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Delicacy: A Novel Paperback – Feb 6 2012


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Review

“Delicate, funny, offbeat, and subtle . . . 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.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Lighthearted and offbeat, [DELICACY] serves up a mostly frothy dish of romance, lost love, new hope, and typically Gallic sensibilities . . . [a] thoughtful, character-driven novel.” (Booklist)

“A more whimsical, less knowing variation on David Nicholls’s blockbuster One Day . . .immensely likeable, unexpectedly compelling.” (Irish Times)

“An extraordinary combination of emotional depth and lightness of touch that sometimes approaches the whimsical without ever tipping over into the twee.” (Sydney Morning Herald)

Foenkinos infuses the perfect amount of humor into this unorthodox love story . . . . His prose conjures up the comic neurosis of Woody Allen . . .A delicious chocolate truffle of romance.” (Washington Post)

From the Back Cover

Natalie and François are the perfect couple, and perfectly happy. But after François dies suddenly, only seven years into their still blissful marriage, the widowed Natalie erects a fortress around her emotions into which no one can gain access. Until the most unlikely candidate appears: Markus, Natalie’s Swedish, geeky, and unassuming coworker.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 44 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Refreshing book about enduring love Feb. 22 2012
By coachsandi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I don't normally write customer reviews, but I absolutely loved this book and do not want it to slip by unnoticed. As someone whose first husband died too young, I could totally relate to Natalie's sense that her life had lost meaning, and that nobody could ever replace him. When an unexpected relationship develops with a co-worker in such a natural yet surprising way, I could hardly put the book down.

I always love a well written book, and this one delighted me with its refreshing style and word choices that kept me reading phrases and sentences out loud to my husband. Since this was a translation from the French, I found myself wondering how the original could possibly work as well as this! Delicacy reeled me in from the first words, and never disappointed me right through the last sentence.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Life and emotions are delicate, lest we forget Feb. 27 2012
By las cosas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A bestseller in France, this book is the first novel ever nominated for all five major French literary prizes.

Plot is not the point of this short novel, which makes it unlikely that it will repeat that popular success in the United States. Which is unfortunate, because this book successfully explores the emotional lives of its characters. As a nation we in the United States are addicted to the plot, to the shifts and plunges of a story. And for those in search of that adrenalin hit, this book will disappoint. But it has definite pleasures, and those linger much longer than the mere attraction of a storyline.

Start with the title: delicacy. It is a word not used much in daily life, an old-fashioned word. But appealing, intriguing, somewhat remote and even mysterious. But easy to pass over as a book title.

The gentle narrative arc of this book concerns Natalie, a beautiful woman in her twenties and thirties who hesitantly falls in love and marries Francois. He is killed in a bicycle accident. Francois in her grief buries herself in her work for the Paris division of a Swedish research firm where she navigates the relationships with her boss, Charles, and a subordinate, Marcus. And that is about it for the plot.

It is in the examination of the nuances of emotions and desire that this book excels. While the plot is thin, the intricacies of interior dialog and the great space given characters to think and react is highly unusual in current bestseller fiction. When Marcus and Natalie awkwardly stumble through their individual protective shells in search of emotional stability, the descriptions are nuanced, unusual and yet the reader understands the narrative consistency and fidelity to what we have earlier learned of these characters.

In life people don't usual move briskly from point A to B in a straight line, but in fiction the author rarely can be bothered to slow the plot sufficiently to explore the worlds of indecision and false starts that often accompany that A-B journey. This author reminds the reader that the journey itself, rather than the plot point where it ends, is the important part of life.

If you want someone to understand who you are, your essential self, would you hand that person your resume, or tell them a story? A meandering, delicate story that tells a truth about you beyond the facts of your life. This book does an excellent job of this, of just this.

Oh...and a warning. This book perfectly conveys the insidious gossiping and schoolyard bullying that can go on in an office setting, where there is limited privacy and certain workers see it as their full-time job to expose the private lives of co-workers. Natalie and Marcus are caught in this web of office gossip in a manner way too realistic for the comfort of this particular reader.

The translation is fine, but given the nuances of thought and emotions that make up the core of the book, I found certain sentences clunky, awkward and these often felt like translation deficiencies. "Charm took effect, and even progressed." "Because nothing wears you out more than living under the sensual dictates of beauty set in stone."

There are chapters with factual information alternating with the storyline of the novel. Natalie is listening to a song and the next chapter is a listing of the lyrics. Or there is a discussion of food allergies followed by a chapter on food allergies. And there are a few footnotes supposedly elucidating the text. For example when Natalie is eating soup the note states "We haven't been able to obtain any details regarding the exact nature of that soup." Both the factual chapters and footnotes read like affectations, as though the author lacked confidence in his story and needed to add these elements to add bulk and 'sophistication'. The novel would have been better without these unnecessary decorations.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A quirky, enjoyable read Feb. 21 2012
By Bp2000 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not one to write reviews, but I was upset to see that this book had only garnered a one-star review. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found the author's writing style to be refreshing. It is a story woven from many perspectives of characters that are sometimes only passing through, and you feel an emotional attachment to each of them. The author is gifted with creativity and I truly felt like I was reading a work of art, up for interpretation.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Delicate, Wonderful, Touching Feb. 26 2012
By Unforgiven - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This novel, written wonderfully by David Foenkinos in a beautiful, flowing prose style, is a story of love, loss, hope and learning to live again. The title is almost all you need to know about this book, for it is truly delicate in presentation, with both delicate characters and a delicate story. It is the story of Natalie, grieving from the loss of her husband, and Markus, a geeky, unassuming coworker of Natalie's. Peppered with factoids, anecdotes, song lyrics and verses of poetry, Delicacy is a touching and tender read. I recommend it highly to anyone who has ever dealt with loss and wondered how they could ever move on.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Dictionaries stop where the heart starts" Aug. 6 2012
By Sam Quixote - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Francois meets Natalie. They fall in love and get married. Francois dies in an accident. Natalie is devastated. One day, years after Francois' death, she kisses one of her colleagues, Markus, on a whim. Could Markus be Natalie's lifeline back to love?

If I'd read that synopsis I would have said that no way would this be a novel I'd enjoy nor think it could possibly work, but having read the novel I can say "Delicacy" is a discovery for me - it's a really good novel. But it's more than a romance novel with nothing to offer but surface texture, its subject is what all great literary novels are concerned with: the human spirit and the human heart.

What makes someone love someone else? How does love happen? Both of Natalie's loves in the book are met by chance, and as for why, well, the novel doesn't really explain it. But who could? People just fall for other people. At one point, Natalie's boss Charles tries to make Natalie love him by mimicking her love Markus but of course it doesn't work. And it's not just looks, Markus is described throughout as odd looking, even ugly, while Natalie always positively, beautiful, goddess, the most beautiful woman in the office, etc. The story explores love tentatively which is maybe the only way to explore love - and of course draws no conclusions, just that two people found each other and fell in love.

The lightness of the story - there isn't a plot - and the fluid writing style that is unchallenging and simple (but not simplistic), make "Delicacy" both a quick read but also more enjoyable as you just get swept up in the story and can enjoy these two likeable people slowly come out of their own respective shells and find a reason to live. The romance in the novel is not cloying, melodramatic, or salacious as it can sometimes be in romance stories. Here it's written almost as an afterthought to a burgeoning relationship. It's charming and it feels real.

The style of the novel is to have short chapters interspersing the longer ones which contain small titbits to complement the story such as the ingredients to a dish the characters are eating or an excerpt from a book the characters are reading or a text message sent from Natalie to Markus. It felt a bit like a Nick Hornby novel like "High Fidelity" where the chapters are interspersed with Rob's "Top Five ..." lists. These chapters didn't really need to be there but chopped up the story nicely and kept you turning the pages. For some reason having these breaks in between chapters make it an even smoother read than it is.

David Foenkinos has written a romance novel for people who don't normally read romance novels. It's light and breezy like a love song sung on a summer night and can be enjoyed just as purely and completely. I can understand why some might feel it to be insubstantial but that is what a delicacy is, isn't it? Something delightful to savour for a few moments before it's gone and you move onto the next thing. In that, "Delicacy" is a triumph - a wonderful read that people who enjoyed "High Fidelity", "Chocolat" or "Amelie" will love. I sure did.

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