Review: A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

A Song for Ella GreyPublished: October 2, 2014 by Hodder Children’s Books
Pages: 272
Format: e-ARC

“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.

This book has been difficult to review. I felt like a lot of it went over my head, which doesn’t help – not sure it is easy to review a book when you feel like you just didn’t “get it” – but the structure was weird, as well. A Song for Ella Grey is a retelling of the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice (Ella, in this story), told through the eyes of Ella’s best friend, Claire. I was intrigued but this setup, but I’m not sure it worked for me.

The writing was really lyrical, and the artwork interspersed throughout the book was pretty, but I had a hard time connecting to the characters and events in the story. The writing style seemed to take precedence over everything else – characters didn’t really talk the way I thought modern characters would, and sometimes events in the story felt very vague. I wouldn’t have minded that so much, but I did feel a bit lost throughout much of the story, and like a lot of the story’s events were going over my head, or that there was some deeper meaning of which I was unaware.

Even well over 85% into the book, I felt like the characters were strangers. I’m not sure if this is because it was a retelling or what, but having the main character distanced from so many of the events in the story was weird for me. I also felt like Claire had romantic feelings for Ella, and I wish that had been confirmed one way or the other, rather than just being left to wonder. It was hinted at several times, but I wasn’t sure if I was reading into it too much or not.

I found the last quarter of the book pretty enjoyable, but still felt like I didn’t quite get it. I’d be interested in reading another of Almond’s books in the future, though. I have a feeling this book just wasn’t for me.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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