I listened to this as an audiobook and found it simultaneoulsy sad and uplifting. In Briefly, A Delicious Life, Nell Stevens sets up a ghost story around the winter that George Sand, Chopin and George’s children and maid spent in an abandoned monastery in Majorca. In 1838, Sand and company travelled to Majorca under the impression that the winter there would be warm and sunny, just the thing to help Chopin’s failing health. Things did not go as planned. That much is documented in Sand’s book Un hiver à Majorque. Stevens provides a narrator in the form of Blanca, a villager from near the monastery who died in childbirth at age 14 and has haunted the monastery (or charterhouse) ever since.
Her ghost life has been spent watching her descendants and bedeviling men who sexually assault women and girls. When Sand and Chopin arrive, she falls in love with Sand. Her ghost powers allow her to enter a person’s mind to see their past, present, and occasionally, future. This setup allows Stevens to examine the lives of Sand, Chopin and Sand’s children Solange and Maurice as they spend a (mostly) miserable winter in Majorca. The weather is not as expected, the villagers distrust them, they speak only French, the food is terrible, and Chopin’s beloved piano is stuck in transit. This is filtered through Blanca, who moves back and forth through their lives to see what formed them and where they will go.
I enjoyed the setup and writing style. The descriptions of the area, of Sand herself and the contrast between the modern French tourists and the rural Spanish villagers were very well done. Having a 14 year old ghost as a narrator made the book seem more like YA than I think the author intended, which may turn off some readers. It also made me want to learn more about Sand and co, and made me go listen to some Chopin preludes. Overall, worth a read.