"Claire and Ella and their friends are bound by ties so strong they seem unbreakable. Then the strange and handsome Orpheus strolls onto the beach, and he sings them all into an astonishing new understanding of themselves. Ella is caught the hardest, fastest, deepest—and Claire feels the pain of looking on.
Raw, emotional, lyrical, and funny, A Song for Ella Grey is a tale the joys, troubles, and desires of modern teens. It takes place in the ordinary streets of Tyneside and on the beautiful beaches of Northumberland. It’s a story of first love, a love song that draws on ancient mythical forces. A love that leads Ella, Orpheus, and Claire to the gates of Death and beyond."
The story of Orpheus going into the Underworld to get back his dead wife is probably a Greek myth that isn't very popular. Or at least, it isn't as popular as the myth of Persephone and Hades, and the book, which gives a light on Orpheus' story, is like a breath of fresh air in this constant stream of Persephone and Hades and Odysseus and the Trojan War and demigods.
Readers may find themselves a little alienate thanks to the dialect. Set in England, the book tells a retelling of Orpheus and the death of his wife. Orpheus is still Orpheus with his iconic lyre, and his wife is Ella Grey, who eventually does die from a snake bite. It's a familiar story that is played out before my eyes, and it's like watching a Shakespeare tragedy. Even though you know the ending, you can't look away.
Orpheus is a strange character who is well-liked by the town thanks to his music. He only has one chapter for his perspective, and he has something with Ella Grey. From the very beginning, it's easy to tell that he besotted with her. In fact, it's one of his driving motivations. The desire to bring back Ella Grey from the dead is what gives the climax the most amount of drama. Those who know the Greek myth are certain of the tragedy's ending, but we can't help but hope that... Ella Grey does indeed come back and that Orpheus never looks back.
Then there is Claire. Though she is the main narrator of the story, she isn't front and center. But because she isn't front and center, she is able to see the relationship unfold, Ella Grey dying, and Orpheus going down into the Underworld. (Well, the last part is a bit sketchy, but let's not dwell on that too much.) She is like Nick from The Great Gatsby, viewing the tragedy and giving readers commentary here and there.
By the end of the story, she has the last words. The ending is the sort of ending that one has to really think about, and I can't help but wonder so much... Orpheus tries to bring Ella back, and we can see him as a hero. But it is Claire who gives Ella and Orpheus a voice in the end by singing about them. In a way, she is letting them live together (and perhaps even in eternity, too). But enough of these musings. Read it for yourself.
Overall, A Song For Ella Grey is a haunting retelling of a rarely retold Greek myth. It's for those who are tired of Persephone and Hades but want something that's Greek and tragic.
Rating: Three out of Five