Book Review: A Song for Ella Grey (David Almond)

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books

Pages: 276

Release Date: October 2nd 2014

Summary (from Goodreads):

“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.


A Song for Ella Grey is a contemporary retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice, a myth I’m vaguely familiar with. When the mysterious Orpheus appears on the beach, everyone is enchanted by him but it’s Ella Grey he falls for, and their whirlwind romance sets off a chain of events that will end in tragedy.

I thought this sounded wonderful and the cover was simply gorgeous. I’ve not read very much by David Almond but he has an excellent reputation and I had high hopes. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t wowed by it.

The writing is very stylistic, almost poetic and while in some places it was beautiful, in others it just felt confusing. It didn’t flow well for me: sometimes I wasn’t sure what was going on, and the odd way everyone spoke just brought me out of the story. Everything felt disconnected and I didn’t really feel emotionally invested in any of the characters. While Claire and Ella’s friendship was strong and lovely, everything else felt a little underdeveloped.

The story itself was kind of odd. It’s only a short book but it didn’t feel like a lot really happened. It felt like there was a lot of ‘we went to school, we worked hard, time passed’ etc and it just didn’t really do anything for me.

My favourite bit was when Orpheus went into the underworld. The pages were black with white writing on, the prose was carefully places across the page and the poetic style really worked there. It was definitely the highlight of the book.

Overall I don’t think this one was for me. I didn’t get on well with the style and just felt at a disconnect with the whole book. The writing is beautiful though, and different from most of the YA I’ve read, so if you’re looking for something unusual then give it a try.


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