Celeste – at school only one day – has gone missing. What has happened to her? So begins a search across a futuristic city to find a girl whose connection with a dying planet means that she is dying as well. Can our young hero who refuses to take ‘No’ for an answer save her? Can he send a message to his world that will shatter complacency and start the healing?
Timothée de Fombelle is already known to British readers for his thoughtful and thought provoking novels and novellas, the most recent Captain Rosalie. In Saving Celeste, seamlessly translated by Sarah Ardizzone, these qualities are very much in evidence. Here is a story that absorbs the reader’s attention as the boy, his name is never known, searches for Celeste. It is also a fable for our time, its message subtly presented, the moral quietly drawn – and hope offered at the conclusion. The very anonymity of the boy invites the reader to identify with him and his quest; Celeste, whose very name means ‘heavenly’ reminds us of our connection to this planet – that the actions of the corporate world in which everyone and everything is involved – have consequences, human consequences. And yet it only takes one step – one shout aloud – to attract attention and create the ripple that can become a wave – a wave for change. And it is the young readers of today who will make that change. By providing a positive ending to his novella, de Fombelle encourages his audience to be the authors of that change – to be the boy. Ardizzone’s translation provides an accessible entry to this world – contemporary, literate without being literary, immediate. This would be an excellent foundation for discussion in a classroom or family, for mindful readers of all ages.