of an aging waiter in his last few good years as a working man. He has many years of experience with the world and he has become a philosopher, a psychologist of the best sort, almost a seer, able to predict with surprising accuracy the moves of the weak and the strong. Funny. Thoughtful.
Tom
A melancholy--but not hopeless--portrait of a Parisian waiter of several decades, single, alone, set in his ways but not ossified or inflexible faced with a calamity in his job, at an age when calamity is least welcome. Jordan Stump's translation gives the narrator, Pierrot, a distinct, believable voice; Fabre's story gives the narrator a believable personality.
Iva
This brief but tightly written novella explores one day in the life of a Paris bar/cafe not on the beaten path. Fabre has created well-developed characters and interesting musings about life, Paris and relationships. Pierre, the barman guides us through his routine day until an unexpected ending leaves the reader uncertain of what will transpire.
Sonja
I really liked this poignant little book. It's a very short slice of the narrator's life with hints of major events in his life that he doesn't go into much detail about (his divorce, his girlfriend Jacqueline, his illness, being adopted). There's a sense of loss over these things and the ultimate loss of his family of co-workers at the cafe.
Bonnie G
Very brief story with lots of internal monologue. A daily description of a bartender's life and impressions over a few days in Paris. I could picture his cafe perfectly, but had a little trouble picturing him. Had to read between the lines to discern his true life. Sweet, but short.
Stephen
If there were an option for 3 1/2 stars, I would gladly give this book that rating. In itself, I found the plot and style fair, but the book lingers on in my memory in a way that seems incongruous with the story itself. Some books, however, live like ghosts. This book is one of them.
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