Briefly, A Delicious Life
Briefly, A Delicious Life is told from the perspective of Blanca, a fourteen-year-old ghost who died in 1473 at a monastery in Mallorca. Ever since she died, she has resided in the monastery, haunting the monks and their kin whom she blames for her death. Four hundred years later, composer Frédéric Chopin, and writer George Sand, along with her children, move into the same monastery. Blanca is immediately taken with George and follows the family as they move into their new home, battle Chopin’s long-term illness and face opposition from the local villagers. At the same time, the novel assumes the perspective of Blanca’s younger, living self, taking the reader through the events leading up to her death.
Integral to liking this book is in connecting with Blanca as a narrator. I found her incredibly funny and opinionated (which are essential components of a good ghost) and I enjoyed the use of alternating narrative to contrast her younger voice with her wisened ghost-self. At times she makes her presence known to George, but for the majority of the book she is a wistful admirer looking from the outside in and I liked how different it was to other, more conventional romance stories.
That being said, I was disappointed there weren’t more romance elements to this book. It’s marketed as a LGBTQ+ book but I struggled to find many scenes in the book that seemed openly queer and honestly, I expected more. It may seem contradictory given I’ve just said that I enjoyed the unconventionality of the book, but George never acknowledges Blanca’s existence and they never meet, so that part of the book to me seemed overegged.
Aside from that, there’s lots to like about Briefly, A Delicious Life. It was well-written and I appreciated all of the research Stevens must have carried out to weave in real-life history with the fictional elements she’d created in retelling the relationship of George and Chopin. I was initially drawn to read the book because of the front cover endorsement from Sarah Waters (the goat) and parts of it really reminded me of her neo-Victorian novels. The narrator being a ghost, the dark atmosphere and monastery setting all felt very Gothic which made for the perfect Autumn read. If you’re looking for a spooky October read, I’d highly recommend it. If you’re after a queer romance, maybe not.