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Indelicacy

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  2,254 ratings  ·  394 reviews
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 marryi ...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Robert Hudder The setting is not defined. It feels as if the main character an immigrant in a cosmopolitan city (Eastern European in Toronto, New York, London). Giv…moreThe setting is not defined. It feels as if the main character an immigrant in a cosmopolitan city (Eastern European in Toronto, New York, London). Given its fairy tale qualities, I am not sure it is meant to be taken as set anywhere. (less)

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Average rating 3.54  · 
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 ·  2,254 ratings  ·  394 reviews


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Justin Tate
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Damn! What an accomplishment. There’s more to unpack in this slim 160 pages than most books can achieve with 500. The whole time I kept thinking of all my friends who would gobble this up like me, in one breathless sitting. I want to loan out my copy to everyone I know so we can talk about it—but I’m also scared they won’t want to give it back. Ahh! What a dilemma.

I would try to describe the gist of it, but that’s basically impossible and the less you know going in the better. I will only say th
...more
Roxane
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very interesting stylistically. Ruminative.
Robin
Apr 05, 2020 rated it liked it
The quote that opens this novella, this debut by Amina Cain, made me jump back. "Oh, NO!" I cried. "Clarice Lispector? Not HER!"

It's true. It was a major put off. Clarice Lispector scares me (because of THIS, and THIS). Her plot-less-ness puts me into a panicky, page-ripping state of mind. And her self-absorbed philosophizing gives me butt-kicking ideas.

Fortunately, Amina Cain's book doesn't go quite into Lispector's black void. There IS a plot, although it's very airy, as plots go. And there ar
...more
Toni
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss2020
Indelicacy is a very unusual book. My conventional mind tried very hard and failed to put it within any time and place constraints, and then decided it didn't matter. As the blurb rightly suggests, there is something Victorian about it, something about male and female attitudes, the protagonist having people to wait on her and other people to entertain, or perhaps the idea that the only way to escape a life of poverty and endless floors to mop is to marry a rich man?

At the beginning of the book
...more
Carmen
"You're almost like an animal," he said. "I never know what you will do."

"I know."

A red squirrel climbing a tree.

"But in reality you're a woman."

I laughed. "What does that mean?"

"It isn't nice to call your wife an animal, is it?"

"I think it's interesting."

But then my husband was annoyed with me, for I had taken the conversation too far, even though I had hardly taken it far at all. "You try to make yourself abnormal on purpose," he said. "You think it makes you better than the other people aroun
...more
Betsy Robinson
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, painters, artists of all stripes
Recommended to Betsy by: Justin Tate
Almost from the first words of this tiny novel, my brain began percolating, popping, and screaming:

Amina Cain—she did it! She did it! She made a story (at times, an unexpectedly hilarious one) out of the nothing of being a writer. She told all sides by splitting it into two or multiple characters, or maybe they're all the same, who knows, I don't care … This is like when I was a professional mole, doing solitary jobs that nobody else wanted: cleaning, typing labels, taking care of office plants
...more
lark benobi
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, fsg
I saw a city filled with people I didn’t know, would probably never know. It didn’t bother me; it’s the same for everyone. When people look at me, they also see a stranger.

Vitória, the narrator, is still a stranger to me at the end of this short novel. She has friends, and a husband, too, but what she projects throughout this story is a person who lives in self-imposed, nearly unbearable solitude, even when she is with others. Her solitude isn't unbearable to her, but it's unbearable to me as a
...more
Blair
I read this novella mainly because it’s so brief (took me about 45 minutes); I found it quite bizarre in its lack of emotion, and wouldn’t have persisted had it been longer. It’s the narrative of a woman named Vitória who works as a cleaner in a museum, dreams of being a writer, then eventually marries a wealthy man. It is typical of the book that this is all she says about her wedding:

We were married at the start of the summer and hardly anyone attended—a few of his friends, a cousin from Brazi
...more
Cheri
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020

’In books I found even more strongly my desire to write, to write back to them and their jagged, perfect words. I found life that ran close to my own.’

A relatively short rags-to-riches tale of a woman who works as a cleaning woman at an art museum, spending her free time writing about her feelings about the art on the walls in between scrubbing walls and floors and toilets.

’While I dusted, I listened to the music and afterward wanted to describe it in my notebook. I was thinking things t
...more
Jaclyn
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ll be thinking about this 160-page novella for longer than I will most 400-page novels. Cain has written a contemporary mini Victorian novel about roles and societal expectations of women and how to liberate ourselves from class, gender and our own anxieties. Her deployment of narrative distancing techniques combines beautifully with her intimate writings where she puts us in paintings and nature. It’s all completely intriguing and thought provoking.
Krista
Mar 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, arc
My husband picked up his spoon again; then to my great surprise, I imagine because he was jealous, he said we could smoke hashish together.

“When?” was the only thing I managed to say. How indelicate.

Indelicacy is another ARC I brought into self-isolation without knowing much (other than some great reviews) about it. Now I wonder: What was the fuss? And I need to conclude: This is a book for other writers; based on the reviews, perhaps only they who live in their minds and who sweat out words
...more
JimZ
Dec 31, 2020 rated it liked it
When the protagonist of this novel, Vitória, gets annoyed by people she reacts like the French soldier in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” when the soldier said to King Arthur “I fart in your general direction.” 😮

This is what she says…
• …when she is out and about and minding her own business and too many men ask her what she is doing she says “Your face looks like the butt of a wolf and it’s interfering with my concentration.”
• …when she is annoyed at a reading by the pretentiousness of two au
...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This was a very unsatisfying read for me. The author seems to be trying to write a story with the gender roles flipped. The writing, however, is spare and comes across as very distant. There is no sense of time or place in this book and the main character lacks depth. I also found her quite unlikeable. She leaves her family because she wants to be on her own and become a writer. She gets married to a wealthy man mainly to provide her with financial support while she pursues her creative passions ...more
Eric Anderson
Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There have been many novels about writers grappling with the process of writing. So much so that it's almost become an eye-rolling cliché and could be considered the ultimate form of navel-gazing. But Amina Cain's “Indelicacy” does something very different with this well trodden subject matter. It's a retrospective tale narrated by Vitória who worked as a cleaner in a museum before marrying a wealthy man. Throughout her life she's been driven by a passionate desire to write. The form of her writ ...more
Bandit
Oct 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m the first person to review this book and I’d hate to be indelicate about it (buh dum dum), but it isn’t the sort of thing that’s easy to recommend. Even the official description of it…the fable without a moral, the ghost story without a ghost…it’s meant to be clever and alluring, but when you think about it, it just kind of spotlights the insubstantiality of the entire thing. Personally, I didn’t really think of it as either of those descriptors, I’m not sure what it was. In was hoping for s ...more
Paula
Sep 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Dang, this is a hard book to review. It's not like anything else I've ever read. I liked it, but I didn't LOVE it, and I'm not sure I even enjoyed it much, though I was very intrigued throughout. As not only a writer, but a writer who particularly loves to do ekphrastic writing, and attends monthly groups at the Denver Art Museum where we spend 2 hours writing about various art works, I really enjoyed the aspects of the story that did have to do with her writing, specifically.

There are some bri
...more
Shannon
This is a beautifully written story. I read this one slowly, so I could savor the language. My favorite parts of the book were the descriptions of the paintings. Such gorgeous writing!


A super big thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me a free copy in exchange for an honest review! :)
Jimmy
I really enjoyed Cain's other book Creature, a book of short meditative prose pieces. But this book, her first novel, didn't do much for me. There were passages that recalled the subtle brilliance of her unique brand of prose, but they were usually few and far between, lost in a novel that seemed to be set in the near-present, yet the attitudes of the narrator and other characters seem like those of another era.

Spoilers: the narrator talks almost like a kept woman; she starts off as a janitor,
...more
Alissa Hattman
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
To read Amina Cain is to enter tide pools of the mind. On its surface, her fiction is quiet, lovely, contained, but sit with any passage and that which seems still uncoils and comes alive. The reach of her fiction is an invitation to peer deep into our inner worlds.

In the tradition of the Künstlerroman, Cain’s debut novel Indelicacy follows the maturity and growth of an artist, and like Proust’s In Search of Lost Time or Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, it is a novel interested in consciousness, identity, th
...more
Jiny S
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Indelicacy is a short read. It takes a slice of one ordinary woman’s life, and paints a picture with different colours of moods, memories, thoughts and desires.

The protagonist was once a cleaning lady who worked at a museum. Without much explanation of how or why, she becomes the wife of a rich man, who in turn made her into a woman with money.

The protagonist enjoys writing immensely, even before she had the free time to dally her artistic pursuits. She pays attention to the finer things in lif
...more
Bill Hsu
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
I'm in a rut with first novels (sorry Clare Beams, Vikram Paralkar). I keep thinking "not as good as the earlier short stories". Join the club, Amina Cain. ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Dec 18, 2019 rated it liked it
via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/
“You’re different from when I last saw you,” she said.

“I married someone rich. Is that what you mean?”

She nodded. “It agrees with you.”

Vitória has been working since she was a child of twelve years old, years spent earning her keep, working her hands raw. Now a cleaner in an art museum alongside her friend Antoinette, she yearns for the freedom to think, write, exist for more than tidying up after the rest of the world. They spend their days dre
...more
Stacia
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Occasionally a man would walk by and ask what I was doing. "A menu for a dinner party," I would say. Or, "I am writing down my dreams." When too many men had walked by with this same question, or some version of it, I said, "Your face looks like the butt of a wolf and it's interfering with my concentration." I was a rich woman now; I could say these things.

Sharp & tight. This book completely hit the spot for me. I absolutely loved it.
...more
Helen McClory
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As with Cain's Creature I was enchanted by this work. The atmosphere is uniquely light and well-formed, though with echoes of Rhys and Lispector. It creates with a kind of power I am unable to pinpoint a space for calm and beautiful observation. It's not a book to rush through, but the kind of book that requires a quiet room with a view of the woods, or misty summer fields, in which to allow its space to flow into you and through you. It's wonderful, and you should all read it. ...more
Paris (parisperusing)
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
An enchanting, ambitiously feminist debut novel chronicling one woman’s quest for emancipation in a time in which such independency was unheard of. Cain adorns Indelicacy with art, ambition, and sentimentality in a manner that harmoniously outlines the price women paid for desiring to be more than just women — for breaking the frontiers of what was conventional for a chance at survival and happiness.
Delia Rainey
Jun 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
i like being alone with this main character, who is alone with her writing, stalking her own soul. a quick read / escapism. i’m left feeling like i’m floating through a gallery of amina cain’s rooms.
Jill
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
If I’m being honest, I considered abandoning this audiobook about a third of the way through. I’m glad I stuck with it.

It’s not an engaging book, really. It’s sparsely written and very short, and the protagonist, Vitória, is not likable, even seeming slightly robotic at times. Everything is at arm’s length. She is motivated almost solely by what she feels is a need to write, but I think more specifically she wants to BE A WRITER; what she’s really after is recognition. It’s kindof like how I wou
...more
Rhiannon Johnson
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for my complimentary review copy.

A cleaning woman marries a rich man but does not find peace in her new privilege. She dreams of writing but her new role consumes her time in new ways. This 176-page novella hit me in the same ways as The Resurrection of Joan Ashby. If you know me and my reviews, you know that is almost the highest praise I can possibly give!
Jesús
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Rebecca meets Turn of the Screw. Or maybe Last Year at Marienbad meets Jane Eyre? Whichever. Or both. I dunno. I actually read this book at least four times before finally putting it down.

Maybe it’s a fable about creativity? Or a parable about getting what you ask for? Or maybe it’s all just the dream-vision of a failed writer? Or is it all ultimately the fantasy-life of a museum docent? Utter fiction? This book will take a while to settle in my brain. I take that as a good sign.

Having very rec
...more
Jacob Wren
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"I didn’t want to be invisible, though sometimes I treated others at though they themselves were. My notebook in my hands changing the energy in the room. All of us do this, change the rooms we’re in." ...more
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Amina Memory Cain is the author of the novel Indelicacy, a New York Times Editors’ Choice and staff pick at the Paris Review, published in February 2020 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and two collections of short fiction, Creature, out with Dorothy, a publishing project, and I Go To Some Hollow, with Les Figues Press. Her writing has appeared in Granta, The Paris Review Daily, n+1, BOMB, Full Stop, t ...more

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