Vitória, a museum cleaner, dreams of a different life in Amina Cain's first novel, Indelicacy. Set in an indistinct Victorian era, Vitória's candid revelations about her inner life make this a compelling and carefully drawn character study. When not working, she's writing, inspired by the museum's paintings. She marries a rich man in order to stop working and write regularly. Her husband thinks he's rescued her, but she proves a willful partner. "Why had I chosen him?" she wonders. "Had it been for survival, for experience? Both of these things, I guess."

Vitória fashions intellectual freedoms within the marriage to satisfy her needs, cultivating female friendships and artistic enrichment. She continues to write, often for hours a day. She says, "It's true I did want everything he gave me, but I will die if I can't write and then I will have wasted my life." She knows she's harsh, and says, "I didn't want to be invisible, though sometimes I treated others as though they themselves were." When she wants to leave her husband, she manipulates events so that he leaves instead. Still, after their separation, she admits to uncertainty about her choice to live alone. She realizes that her writing, which is her most authentic voice, may be "too much of my own self. I am stalking my own soul." Yet she concludes, "Still in the process of becoming, the soul makes room." Cain (Creature) works with insight and finely crafted writing, making Indelicacy perfect for fans of Virginia Woolf and Michael Cunningham. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

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