Nell Stevens’s debut novel “Briefly, A Scrumptious Life” is undeniably imaginative, however a cornucopia of creativity can’t make up for a number of large-scale drawbacks. After a number of profitable brief tales and memoirs, Stevens’s’ novel positively makes a splash — or tries to at the very least. The historic fiction lesbian romance ghost story bites off greater than it may chew and finally ends up failing to do something efficiently. The plot by some means each meanders and stagnates, the characters have little growth, the adolescence of the narrator makes the narrative really feel juvenile, and the historic element reads like a quasi-forgotten interlude. The idea is compelling however would have been higher fitted to a brief story.
The most important concern with this e book is that it merely tries to do an excessive amount of directly. The premise — even the summarized model on the again cowl —is intricate and considerably nonsensical: A 14-year-old fifteenth century ghost, Blanca, haunts an deserted monastery on the tiny Spanish island of Mallorca and, 400 years after her dying, falls in love with one of many monastery’s residing residents. The item of Blanca’s affection simply so occurs to be probably the most notable writers of the Romantic Period, George Sands, who’s accompanied by her two kids and her lover Frédéric Chopin. The e book follows a number of storylines and thought avenues: the story of Blanca’s life and dying, her undead existence pre-George, her exploration of her sexuality, the present state of affairs within the monastery, and George’s life pre and submit monastery.
For many of the e book, there’s a considerably constant cadence of alternating from Blanca’s previous, the current, and George’s previous, however about 80% of the best way by the e book there’s a clunky, awkward interlude the place Blanca is supposedly “trying into” George and her household’s futures and sharing it with the reader. This part felt like Stevens forgot that these characters are based mostly on truth and wrote a protracted, considerably inventive synopsis of the knowledge out there on George Sands’s Wikipedia web page to place this e book again on its historic fiction monitor.
And this Wikipedia-esque addition in the direction of the tip of the e book is the start of an anticlimactic conclusion to the novel. As a result of Stevens begins to rely closely on the lives of the true characters, the e book ends the best way anybody that a lot as Googled Sands as soon as would anticipate it to — the ending so carefully follows the true lives of her characters that it comes off as unoriginal. Not solely was this ending disappointing, it additionally feels lazy, as if Stevens ran out of steam after a whirlwind of the primary 220 pages and easily couldn’t consider a quicker option to wrap the e book up.
Not solely do the true lives of Stevens’’s characters function a crutch, additionally they create a critical hindrance for the scope of the novel. As a result of the narrator is a ghost, there’s solely however a lot that may happen between Bianca and her residing companions. And since Stevens sticks comparatively carefully to the course of her characters actual lives, her creativity solely has a lot area to roam. Stevens spends most of her time telling the readers what her characters do, reasonably than exhibiting us who her characters turn out to be, which ends within the characters not changing into a lot of something in any respect. With each of those agency constraints on the scope of the e book, the novel finally ends up being a group of brief episodes or adventures tacked collectively by delicate adolescent commentary and humor.
By way of the writing, Stevens captures the voice of her narrator very nicely. However, that finally ends up being a part of the issue. The voice and persona Stevens provides her narrator makes the prose learn as juvenile, and the try at giving the narrator an off-the-cuff and acquainted tone with the reader finally ends up simply coming throughout as pointless “fluff.”
The e book does have some profitable parts, nonetheless. Stevens has a robust sense of the absurd, employed in a manner that may be efficient, and the truth she creates, when it comes to Blanca’s skills and expertise as a ghost, is entertaining. The content material of this e book might have been a profitable brief story, and the writing might have made for a powerful younger grownup novel, however collectively, the plot and writing make this grownup novel really feel younger and distracted.
—Employees author Kelsey S. Mann may be reached at [email protected].