Delicacy by David Foenkinos: quirky Frenchness at its best [mini review]

23 Jan

This tragicomique smasher from French author David Foenkinos made a massive impact in his home country, selling more than 470,000 copies and winning nominations for all five of the major literary prizes in France. A regular feature star of French ELLE magazine, the author is fast establishing himself as a key member of Europe’s literati.


La Delicatesse (Delicacy) is a quirky telling of the unlikely love story between a beautiful young widow (Nathalie) and her unattractive, dry-witted Swedish co-worker (Markus). It’s a poignant and often surprisingly funny tale of the heart and all its complexities, as an unplanned kiss leads to an unusual love affair. Told in chapters separated by off-beat lists and incidental titbits, ranging from uplifting aphorisms to risotto recipes and even John Lennon’s Discography If He Hadn’t Died in 1980, it keeps a playful feel throughout which I really liked. Occasionally the randomness feels a little forced – I found the the footnotes particularly jarring as they often gave nothing at all to the plot.

Stephane Foenkinos, Francois Damiens, Audrey Tautou, David Foenkinos@ the Delicatesse premiere

That said, with the film adaptation (La Delicatesse) hitting British cinemas in early 2012, and a certain Mademoiselle Tautou taking the lead role, the literary spotlight is set to shine on this little gem. Keeping it well and truly dans la famille, Foenkinos’ brother Stephane directs the French flick. Was it written with a screenplay in mind? With a chapter written in script, and Tautou mentioned as the actress playing Nathalie, it seems more than a happy coincidence. How does it compare to Tautou’s most famous French love story, Amelie? Written with a similarly irresistible charm and lightness but given weight by grief and broken hearts, Delicacy reads like an Amelie for grown-ups.

[Adapted version of my review that appeared in Stylist magazine]

Has anyone seen the film yet??


4 Responses to “Delicacy by David Foenkinos: quirky Frenchness at its best [mini review]”

  1. Claire 'Word by Word' March 31, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    I haven’t read this, thank you for bringing it to my attention, it sounds like a fun read.

    I love that you are reading ‘The Snow Child’, that is my all time favourite book so far this year, a unique and compelling story and a gentle, flowing writing style that pulls the reader in without forcing anything.

  2. booksaremyfavouriteandbest May 21, 2012 at 4:00 am #

    Film well worth seeing – Tautou is, of course, charming. Casting all round is spot on. You’ll be pleased to know there are no film equivalents of all the footnotes, song lyrics and odd notes that are included in the book!

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