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Indelicacy

by Amina Cain

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2308115,838 (3.6)14
In "a strangely ageless world somewhere between Emily Dickinson and David Lynch" (Blake Butler), a cleaning woman at a museum of art nurtures aspirations to do more than simply dust the paintings around her. She dreams of having the liberty to explore them in writing, and so must find a way to win herself the time and security to use her mind. She escapes her lot by marrying a rich man, but having gained a husband, a house, high society, and a maid, she finds that her new life of privilege is no less constrained. Not only has she taken up different forms of time-consuming labor-social and erotic-but she is now, however passively, forcing other women to clean up after her. Perhaps another and more drastic solution is necessary? Reminiscent of a lost Victorian classic in miniature, yet taking equal inspiration from such modern authors as Jean Rhys, Octavia Butler, Clarice Lispector, and Jean Genet, Amina Cain's Indelicacy is at once a ghost story without a ghost, a fable without a moral, and a down-to-earth investigation of the barriers faced by women in both life and literature. It is a novel about seeing, class, desire, anxiety, pleasure, friendship, and the battle to find one's true calling.… (more)
  1. 00
    Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (potenza)
    potenza: As the the story progressed, I started to hear Barbara Pym. Something of similar sensibility on self and relationships and humor.
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» See also 14 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
"Indelicacy" is a strange butterfly of a book - it dips down into the corporeal realm and then immediately flips around and flits back into something delightfully intangible yet somehow still relatable. Watching the main character move through her strange world and examine the things around and inside of her was really satisfying and eye-opening; it felt like I was immersed in a POV period drama or a dream most of the time, but not one that was nonsensical. Almost the opposite, in fact! Cain has such a keen talent for describing moments that tend to feel indescribable while also opening the doors to new feelings and emotions. I can see how this book wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but personally I fell in love with this one. "Indelicacy" is refreshing, unusual, and beautifully written. ( )
  deborahee | Feb 23, 2024 |
What a delightful read! This reminded me of Sylvia Plath's journals but with Emily Dickinson's whimsy. Cain has written an earnest narrator who documents her life without the clutter of overdeveloped scenery. It is tender without being sentimental, and I found myself snickering at our narrator's quick wit and offbeat jabs.

( )
  victorier | Aug 23, 2023 |
I devoured this book in two days! This story touched my soul in a way no other story has. An introspective look at the life of a female writer and the expectations from society and others. A quest for freedom and a search for honesty. A tale destined to be part of the classic feminist literary canon. ( )
  AngelaLam | Feb 8, 2022 |
An absolute gem. ( )
  Bruyere_C | Dec 2, 2021 |
Described by Amazon as a "feminist fable," this is the tale of Vittoria, a cleaning woman at a museum who wants to write about art, her reactions and thoughts on art. She marries a rich man, and has everything she wants, including time to explore and write about art, yet she is still unhappy.
This was not the book for me. There is no sense of place (and I'm coming to realize a sense of place in a novel is a very important element for me). There's a lake, she walks everywhere, there are museums and theaters, but it's not a city. I thought maybe it was set in Europe or South America, but the author is American. Nothing happens that makes any difference to anyone. We know Vittoria is dissatisfied with the marriage, but we have no sense of her character, how or why she married this rich man, what their relationship was, or is. She leaves the marriage to "find herself," but in the end the whole novel seemed pointless to me.

Not recommended.
2 stars ( )
1 vote arubabookwoman | Aug 6, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
It's as if something that should happen is waiting for me . . . it's something that owes itself to me, it looks like me, it's almost myself. But it never gets close. You can call it fate if you want. Because I've tried to go out and meet it.
—Clarice Lispector, The Apple in the Dark
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To Alex and Laida
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I thought that being in the country would help me write, with its fields and horses, but I don't think I was meant for that.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In "a strangely ageless world somewhere between Emily Dickinson and David Lynch" (Blake Butler), a cleaning woman at a museum of art nurtures aspirations to do more than simply dust the paintings around her. She dreams of having the liberty to explore them in writing, and so must find a way to win herself the time and security to use her mind. She escapes her lot by marrying a rich man, but having gained a husband, a house, high society, and a maid, she finds that her new life of privilege is no less constrained. Not only has she taken up different forms of time-consuming labor-social and erotic-but she is now, however passively, forcing other women to clean up after her. Perhaps another and more drastic solution is necessary? Reminiscent of a lost Victorian classic in miniature, yet taking equal inspiration from such modern authors as Jean Rhys, Octavia Butler, Clarice Lispector, and Jean Genet, Amina Cain's Indelicacy is at once a ghost story without a ghost, a fable without a moral, and a down-to-earth investigation of the barriers faced by women in both life and literature. It is a novel about seeing, class, desire, anxiety, pleasure, friendship, and the battle to find one's true calling.

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