I made two New Year’s Resolutions in January. One of them was to write in a journal everyday (some details that don’t make it onto DJNL make it into that journal) and the other was to alternate between reading a French and an English book each few weeks for the entire year. With the year’s first quarter almost over I am well on my way and now prepared to bring DJNL’s readers a truncated review of each of the books I’ve read. I will also either recommend them or not.
I started the year in French with Le Plongeur by Stéphane Larue. Published late last year I had heard great things about the book that takes place in 2002 and centres on a young man in his late teens whose troubled life brings him into the restaurant industry as a dishwasher. The books starts off a little rocky but quickly finds it’s legs with an intriguing story that goes back and forth between frantic shifts at the restaurant and the main characters battle with demons like a compulsive gambling addiction.
The story is at its strongest when we are in the depths of the restaurant. The action moves swiftly and the stress of getting meals out to the dining room along with the complicated human relationships that are formed in the kitchen is riveting. For someone like myself, who loves Montreal’s restaurant scene, this book was wonderfully insightful. Le Plongeur is not without it’s weaknesses. The story trails on a little too long and I felt like Larue had a bit of a difficult time finding an ending. When we do find the ending the story got a bit of an eye-roll from this reader. The main character is the only one who feels at all fleshed out and I would imagine this comes from him being based on some of the authors experiences. That being said, the character is infuriating which means that the author did his job in getting us to care, even if we want to shake some sense in the guy.
Overall Le Plongeur is a wonderfully insightful book that has us diving headfirst into the hazardous pan of a restaurant dishwasher’s life. If you’re curious about the dark side of the nightlife, this book is for you. Despite certain shortcomings it is one of the most interesting books I’ve read in French to date.
Polygraphe, roman, octobre 2016, 576 p. — ISBN 978-2-896982-72-1