After decades of listening to his patrons’ life stories, a bartender shares his own in the first of French author Fabre’s novels to be published in the United States.
Pierre has been at Le Cercle, a café in the Parisian suburb of Asnières, for eight years. Before that, the 56-year-old tended bar at several other places, fell in love a few times, married and divorced once. He now lives alone and sometimes wonders if he will ever have another woman. The conscientious worker has little time to dwell on private matters, however, because Sabrina, Le Cercle’s waitress, is out sick with the flu. Henri, the café’s owner, has hired a temporary waitress. When she arrives, Pierre is relieved to see that she is good at her job. Despite Sabrina’s absence, the day will be just like other days, Pierre thinks. Then Pierre’s boss slips out the back door and things get complicated. Henri’s wife Isabelle believes he is having an affair with Sabrina; he has strayed before. But when Pierre borrows Isabelle’s Audi to help resolve the crisis, he finds that Sabrina really is sick, and Henri is not there. With this low-key material, Fabre eloquently conveys the wisdom of a man forever in the background, observing the lives of others. When Isabella closes the café, Pierre is left wondering how much longer he will need to keep working before he can claim his pension.
Simply and elegantly captures the dignity of a day’s work, the humanity of friendship and the loneliness of aging.