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Review of A Song for Ella Grey

almond_song for ella greyA Song for Ella Grey
by David Almond
High School   Delacorte   268 pp.
10/15   978-0-553-53359-0   $16.99
Library ed. 978-0-553-53360-6   $19.99
e-book ed. 978-0-553-53361-3   $10.99

A celebration of the wonderful madness of youth, and of the bemusing, soul-confusing power of aesthetic experience, lies at the heart of Almond’s lyrical, contemporary-set take on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Set on the northeast coast of Britain, Almond’s story echoes that of the myth: teen Ella falls in love with Orpheus; they’re wed; Ella dies; and Orpheus retrieves her from death only to lose her at the last minute. Almond’s narrator, Ella’s best friend Claire, takes up her pen to bring her “friend into the world for one last night then let her go forever,” recalling the spiky conversations, parental disagreements, and school assignments that are part of her life and Ella’s. But she strives most to convey the experience of hearing Orpheus’s music, the inchoate yearnings and ecstasy it evokes in herself and her friends: “It was like being blessed,” she writes. “Like truly becoming ourselves. Like being loved.” Almond’s prose has always been intense, sensual, and vivid: here his very subject matter is intensity of feeling with a capital F. Cumulatively, from one page to the next, physical, emotional, and aesthetic bliss becomes ever more potent: a foundation for adult awareness, for the joy that lies in art, nature, and love.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker About Deirdre Baker

Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca
at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the
past tense.

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