Warning: If you have not read “A Song For Ella Grey” by David Almond, do not read this review if you don’t want spoilers. If you don’t mind them or you already read the book, feel free to read this!
I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “A Song for Ella Grey” by David Almond! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“I’m the one who’s left behind. I’m the one to tell the tale. I knew them both…knew how they lived and how they died.”
Claire is Ella Grey’s best friend. She’s there when the whirlwind arrives on the scene: catapulted into a North East landscape of gutted shipyards; of high arched bridges and ancient collapsed mines. She witnesses a love so dramatic it is as if her best friend has been captured and taken from her. But the loss of her friend to the arms of Orpheus is nothing compared to the loss she feels when Ella is taken from the world. This is her story – as she bears witness to a love so complete; so sure, that not even death can prove final.
Like how “Mechanica” was a retelling of Cinderella and how “A Court of Thorns and Roses” was a retelling for Beauty and the Beast (yes, I’m aware I’ve written a lot of book reviews for fairytale retellings lately!), “A Song for Ella Grey” is a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, with Orpheus still being called Orpheus in this retelling while Eurydice is renamed as Ella Grey. Eurydice and Orpheus are both teenagers in this, as well as Claire, who is Ella’s friend and possibly lover, given that there are numerous descriptions in which Claire and Ella share very intimate moments together (though not graphically described).
All of the main characters (all in their older teens) are carefree, laidback, wanting to enjoy life while they can and stick together no matter what. I think having them at this age group rather than adults really helps to bring out the carefree-ness of the love that Ella and Orpheus share in the book with each other. The writing style puts a huge emphasis on the carefree nature of the teens and Ella and Orpheus’ blossoming romance. It also emphasizes Claire’s deep love for Ella, and though as heartbroken as she is that Ella truly falls for Orpheus, she does try to support her friend in all of it.
The first half of the book, plotwise, was obviously building up the setting and worldbuilding, but also established exactly how deep Orpheus and Eurydice’s love for each other becomes. It’s after Eurydice meets Orpheus that she does better in her classes without sacrificing her carefree nature, and it’s after Orpheus meets Eurydice that he becomes less of a stranger to everyone else and more of a friend, someone trustworthy. Love changes people in this book, and it shows.
The second half of the book, plotwise, was very interesting but let me down a bit at the end. I loved how all the pages describing Orpheus’ journey into the Underworld were all blackened while the font was all white. In fact, it’s the font that makes the story exciting to read as a whole—the author isn’t afraid to experiment with different indentations of text, using italics, enlarging or shrinking the text, or even bolding some words to get the point across.
I felt that the ending let me down because I was kind of hoping Orpheus’ demise would be more graphically described, or that the narrator would witness it. Instead, he just up and vanishes after failing to bring back Eurydice, and it’s only weeks later or so that Claire finds out that he was murdered by some of the townspeople, angry over Eurydice’s death.
Overall, I would rate this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. It’s definitely worth reading, and it’s a fantastic retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice.