Wow. I just loved this book from the very first page.
Delicacy by David Foenkinos took France by storm when it was published in 2009 and has since been made into a film (starring French darling, Audrey Tautou).
Delicacy is an unlikely love story. It begins with François, approaching a beautiful stranger (Natalie) on the street. He asks her out for coffee. She agrees and so begins their deep and blissful romance.
“Why had he stopped her? It had mostly to do with the way she walked. He’d sensed something new, almost childlike, like a rhapsody of kneecaps.”
But don’t get too comfortable – François is knocked over by a car and killed while out on a Sunday morning jog (that’s not a spoiler – it happens early in the book).
“The book was cut in two by it: the first part, read while François was alive. And at page 321, he was dead. What should she do? Can you keep reading a book interrupted by the death of your husband?”
While that extract sounds a little glib, Natalie in fact grieves terribly.
“Mourning possesses a double-edged power, an uncompromising power that propels everything as much toward the necessity for change as toward the morbid temptation to stay faithful to the past.”
Years later and still grieving, Natalie kisses Markus, a colleague at work. It’s done without thought on Natalie’s part but Markus (described as unattractive and dorky) falls in love with her.
“…a loop scene of the kiss kept playing in his head. It was already a cult film in his memory.”
The writing, like the title of the book, is delicate. To say it is ‘simple’ misrepresents Foenkinos’s style. Instead, it is restrained (in a truly lovely way), pared down and in being such, the turns in the plot and the emotions felt by the characters have all the more impact. There is also the author’s dry humour and succinct observations to enjoy –
“With grandparents, the rapt happiness of seeing their grandchildren definitely needs no spiels.”
“That Friday evening, as he left, he was really glad to be able to take refuge in the weekend. He was going to use Saturday and Sunday as two thick blankets.”
Mention must be made of the odd lists and various titbits separating the chapters – from risotto recipes and door security codes to lyrics and John Lennon’s Discography If He Hadn’t Died in 1980. I didn’t mind these – they were fun and kept things light, particularly when some of the story had the potential to be quite depressing.
Read this book with Swedish Krisprolls – I’d never heard of them (I think they are essentially a plumper mini-toast) but they feature at critical moments in the story.
5/5 – any book that makes me laugh and cry (especially in the space of one chapter) is a winner.