cover image Briefly, A Delicious Life

Briefly, A Delicious Life

Nell Stevens. Scribner, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-982190-94-1

Stevens (Bleaker House: A Memoir) makes her fiction debut with a smart and haunting outing that immerses readers in Valldemosa, Mallorca, over four centuries. The story revolves around the ghost of a 14-year-old girl named Blanca, who died in the 15th century and is captivated by the appearance of author George Sand and her lover, composer Frédéric Chopin, on vacation in the late 19th century. Blanca is attracted to both men and women, and her playful, sensuous narration describes the centuries she’s spent observing the trysts of monks in the monastery where she lives. Sand’s masculine dress particularly excites Blanca, though it elicits disgust of the villagers. As Chopin becomes gravely ill, Stevens alternates the lovers’ story with Blanca’s memories of her own life and death, and Blanca dwells on feelings of blame toward the man who got her pregnant during their affair. Eventually, the stories entwine, as Blanca uses her ghostly powers to intercede in Chopin’s fate. Though Stevens’s idealized view of Sand can feel a bit Mary Sue–ish, for the most part it credibly reflects Blanca’s romanticizing of a woman who “dressed like a man, kissed like a man, smoked like a man.” This will entice readers. Agent: Emma Parry, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (June)