Natalie was just twenty years old when she was approached by Francois on a Paris street. From that conversation, their relationship bloomed into two years of living together, followed by five of marriage. They were happy and almost never quarreled until one tragic day when everything changed.
To survive, Natalie immersed herself in her work and earned a promotion. Leading a team of six colleagues, she has been able to avoid her boss, Charles, whose inappropriate and unwanted attempt to seduce her made Natalie uncomfortable. But three years alone have taken a toll on Natalie and one day as her subordinate, Markus, enters her office, she behaviors in a completely uncharacteristic, rash manner.
For Natalie, it was one moment of madness, but it was much more for Markus, a hapless, lumpy, and outwardly ordinary man who has never had much luck with women. Markus wants to know what really motivated Natalie to be so brash. When office gossip reaches Charles, will he extract revenge?
Delicacy could easily have been just another unremarkable story of loss and beginning again, with some office intrigue thrown in for good measure. But in the skillful hands of French author David Foenkinos, it is a charmingly-told tale of two lost souls who manage to find each other.
Natalie’s life is practically perfect until one Sunday when she stays at home to relax and read while Francois goes out jogging. When he never returns, she is bereft and completely lost, widowed at the age of twenty-seven. An intensely private person, she allows her friends to care for her just for a few months, but then resumes work, throwing herself into her career in order to fill the void created when she lost Francois. She must also fend off the advances of her married boss, Charles. Being honorable, Natalie is forthright and brutally honest with Charles, who observes that his life has been totally lacking delicacy for quite awhile. For a time, it seems that Natalie has defused what could have been a very ugly situation.
Meanwhile, the real star of the story, Markus, is toiling away in the same Swedish-owned company. When Natalie is promoted three years after losing Francois, Markus becomes one of her six team members. Markus has an off-beat sense of humor — he is quite witty, actually — and little fashion sense. He is neither particularly attractive nor socially adept. He has only had a couple of relationships with women, but when Natalie catches him off-guard, she definitely gets his attention.
Foenkinos describes the unexpected coming together of two unlikely souls in a delicate, tender manner. His characterizations and insight into his protagonists’ psyches is searing, but poignantly restrained. His prose is evocative and delightfully refreshing. The result is a sweet and touching story of resilience and second chances. I highly recommend Delicacy.