The book begins, takes place, and ends in one place: The Hills. The Hills is a decades old highly esteemed restaurant. From its walls to its tablecloths, The Hills is steeped in old world decadence, tradition, and society.
The titular character, our waiter, leads us through his life…which, more or less, exists only within the dining room of The Hills. His clients, his regulars, and the new diners are the center of the universe. As he observes and comments on the windows, the actors, the boozers, and the glamorous we are along with him for the ride.
The book, which, until this point, seems like any other day, radically changes course when Mr Graham, the most demanding of them all, impatiently awaits a special guest. When at last she arrives – young, beautiful, mysterious who never shows (at least not at first).
This book is quite episodic. It is sectioned into five different parts but the parts only show one thing: The Waiter’s increased involvement with his patrons. Each chapter within these parts can be read as a little tableau. This makes the book perfect for reading on the metro, in quick bursts to shake up a reading slump, or on a lazy day by the water. This is not a book one tears through or binges. You savor it, like a good glass of wine.
Now, that being said this episodic nature made it hard to connect the characters at first. You’re so focused on trying to get to know the Hills that the Waiter’s slow unraveling and intimacy with his patrons almost sneaks up on you. I’d say Pt I is very engaging and atmospheric, but Pt II-III fell a bit flat for me. However, the growing intimacy and engagement between the Waiter and the guests and rest of the staff of the Hills really pulls you back in Pt. IV-V.
I quite liked the interaction between the Waiter and the guests and the fact that as his intimacy with them grows, he moves from neurotic to psychotic and becomes more and more untethered from the job he has had for over a decade. I think this is an interesting commentary on what happens to one pysche when they go from the observer to the observed.
Overall, though this book had a bit of a slow start when it came to connecting to the characters and a dip in activity in the middle of the narrative I found The Waiter an interesting read.