She works as a cleaner in a museum. It is hard to work out the time and place. She speaks of carriages and long dresses, yet also of the beach and bathing costumes. She lives alone and walks freely through the streets. Sometimes she might eat a small meal alone in a cheap cafe. She has no family that she sees, and in the beginning, only one friend. She speaks later of visiting Brazil, but it is hard to get a sense of where she is living.
Close to Christmas, there was chamber music in the front room of the museum. Before the concert began, the audience took their seats and then the musicians did. The instruments were taken up. There was the violin, filling the room. The lights from the window shone out into the snow.
This was my first concert.
Later, we find her name is Vitoria, and her passion, at first, is writing. In her notes she writes descriptions of the paintings, then begins to write about her friend and fellow cleaner, Antoinette.
Then she is ‘noticed’ by her husband and they marry at the beginning of the summer. He is young, handsome and wealthy and at first she likes him well enough. She enjoys sex, but soon finds having to be polite to visitors quite tedious. She has clothes and jewellery, freedom to write, but something is missing. And she has walked away from her friend Antoinette without a second thought. But after six months she is back at the museum looking for her.
I thought back to a night that previous winter, when in our wandering Antoinette and I had discovered a small tavern tucked in next to the lake and dared each other to go in… Sharing a glass of something cheap, we listened to the music of a band playing in the corner. It too was all men: still, it was good. Someone was playing a fiddle.
‘May I have this dance?’ Antoinette asked, surprising me.
But this not a tale about a woman falling in love with another woman. It is friendship and spontaneity that draw her. Later she becomes friends with another woman, Dana, who is a ballet dancer.
Dancing, walking, writing, friends, are her passions and somehow she cleverly works it so they are hers for as long as she wishes.
This elegant little novella is a delight. Amina Cain has written two books of short stories, this is her first longer fiction for which she is receiving many accolades.
A writer to watch.