Monday, April 4, 2022

Wish list entry #10 : "Celine"

I'm continuing with my "wish list" entries with the latest book I've read depicting a character whom I think would be interesting to see Meryl portray. Peter Heller's 2017 novel, Celine is one of a few recent stories out there I've been able to find that depicts a woman protagonist who happens to be nearing 70. And not only that, she's a working private eye. 

Full disclosure, I wasn't a huge fan of the book as a whole. I won't get too much into a critique, but I was hoping for it to be a little more introspective on the part of the main character and a little less heavy on plot and or scene-descriptions. Just a matter of preference I guess, but it also affords anyone who wishes to bring it to the screen a great opportunity to more fruitfully imagine these characters. 

The book takes place not long after 9/11, where Celine Watkins, a French-born New York sophisticate is hired to find a woman's father who was presumed to have been killed by a grizzly bear years earlier. Celine is joined by her husband as they make the trek to the Rockies to start uncovering the complicated history of their subject and his daughter. Along the way we get to learn of Celine's own complicated past. Her family's escape from France during World War II. The tumultuous relationship with her father. Her two sisters' deaths. The baby she had to give up for adoption when she was very young and in a boarding school. All these pieces are ripe for a screen adaptation that I think would be best as a limited series. Picture something like Mare of Eastown with better clothes and older detectives. 

Celine is also a former heavy smoker, whose current emphysema makes all the physical work (especially in high altitudes) particularly arduous and dangerous. She has an affinity for guns and animal skulls, and is intimidatingly intelligent to most people she encounters. I had a hard time telling if Celine would've had an accent. It's never explicitly stated, but my initial thought was that if someone only spoke French until the time they were around 7 (which is what's described in the book, if memory serves), and then is immersed in an English-speaking country, I'd expect that person to grow up without much of an accent. I've read that after 11 or 12, it's tougher for folks to lose their accents. But Celine and her sisters are described as having only spoken French for quite a while after arriving in the United States, as they formed a bit of a sisterly posse, likely a self-preservation kind of sibling blanket. Everyone knows how much I love Meryl serving up a great new accent, so even if Celine wouldn't have had one, they could always adjust the character's age at the time she came over on the boat to give her a hint of a French sound. 

When comparing this story to Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, Celine I think would provide a more interesting individual character, while the latter's story is much more compelling and crisp. I haven't been able to find anything out there that suggests Heller's novel has been optioned. Maybe this can be a chance for Meryl to step up her producing game and purchase the rights! 

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