Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-09-12
- Reviewer: Staff
Natalie and François’s perfect marriage is brought to a tragically abrupt end when François is hit by a car while jogging. Natalie mourns deeply for three months and then goes back to work, where she receives the unwanted attention of her boss, Charles. She makes it clear that she has no interest in him and seems to have no interest in men at all, until Markus, a Swedish man who works for her, reawakens her desire. After a kiss in the office, the two begin seeing each other. She likes Markus because he’s funny and doesn’t try to pressure her, and Markus can’t believe his luck at landing the most beautiful woman at work. But word of their affair soon spreads around the office, reaching Charles, who hatches a plan to promote Markus back to Sweden, leaving Natalie all for himself. Foenkinos’s first novel to be translated into English is delicate, funny, offbeat, and subtle, with Markus and Natalie as unlikely but realistically drawn protagonists. Foenkinos paces the novel well, breaking it up with songs, lists, footnotes, and other formal elements reminiscent of Nick Hornby or Rick Moody yet making them his own. (Dec.)
Broken hearts and new beginnings
It goes without saying that the French know a thing or two about love. In his heartfelt, heartbreaking novel, translated from the French, award-winning writer David Foenkinos proves that he knows a great deal about men, women, love lost and love found.
At the beginning of Delicacy, young, beautiful Natalie appears to have it all: a high-powered job at a growing corporation, an exciting life in Paris and a great love with her husband François. François and Natalie met by chance on the streets of Paris—a romantic meeting place if there ever was one—and quickly settled into a blissful, dynamic courtship and marriage. Then the unthinkable happens: François is struck by a car and killed while out for a run, and Natalie’s whole world comes crashing down.
Of course her friends and family try to provide some comfort. Her smarmy boss, Charles, hopelessly in love with her, promises that her job will be waiting for her whenever she decides to return. And yet she simply cannot imagine a life without François. But life must go on, even for the brokenhearted, and Natalie eventually returns to work. There she discovers Markus, a co-worker she’s known peripherally for some time. He’s a Swede and a bit of an oddball, but for some reason, Natalie kisses him in her office one day, and the course of her life is forever changed.
Foenkinos writes beautifully, in simple language with many comic asides to the reader, and his portrayal of a woman in crisis is stirring. His characters—Natalie, Markus and even Charles—feel like people we know or would like to know. And the way in which his charming novel unfolds is pure reading pleasure.
It’s easy to see why this book has been adapted for the French screen, with Amélie star Audrey Tautou perfectly cast as Natalie. Reading Delicacy is like taking a vacation from one’s own world and stepping into the complicated life of another—complete with the pain of loss, the difficulty of starting over and the pure joy of falling in love.