An aspiring writer finds a way to live the life she’s always wanted.
In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf wrote that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”—and that sentiment echoes through Cain’s (Creature, 2013, etc.) debut novel. The protagonist, Vitória, a young and bright museum cleaning woman, spends her days dreaming about writing. In the moments between scrubbing toilets and floors, she writes descriptions of paintings and notices the world around her. Soon she is plucked from her life by a rich husband and placed into another. Her new life is complete with a large house, a personal study, and a maid, who serves as a constant reminder of her own upward social mobility. Despite her good fortune, Vitória is unhappy. At one point, Vitória wonders about her good luck and how she was “saved” from a wholly different life. She writes about a glue factory where women work and horses are sacrificed: “We should memorialize the horses, remember them truthfully, and the women who have to spend their days in that way....I have benefited from a woman who never stops working, walking back from the factory in the morning and the night.” She recognizes the sacrifices women make and, more importantly, the ones she no longer has to make. Deeply rooted in the literary tradition, the novel inconspicuously references works like Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea and Octavia Butler’s Kindred and explores themes like class and gender. With its short, spare sentences, Cain’s writing seems simple on the surface—but it is deeply observant of the human condition, female friendships, and art.
A short, elegant tale about female desire and societal expectations.