‘Indelicacy’ by Amina Cain


‘Indelicacy’ by Amina Cain   (2020) – 161 pages


‘Indelicacy’ is a powerful novella about creativity. It is a short novel with short chapters, but it has a slow cadence; it is best if you read it slowly.

Can a woman who cleans toilets and mops floors for a living have strong ambitions to be a writer? ‘Indelicacy’ answers that question with a resounding “Yes”. ‘Indelicacy’ is a novel about the struggle to create.

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 mine.”

There are only a few characters in ‘Indelicacy’. Our narrator Vittoria and her friend Antoinette work as cleaners in a museum. Vittoria has an intense urge to write about the museum paintings when she is away from work.

One day as she is mopping the floors, Vittoria meets the man who will soon become her rich husband who remains unnamed throughout. One could say he is not one of the novella’s significant characters. Vittoria moves up in the world to a nice house with a maid, and she no longer must work as a cleaner.

Who are the other significant characters? Besides Antoinette, there is the young woman Dana whom Vittoria meets in ballet class after Vittoria is married. Dana is intensely pursuing ballet as Vittoria is pursuing writing. Then there is the woman Solange who works cleaning the house for Vittoria and her rich husband. No other characters are mentioned by name.

One of the many charms of ‘Indelicacy’ is when our female first-person narrator goes totally off the wall. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it prevents our narrator from sounding just too sincere. At one point, Vittoria attends a reading presented by two authors. Vittoria is not at all impressed by their performance and says to them on the way out, “You’re both worms of the worst kind. When you open your mouths, you are male worms eating from a toilet.”

One gets the impression that Amina Cain carefully chose each precise word in this unusual novella ‘Indelicacy’. It is a work that captures you on a visceral level rather than an intellectual level, which is always a good thing.


Grade:    A



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: