Briefly, A Delicious Life by Nell Stevens

Briefly, A Delicious Life is a novel about yearning, conventions, and love, as a ghost watches an unusual group come to Mallorca for their health. Frédéric Chopin isn’t well, but is in Mallorca with George Sand and her children in the hope of wellness and a simple life. They take residence in an old monastery, where Blanca, the ghost of a teenage girl who died centuries ago, watches them with interest, and falls in love with George, a woman wearing trousers and shirts and shocking the local people. Winter brings difficult times, and Blanca can only do so much to try and help them alongside her usual attempts to protect the women of the town from the men, whilst Chopin writes songs on a substandard piano.

This is a book that is more than its summary, especially if you boil it down to: a ghost falls in love with George Sand and Chopin is ill. The book is from Blanca’s point of view, through which you see some of the thoughts and histories of the other characters as well as her own brief life, and it is a strangely fascinating viewpoint, this teenage girl who has now seen hundreds of years and has learnt how to manage love and yearning. The picture of this family, two lovers and the children of one of them, is really shown in its complexities through Blanca’s perspective, though you never know if her idea of George is clouded by her sudden love for the woman.

I’m not usually one for historical novels without another selling point, especially not ones about real historical figures, but I love the unique conceit of this one, and it felt almost timeless a lot of the time, possibly thanks to having a narrator who has seen a lot of time. It is fascinating, with a slightly strange ending that changes pace from the rest of the book, but makes sense in terms of the narrative, and especially Blanca’s need to watch every detail of the group. A fresh take on queer history, Briefly, A Delicious Life makes a book about a ghost, living life, and types of love something nuanced and intriguing, and not at all what I might’ve expected.