Betty has found herself at The Hole, a bar for upscale alcoholics who live in the affluent villages and suburbs surrounding Versailles. She is at the end of a three- day drunk. Her current escort is a distinguished older man whom she vaguely remembers meeting earlier in the evening. When he becomes obsessed with using a gold toothpick to remove the worms he insists are burrowing under Betty’s skin, the bars owner removes him and drives him home. Betty is taken under the wing of Laure, a middle-aged woman who offers her a room in the nearby hotel she lives in.We learn about Betty in flashbacks, her conversations with Laure, and the events that unfold around her.
Her marriage to the younger son of a distinguished military family with a fancy Parisian address has unraveled due to Betty’s drinking and promiscuity. The one million franc check she has in her purse is down payment for her agreement to give up all parental claims on her two young daughters and to never see the family again.Betty is sick, but Laure is the widow of a distinguished surgeon and takes charge of the situation.
Maybe her regimen of Phenobarbital and whiskey was an accepted cure in 1950’s France. When a doctor is called in, he registers Betty’s low blood pressure and irregular heartbeat and announces that she needs five days of bed rest.Readers will think this all going to end badly, but this is a Georges Simenon novel. His does not indulge us with surprising plot twists. His psychological dissection of Betty, Laure, the awful family Betty is fleeing, and the denizens of The Hole produces shifts of perspective. Perhaps we are justified in our concern for Betty, but the young woman proves capable of taking care of herself.