Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Madeline Stevens's "Devotion"

In Madeline Stevens's debut novel, Devotion:
Ella is flat broke: wasting away on bodega coffee, barely making rent, seducing the occasional strange man who might buy her dinner. Unexpectedly, an Upper East Side couple named Lonnie and James rescue her from her empty bank account, offering her a job as a nanny and ushering her into their moneyed world. Ella’s days are now spent tending to the baby in their elegant brownstone or on extravagant excursions with the family. Both women are just 26—but unlike Ella, Lonnie has a doting husband and son, unmistakable artistic talent, and old family money.

Ella is mesmerized by Lonnie’s girlish affection and disregard for the normal boundaries of friendship and marriage. Convinced there must be a secret behind Lonnie’s seemingly effortless life, Ella begins sifting through her belongings, meticulously cataloguing lipstick tubes and baby teeth and scraps of writing. All the while, Ella’s resentment grows, but so does an inexplicable and dizzying attraction. Soon Ella will be immersed so deeply in her cravings—for Lonnie’s lifestyle, her attention, her lovers—that she may never come up for air.
Here Stevens dreamcasts an adaptation of Devotion:
I wasn’t picturing any specific actresses in Ella or Lonnie’s roles as I wrote. Imagining the movie of my book seemed like counting my chickens before they’d hatched—like I might jinx it! Now that the book is published I can fantasize a bit more. I loved Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch and Thoroughbreds. I also think Joey King is an amazing actress. Both of these women are young, and have mostly played teenage roles, but the characters are only twenty-six, they’d need to look quite baby-faced. More than using anyone I know, though, I love the idea of finding a new face, especially for Ella, because she’s an outsider in the story.

And if this were another time (and the book was being made into an Italian film!) Monica Vitti would be Lonnie. If I could do nothing but stare at Monica Vitti’s face for the rest of my life—well, that would be okay.
Visit Madeline Stevens's website.

--Marshal Zeringue