Celine on Fire exposes the underlying warp and weft of our global society in an accessible and engaging manner, tracing the patterns of the past forward to the present. It shows, through engaging discourse, how disparate events come together to shape who we are today, and offers the brilliant lesson that who we are today will be the legacy we leave our children. Change must start with us.
Celine is a young girl on the cusp of Womanhood, with a sharp and curious mind, and a love of dance. She lives with her older sister Yvonne, who is a professor. One fateful night, an act of kindness brings Giovanni into their lives, setting the stage on a personal scale to discuss the myriad vagaries of synchronicity on a sociocultural scale. Through various viewpoints- Celine, Yvonne, Gio- we met a colourful cast of characters, each with their own unique take on life and own stories to share. More than just a gathering of the historical and philosophical, Pelton’s masterpiece is a beautiful love story, and sweeping drama.
I loved Celine’s views on God, and that she referred to God as She. Her theories on sin were amusing. ‘Don’t do it again.’ Hah! Smart girl. She clearly doesn’t have a use for people who would trade on divine forgiveness to commit atrocity.
There’s so much of interest here, from the American ‘relocation’ efforts that displaced our native populations, to the colonialism of France, from the repercussions of the American Civil War, to those of the Great War. Cycle upon cycle of events, destruction leading to rebirth leading to more destruction and further rebirth in a neverending spiral. I learned quite a bit about events leading to both World War One, and World War Two that piqued my interest to learn more. Like how France ignored de Gaulle’s call for a motorized war force, an oversight that allowed Nazi forces to overrun France. How blind were these people? How different might the outcome have been? And all that lead out of these two wars to the Cold War of my youth. Pelton’s attention to historic detail is top-notch.
This book is stuffed full of philosophical discourse, applied to history and culture. Celine’s own studies, and her many talks with Emile give her a grounding in the geopolitics of her time, and she’s perceptive enough to see the shivers through the web of Synchronicity that show us how everything is linked, and affects everything else to some degree. The brilliance and beauty of chaos theory. The majority of people just can’t scale their perceptions back far enough to trace the lineage of cause and effect down through the ages.
Reading this reminded me quite a bit of Voltaire, specifically Candide. Voltaire does happen to be one of the many mentioned over the course of the book, so there’s that. It also reminded me of my own philosophical meanderings, my notebook stuffed full of discourse on psychology, sociology, philosophy, and culture. Granted, my ramblings tended to focus on the shortsightedness of individuals in being open-minded and tolerant.
Celine is a book that will make you stop and think. It provides stark highlights that illuminate the unfortunate events of present day, how we got here, and where we are likely to go if we don’t pay heed to history’s lessons. This is a book that belongs in class curricula, and if I still taught, it certainly would be!
**This book was reviewed for the Manhattan Book Review.