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A Song for Ella Grey

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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.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published October 2, 2014

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About the author

David Almond

106 books743 followers
David Almond is a British children's writer who has penned several novels, each one to critical acclaim. He was born and raised in Felling and Newcastle in post-industrial North East England and educated at the University of East Anglia. When he was young, he found his love of writing when some short stories of his were published in a local magazine. He started out as an author of adult fiction before finding his niche writing literature for young adults.

His first children's novel, Skellig (1998), set in Newcastle, won the Whitbread Children's Novel of the Year Award and also the Carnegie Medal. His subsequent novels are: Kit's Wilderness (1999), Heaven Eyes (2000), Secret Heart (2001), The Fire Eaters (2003) and Clay (2005). His first play aimed at adolescents, Wild Girl, Wild Boy, toured in 2001 and was published in 2002.

His works are highly philosophical and thus appeal to children and adults alike. Recurring themes throughout include the complex relationships between apparent opposites (such as life and death, reality and fiction, past and future); forms of education; growing up and adapting to change; the nature of 'the self'. He has been greatly influenced by the works of the English Romantic poet William Blake.

He is an author often suggested on National Curriculum reading lists in the United Kingdom and has attracted the attention of academics who specialise in the study of children's literature.

Almond currently lives with his family in Northumberland, England.

Awards: Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing (2010).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 413 reviews
Profile Image for Es Summer .
72 reviews161 followers
May 8, 2016

A song for Ella Grey reads like a dream melting into another dream.
It is otherworldly and infused with a lot of imaginary aspects. However, it still feels realistic.
Poetic prose is woven into this original story, making it feel more like a long, dreamlike poem than a real novel.

"I wanted to be with Ella, only Ella.
But she loved being with the others, not having to try too hard with anybody or anything.
Being lovely, dreamy Ella, singing along, dreaming along.
It was like she wasn't there, not really,
Like she wasn't anything, just empty space.
Waiting to be filled by something, by anything."

The story is about best friends Ella and Claire.
Their friendship changes when mysterious Orpheus comes into the picture.
The novel uses some elements of the original story of Orpheus, but it has its own authentic fairy tale.
To be honest, I was more intrigued with the friendship of the girls than the whole premise of Orpheus. Their teenage friendship lingered on obsession and possessive love.
It was interesting.
Especially with the way it was described.
Crazy teenagers dancing with the moonlight reflecting their faces, their hair wild, their eyes blazing fire. Feeling content yet longing.
Feeling young and beautiful yet awkward and insecure.
The author portrayed these issues with lyrical preciseness.

"Maybe poets get to you the best when you're sort of dreaming.
When you are hardly there at all."

How admirable the writing was, how unimpressive the ending was.
Towards the end, the book lost its touch. I loved how it started and what the story promised, but nearing the end, it fell short.
Or maybe it's because of that boring Orpheus.
Couldn't this book be just about the girls? ^.^

"Maybe we were mad that day. Maybe some of the things that seemed to happen didn't really happen at all. Maybe many of the things that seemed to happen in the days and weeks that followed didn't really happen. Maybe it was all because we were young, and because being young is like being mad. Maybe just being human, at any age, is a bit like being mad."

In conclusion, amazing writing, interesting beginning, but a weak ending.

*** stars.

Profile Image for Dre.
246 reviews77 followers
August 11, 2014
Also posted at Sporadic Reads

A Song For Ella Grey is a sort of retelling of the tragic love story of Orpheus and Eurydice. If you're not familiar with their story, well, here's the gist : Eurydice is dead, and she is in the underworld. Orpheus is in despair, and would do anything to get her back. He journeys through hell, makes a deal with death. He is to guide Eurydice back to the light, but he can not turn to look at her until they are out of hell. When they are finally at the mouth of hell, Orpheus stupidly turns back to see her, so Eurydice was sent back. Oh, what great despair!

When I picked up this book, I knew what I was getting myself into. David Almond's writing is quite unique. I've read Skellig, and that book was turned into a movie. To be honest, A Song For Ella Grey was filled with so many ingredients. It was like eating salad with all the dressings. Everything was overly written, in my opinion. I found myself skipping sentences, or paragraphs, because they were just talking about the same thing in different ways.

Here is Orpheus and his singing,  :
His song is everywhere, is scattered like his flesh. He sings through beaks. He bleats with the lamb and howls with the wolf. He sings with the breeze through the treetops and the grass. He sings the petals of daisies, the berries of hawthorn, the taste of pears. He sings these bright late butterflies, and the dark new chrysalis where the butterfly will grow again. He sings the geese's glorious v-shaped migration and return. He sings the rays of the sun, the falling of the rain, the running of all water through Northumberland and the endless flowing of the Tyne. He sings us, us, us. He sings our flesh, our blog our bones and breath. He comes and goes.

and that is just part of it. There is more!

This was how Ella felt when she made love with Orpheus :
It's like I'm this daisy and it's like the thing that's in the daisy is the same as the thing that's in me. The thing that pushes it up from the earth and pushes the petals out and makes the pollen glow. It's like the thing that pushes the song out from those birds and make them spread their wings and makes the salmon swim...Oh, Claire, how the hell do I know?

After finishing the book, I honestly felt weirded out. I felt confused, even. It was narrated by Claire, Ella's best friend. Through her thoughts, it was obvious that Claire is in love with Ella, but the world doesn't know that she's gay. Ella is the Eurydice in the story. She is playful and child-like. She was even described as a fairy-child, because she daydreams too much. Their friendship started when they were in kindergarten. And then Ella falls in love with Orpheus, and she felt so jealous, but could not do anything about it.

Even though I was tempted to DNF this book, I chose to finish it. I wanted to know where the story was headed. I don't think that the writing was bad per se, the book is just filled with so many words. It felt overstuffed. And to be honest, the characters were supposed to be sixteen and seventeen, but they don't sound like sixteen or seventeen to me,
'And will you love me always, Claire? Will you? Say yes, Claire! Say it fast.'

There are parts in the story that will make the reader confused, and I am unsure if this is intentional, but it just didn't work for me. If I could get the hours back spent in reading this, I'd take it!

This review copy was provided by Hachette Children's Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Hollie.
47 reviews
September 22, 2014
I received this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was…surreal. It just seemed like it was trying to hard to be meaningful. Don’t get me wrong there were some beautiful quotes in there but sometimes it just felt like too much. The plot was confusing and I just didn't understand what was happening most of the time. I know it’s based off of a Greek myth but it just felt all over the place and the ending just didn't make sense to me. I enjoyed the story at the beginning but from there it seemed to go downhill and it just seemed too stuffed with metaphors and adjectives that I ended up skimming some paragraphs.
Profile Image for Eleanor Toland.
177 reviews26 followers
August 5, 2015
WOW! *starry eyes* I had a high hopes for this book, because how could a retelling of the myth of Orpehus and Eurydice set in Northumberland, written by modern-day William Blake David Almond not be amazing? And the resulting novel turned out even better than I hoped. Almond's style brings a brutal, beautiful immediacy to this re-contextualisation of a timeless myth. This is what an urban fantasy should be: "The Earthly and the Divine", as one character puts it fused together to the diminishment of neither.

Here Orpheus has a Geordie accent, Eurydice is a "fairy-child" who stares out the window and daydreams when she's supposed to be writing essays about Paradise Lost and Maenads have tattoos, yet it all works. I was reminded many times of E.M. Forster's magic realist stories where an English tourist encounters a Siren on holiday in Italy, or discovers the hoof-prints of Pan on a lonely hilltop. Almond captures the elusive sense of the numinous found in all truly great fantasy, though it's very ambiguous whether anything of a fantastical nature ever occurs in the novel.

Almond's characters talk of turning "Northumberland to Greece", but A Song for Ella Grey is very much a novel of the North of England, a love letter to a desolate yet beautiful landscape. The ground upon which the characters walk is undermined by abandoned tunnels and mining works from the all-too recent industrial past, a literal Underworld that is never far. A myth is reborn and plays out its inevitable tragic path in this hard-hitting and gorgeously told tale. The best thing David Almond has written since Skellig.
Profile Image for Abi.
20 reviews97 followers
March 17, 2015
Maybe poets get to you best when you're sort of dreaming, when you're hardly there at all.

As well as being a beautiful retelling of the myth of Orpheus, A Song for Ella Grey reads like a love letter to all our eternal forms of story-telling: music, myth, poetry, art...
Profile Image for Colleen Houck.
Author 24 books8,940 followers
March 11, 2017
This book was so different from every other YA book I've ever read, I'm still thinking about it. A unique take on the Orpheus myth. I loved how the black pages were inserted into the body of the book. The format was so interesting and unique. I'm left with the thought at the end that I wished I could have heard him sing too.
Profile Image for Diana.
1,717 reviews220 followers
January 17, 2018
The premise of this one sounded really great. but once I was reading it I felt like I was force feed cheerfulness from the characters, and things like a girl falling in love with a guy who never even looks at her... nope. I have to be honest and say that this chacrater says or thinks she is telling sth that has yet to happen, as if she sees the future or sth, but anyway, I wasn't sold onto the story.
Profile Image for Ella Zegarra.
605 reviews201 followers
December 16, 2014
Si alguien lo hace llegar a mi casa en navidad (o antes o cualquier fecha), no me molesto ☺

También en: El Extraño Gato del Cuento

Para contarles sobre A Song for Ella Grey, tengo que contarles el por qué y cómo y demás detalles de mi obsesión con el mito original, una historia que no es feliz y si te pones a pensar más, tampoco es bonita. En la mitología griega, hay una historia que para mí resalta más que cualquier otra, la de Eurídice y Orfeo. Ahora que me puse a pensar el porqué de esto, me di cuenta que quizá sea Orfeo quién inicio mi fetiche por los músicos y las historias de amor retorcidas y trágicas. Trataré de ir contándote mi obsesión particular con el mito mientras intento reseñar el libro de la manera más imparcial posible.

¿Es un retelling?

No, no es un retelling aunque puede tomarse por uno. Es más una adaptación actual al mito, ahora, sé que eso puede describir exactamente al retelling pero no. Un retelling por lo general toma la historia original y crea una historia paralela o se desarrolla desde dónde se dejó el original. En el caso de A Song for Ella Grey es como si el mito nunca hubiera ocurrido, como si Eurídice y Orfeo no fueran parte de la historia griega, sino una historia que está naciendo en el mundo actual, lo cual le dio ese lado retorcido que no noté muy bien en el mito original.

Un libro para amantes del mito

Sí, hay una gran probabilidad de que si no estás familiarizado con la historia original, no te guste A Song for Ella Grey ¿Por qué? Por el instalove, por la personalidad de Ella y por lo destructivo de Orfeo. El mito es un poco más comprensible porque Orfeo, el magnífico músico logra despertar a una Ninfa, de la cual queda completamente enamorado al verla. Eurídice. Una ninfa, alguien que nunca vio el mundo, lo único que puede vocalizar al inicio es su nombre, y vamos, Orfeo se aprovecha de eso, la pobre muchacha no sabía en lo que se metía, como digo, la historia original es oscura (mucho más de lo que recordaba). ¿Cómo trajo el escritor la parte de ninfa a la actualidad? Primero le cambio de nombre, Ella (tan bonito su nombre…) y le dio ciertos rasgos MPDG (Manic Pixie Dream Girl): distraída, liberal, cariñosa (si sabes, a lo que me refiero, las ninfas son conocidas por…) y una vez que se enamora de Orfeo lo deja todo (familia, colegio, que si hacemos un paralelismo con el mito original, sería Eurídice saliendo del interior del árbol). Mientras que Orfeo sigue siendo ese músico viajero, uno con un gran problema de socialización. Y así la historia fluye con el mito modernizado.

Para amantes de la narración.

Kitten, si eres de los que disfrutan de una narración (me gusta más la expresión en inglés: storytelling), A Song for Ella Grey es el libro que DEBES leer, puede que la historia no vaya a ser de tu agrado, como dije no es una historia que todo el mundo guste, pero la narración, qué cosa más bonita, más intensa. Al principio empieza muy sencillo, nada que resaltar, luego, cuando Orfeo hace su aparición y canta para Claire, la voz de ella se vuelve tan adictiva. Hay momentos donde es prácticamente imposible no leerlo en voz alta para luego terminar exhausto de tanta emoción que transmite. Muchos son frases sencillas, no tengo idea si fue porque estaba tan metida en la historia, pero en serio kitten, es un libro que debes experimentar.

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Profile Image for Abbie.
1,525 reviews
October 3, 2014
Thank you to Netgalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

What can I say? This book is a retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice's romance but it is viewed through the eyes of third person. The original mythology was tragic and this was too. Ella and Claire are thick as thieves. They are more than best friends --- they're soul mates. But then Ella falls in love and Claire can't help but fade into the background as Ella dives into a whirlwind love affair with Orpheus. Then tragedy strikes and Claire is reeling from the impact.

The writing style was a bit confusing. The dialogue didn't sound like it came from the mouths of teenage girls. The narration felt poetic and frivolous to me. I couldn't help but feel bewildered from time to time.

The characters were somewhat likable but I found Ella to be a bit annoying at the beginning. Of course, it became apparent that the story was more about Claire's love for Ella (not sure if it was purely romantic or not).

Perhaps this was the author's attempt to create an abstract piece of art aimed at opening the mind to a deeper plane of thought and feeling. However, I seem to have failed in appreciating the essence of his work. The book was good but it just wasn't for me.

Profile Image for Trisha.
4,609 reviews159 followers
January 26, 2016
As much as I wanted to, I just could not seem to connect with this story. The odd random dialect and the attempt to update an old story just seemed to take away from the storyline I knew and loved. I typically love retellings but maybe this one just had bad timing
Profile Image for Ayshan.
63 reviews1 follower
June 15, 2022
چند ساعت پیش شروع کردم.
الان تمومش کردم.
همین‌طوری موندم. فقط می‌تونم بگم این پایان حق اروفئوس و الا نبود. امیدوارم بعد مرگ تا ابد کنار هم باشین.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rachel.
Author 3 books718 followers
October 18, 2015
A SONG FOR ELLA GREY is an achingly beautiful and haunting story. The writing is exquisite. The words are poetry. The love story is fragile and tender and heartbreaking. It is mesmerizing. It is breathtaking. It is so very, very tragic. And so very, very sad.

This modern retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice has a lovely, ethereal quality to it. While set in the present, the story and characters feel timeless. Experiencing Orpheus and Ella’s love story through Ella’s friend Claire Wilkinson’s eyes makes it feel that much more illusory, dreamy, faraway.

The inevitability of their fate, the cruelty of their destiny, fills each moment of this story with melancholy. But the author’s words, and the way they flow, infuse this story with lightness and beauty.

Orpheus and Ella are not your typical teens in love. Their love is instant and eternal and so much bigger than the both of them, even though their time together is incredibly brief. Ella is willing to accept Orpheus for the wandering, free-spirit he is and share him with the world. And Orpheus is willing to go to hell and back, almost literally, for Ella. They are perfectly matched, which makes what happens to both of them all the more heartrending.

David Almond has penned a story that is powerful, yet delicate, emotional, surprising, wonderful. His writing is refreshingly different, captivating, fascinating, consuming. His narrator is likable and interesting and unusual and sympathetic.

Poor Claire. Poor Orpheus. Poor, poor Ella. Their lives became so intertwined and because of that those who remained were left more than a little bit broken.

A SONG FOR ELLA GREY is a story that will make you unravel piece by piece until you’ve come completely undone. You’ll mourn the loss of these characters. You’ll ache for Claire and all she’s going through for playing a part in sealing their fate. You’ll want to read this again and again just to know these characters once more and to read those words that will intrigue you, ensnare you, transport you.

It is unique. It is spellbinding. It is a poignant and absolutely brilliant retelling of this tragic tale. And it is perfect for those who are looking for something memorable, incredible, extraordinary.

Original GR comments:
What a beautifully written story. The words were poetry. It was haunting and so so sad. Poor Orpheus. Poor Ella. Poor Claire. So so so glad I read this one in its printed form. This book undid me a little. Review TK.
Profile Image for Zuzana.
475 reviews11 followers
January 22, 2016
Ok... How to start this review... Well, I've known the tale of Orpheus & Euridice since I've been a child. I've always been fascinated with greek mythology and its stories. And I am always strongly inclined to buy and read any experimental re-writing of these famous tales. So when I came across A SONG FOR ELLA GREY in my local Waterstones, I had to buy it.

Unfortunately, this re-telling only broke my heart. It's a bit messy. Boring. Unfinished. Not clear as where this story is heading. I had to force myself to read it quickly so it can be over and done. It's a shame, I've heard many critics loved this book, but I wasn't a fan, if I am being honest.

The only thing I quite enjoy about this tale is quite a truthful insight to the lives of modern youngsters - where their minds are headed, what are they dreaming about, what is important for them..

And Of course, I have to say that I love the cover. It's beautiful. But if the story would be as half as beautiful as the design of the package, it would a much more enjoyable read.

I am now left disappointed, heartbroken and lacking for a better story.
Profile Image for Aksel Dadswell.
140 reviews9 followers
August 16, 2015
It’s probably going to crass and generic and lazy of me to say this, but A Song for Ella Grey really is a song. A beautiful lilting bittersweet one that forced me to read it all, gulp the whole thing down in practically one sitting. It just moves along so easily. It’s glossy but it doesn’t gloss over anything. It gets to the hearts of the characters with its brief, lingering, airy prose. This is my first David Almond, and after experiencing his deft touch with language and setting and character and heartbreak and love, I have to read more. That said, there isn’t much of a solid narrative here, just breathy, poetic moments. It has the feel of a myth or fairy tale rather than a more distinctly plotted piece of writing.
Profile Image for Yoana.
55 reviews
July 13, 2016
Review in Bulgarian: http://bloodyravenblog.blogspot.bg/20...

''A Song for Ella Grey'' by David Almond's poetic and colorful book that fills the reader inside. Written in a very powerful way, it's just like a song with its own captivating melody - sometimes turbulent, sometimes gentle. A melody that drives away the darkness and it's like a gateway to a vast world, a world beyond our reach.
A powerful way of writing which fills the reader inside. Fate, love as ancient as the universe and sinfully beautiful music - there's nothing which this book cannot make you believe in.
Profile Image for Caroline.
418 reviews5 followers
April 5, 2015
Oh my word - this book is beautiful! It is sure to be on the Carnegie short list. It has a mythical quality reminiscent of Sedgwick's Midwinterblood, but far more dreamlike in quality. It is a modern re telling of the story of Orpheous and Eurydice. As with Almond's earlier story Skellig you are never sure which parts of this are dream and which reality. This all adds to the dreamlike quality of the book. You will finish this reluctantly with the dream still clinging to you. A must have, must read book.
1,051 reviews15 followers
January 15, 2016
The retelling of the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus in modern England weaves in subtle magic as the author has done so well in earlier books. It is realistic and quite sexy, but an atmosphere of the supernatural pervades the story of the doomed lovers.
Profile Image for Marion.
201 reviews78 followers
January 17, 2021
the writing wasn't for me at all, I knew after 50 pages that I would definitely not connect with the characters or the love story
Profile Image for Children's Book Chat.
28 reviews1 follower
January 20, 2015
It’s hard to know where to begin with A Song For Ella Grey. As a reading experience, it really is quite unique.

The premise for the book catches your attention from the beginning; it is a modern reinterpretation of the myth Orpheus and Eurydice, from the perspective, not of one of the ill-fated lovers, but of a third party.
When I’m looking for a new read, the elements I look for invariably include beautiful but relatable escapism, and, depending on my mood, a heavy dose of realistic tragedy. All of these criteria were thoroughly fulfilled by this unusual but spectacular work of fiction, and that is why I am #TeamEllaGrey for the upcoming YA Book Prize 2015.

Much like Orpheus’ song, Almond’s writing style pulls the reader to it, and refuses to let them go until they have consumed every last word. It is the first book since my early childhood that I have read in one sitting; I was totally absorbed. You are immersed into a lyrical and poetic style of story-telling, which creates an entrancing fusion of the harsh, modern world of Northern England with a swirl of mysticism.

While the writing style and events of the book are at times quite fantastical, the issues dealt with are only too real. The raw reactionary emotion cut through the fantastical events so that the reader, even if unable to totally understand the characters’ experiences, could feel the pain, joy and heartbreak felt throughout.

In the style of a true tragedy, you know from the very beginning what the characters’ fates are, and it is a morbid curiosity that sweeps you along into the mystical and beautiful world of Almond’s creation. Here, even the seemingly most bland and ordinary scenario – teens drinking by the canal, for example – can become an otherworldly, almost wild expression of freedom.

Ella Grey deals with a swathe of important issues surrounding being young and free, making the most of life, and the inevitable painful consequences that can result. A particularly strong aspect of the book was the positioning of our protagonist, Claire, as an outsider to what is truly someone else’s story. She is forced to watch as her beloved friend becomes half of a tragic descent into destruction, and is forced to deal with the loss left in her wake.

Claire gets a glimpse into Orpheus’ mind and together they wade through the realms of death and re-enact the well-known Greek myth. The pages of this part of the story are physically abstract and black; they are jagged, and they are scary. Claire does not want to take his place, and neither do we. And, so, what Claire is left with afterwards is the harsh, untempered reality of a world tinged with loss. She no longer wants to be a part of the main event, of Orpheus and Ella’s love, but through her telling of their story, resolves to finally let them go.

This isn’t really a book about Orpheus and Ella, but the impact that an epic love story like theirs looks and feels like from the outside, ordinary world, and the damage it can cause that world in its wake.

If you are looking for a book to escape into, but without a fluffy, easy ending, then this is the novel for you. It is beautiful, it is poetic, and in places it verges on the weird and wonderful. Normally, if I love a book I start mentally campaigning for a dramatisation, but this is a rare example of where I think Almond’s words create a more powerful story in the reader’s mind than could ever be achieved on film. Almond conjures the most beautiful songs through the weaving of words, and everyone should experience that.

- Amy Davies
Profile Image for Mahdi.
45 reviews26 followers
July 22, 2021
کتاب یجور ریتلینگ افسانه اورفئوس و ائورودیکه، عشاق اسطوره‌ای یونان باستان بود. که می‌تونست ایده‌ی جذابی باشه ولی برای من نبود. کتاب خیلی روون و ساده‌خوانه و توی یک روز می‌شه تمومش کرد.
کلا نظرات درباره این کتاب خیلی صفر و صده، یا دوستش خواهید داشت یا نه پس دقت کنید توی انتخابش. ریویوها رو هم نگاه کنید بیشتر یا یک و دو ستاره هستن یا چهار و پنج. دیوید آلموند نویسنده‌ایه که قلم خاص خودش رو داره انگار. بد نیست ها، فقط خیلی خاص‌پسنده. هرچند به نظر خیلی‌ها توی این کتاب دچار اضافه‌گویی و تعریف مکرر بعضی چیزها شده بود.
من که دوست نداشتم، در نهایت همه چی برام مبهم و گنگ موند، نفهمیدم شخصیت‌ها چی می‌خوان و چه تغییری کردن از ابتدا یا آخر داستان و اصلا هدف داستان چی بود. و شخصیت‌پردازی‌ها واقعا برام لنگ می‌زد و نتونستم درک‌شون کنم. کتاب شروع واقعا جذابی داشت و قلم نویسنده توی صفحه اول بود که بیشتر مجابم کرد به خوندن کتاب، اما بعدش فقط سرازیری بود برام.

ولی همچنان دوست دارم کتاب اسکلیگ این نویسنده رو بخونم که ببینم قلم خاص ایشون در بهترین حالتش می‌تونه تبدیل به چی بشه.
Profile Image for Joana Felício.
404 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2017
ORIGINAL REVIEW ON MY BLOG: http://thebookaddictsblog.blogspot.pt...

I got this ebook from Netgalley in return of an honest review.
I went into this book not knowing what to expect, at all. I had never heard of the author or one of his books, so I really went into it blind. For that reason, I was so pleasantly surprised with what I encountered. As soon as I started reading it, I couldn't put it down...
While I was reading it, I didn't know where I was, who I was and what people around me were saying. I felt only what the characters felt, particularly what Claire felt, and I was where they were, did what they did.
Most of the characters were so likable and it was very easy to connect with Claire and Ella and feel empathy for them. Ella and Orpheus, especially were so interesting to read about, such fascinating characters. You can't help but love them and wish you understood what they were expressing. Then, on the other side, was Claire. Her affection for Ella is almost palpable and it brought tears to my eyes how she talked about her best friend and when we could see her relationship with her evolve.
I still have so much to say about this book, and yet I feel like I can't say enough. I think the best way I can find to describe the experience of reading this book is what I think being in a dream must feel like. Nothing was real, yet everything felt as if I'd been there myself. It was youth in a book, I think. I felt young, I felt alive and, at the same time, I felt dead, paralysed at the beautiful, incredible writing still. I was wraped by the arms of David Almond's magnificent, profound words and the hidden depths of the story.
In fact, throughout the book I found a lot of quotes that I thought explained this book to perfection, but this was, I believe, the one that stuck with me the most, and completely summarizes this review: «He sang for us and played for us and made us feel... But there's no words for what he made us feel.»
I really can't get over how much I loved 'A Song for Ella Grey' and I don't think I ever will, and I really don't mind. It was exactly the book I needed and it has become one of my favourites. I honestly changed my life and my view on so many things. I will definitely be getting a physical copy of this book, so I can have it and hold it and love it and read it over and over and over.
Profile Image for Daisy May Johnson.
Author 2 books163 followers
January 24, 2016
I think sometimes that if I were asked to direct somebody to one author in all of British children's literature, right here, right now, then that author would be David Almond. Sometimes, yes, the shifts of the question and of the person asking and of their purpose in asking would change my response, but unerringly I come back to David Almond. Often, always. His books are anchors and I cleave to them, hand-fast for life.

I have written about David Almond before; rapturously so. A Song For Ella Grey will be no change from that rule for this book is witchcraft and Almond is a spell-caster.

I'm not even sure where to begin and I know that's a good sign; when books make me dance around them in a feverish confusion of needing to talk, and not being able to describe how or where or what even the smallest fragment of the story is because - I forget myself. I lose myself, because this book is sensation and emotion and burning, fierce, lyrical love.

There, perhaps, I have it. A Song For Ella Grey centres on love; a retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice, but one that is locked to the landscape of north east England; the beaches of Bamburgh and the Ouseburn Valley. A book that is so fiercely of its place and revels in that place; read Ella Grey and then read The Kingdom by the Sea and you have an introduction to that beautiful, stark landscape that is not easily bettered in literary terms. I research these books, tied so defiantly to place and to path and to sand and stone, and I love them, and Ella Grey is so musical and so beautiful and so wild with its language, that I am incoherent and you should read this for this is a story so very richly and tenderly and angrily and perfectly told.
Profile Image for Debbie Gascoyne.
576 reviews22 followers
January 6, 2016
Magnificent. This is an extraordinary piece of writing: haunting, beautiful, achingly sad but completely unsentimental. Watch out, because I'm going to be pushing this novel to everyone I know now. It's hard in a way, having read what I suspect will be the best book I read in 2016 in the first week of January.

I read it in one almost completely uninterrupted sublime gulp. You can read it quickly, because you get swept away by the power and rhythmic force of the language, but you will also want to go back and reread, re-experience some of those lyrical tour-de-forces of writing. The tone and timbre captures the voice of the English north without ever falling into caricature or making the reader trip. If I say it is "poetic," you will think "flowery," but it is not: it is achingly pure, precise, not a single word out of place.

The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice has been inspiring poets, artists and musicians for centuries, millennia. Somehow, Almond makes it new, infuses the power of the ancient myth into a contemporary world. Nor does he shrink from the violence of parts of the story, but somehow without ever mis-stepping, crossing the line into banality or excess. One thing I like is the ordinariness of the young characters. These are not disaffected or damaged youth. This is not a "problem" novel about teenage pregnancy or drug addiction. These are intelligent, self-consciously artsy, slightly bohemian young people on the cusp of adulthood, with all their restlessness and questioning and yearning, insecurity and brashness. What happens when you expose such young characters to love and beauty and art in their most ideal forms, reified in Orpheus? That it is a tragedy is not a spoiler if you know the story; what is unexpected is the joy that underlies the grief. But that is the power of the myth and of this novel.

It is a song. It is a masterpiece.

Profile Image for Sarah.
1 review
September 6, 2017
I loved the book Ella Grey.
It was full of twists and turns and was such a page turner.
Once I started the book, I literally couldn't put it down.
This book is by an amazing author called David Almond and is about a girl called Claire who is in high school.
It talks about her best friend Ella Grey, and every difficulty that comes in play was never expected. It is such a cliff hanger and is very well written.
Ella Grey first hears her one and only love on Claire's phone, and is in love with him ever since. They stayed together until Ella died.
The death was one that was not expected and really made the book interesting.

The book itself was written on the story 'Orpheus and Euridice'.
Orpheus' love Euridice dies and is sent to the underworld. When Orpheus goes to rescue her, she is allowed to take her out, but with one exception; he is not allowed to look at Euridice until they enter the upper world.
Orpheus looks back, and Euridice is sent back to the underworld, so close yet so far.

In the book, Orpheus has a tragic ending as well.

I cannot tell you what happens because that will spoil the story.

I would recommend this book to ages 10+. It is certainly up there with my top 10 favorite books this year!

I would rate this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is a real page turner.

I hope you have time to read this book!
Profile Image for Erik Fazekas.
478 reviews194 followers
July 6, 2015
amazing, Amazing, AMAZING BOOK!!!
This was my Firts David Almond book, and IT WAS MINDBLOWINGLY BEAUTIFUL.
I am sure this book is not for everyone, and it is not supposed to be read when you want to read just another book... No you have to get into right mindset for this book. (That's the reason for such low ratings).
I could tell you what this book is about, but I would be telling you a lot more than you need to know to read this book. Just get into it. It is really beautiful, both the words and illustrations.
This is a simple story told by a great narrator and it has so much hidden meaning into it, that I cannot wait to read it again.
Best read of 2014!
Profile Image for Mahbod.
53 reviews
March 28, 2022
این اولین کتابی بود که از دیوید آلموند می‌خوندم و خب خوندنش هم حدود ۹ ماه طول کشید. از نظرم آلموند قلم خیلی خوبی داره ولی واقعا ترجمه‌‌ی کتاب حقش رو نویسنده ادا نکرده و خیلی ضعیفه.
Profile Image for Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries).
1,212 reviews391 followers
February 12, 2021
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! My copy was given to me by the publisher for review.

David Almond has both a Printz winner and a Printz Honor book under his belt, but I have admittedly never heard of him. Printz-winning or honored novels have a good chance of being used in school–I had to read Printz winners Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and Monster and Printz Honor novel/hotbed of stupid controversies Speak is also used in classes–but aren’t necessarily memorable. Look at this list of all the nominees and winners in the award’s history and see how many you do/don’t recognize.

Why am I talking about all this boring crap? Because literary novels win awards, but they’re not necessarily good. Bad books can have other stuff going on that’s good enough to earn awards or maybe the judges in one particular year had horrible taste. Almond clearly writes literary YA if his history with awards is any indication. A Song for Ella Grey is literary without a doubt, but it’s also rather bad.

Thankfully, A Song for Ella Grey isn’t all bad. It’s never explicitly stated, but our narrator Claire very clearly carries a torch for her free-spirited friend Ella and is dedicated to her even after Ella marries Orpheus and dies shortly thereafter. As you can tell by the previous sentence, we have a retelling of the myth of Orpheus, he who descended into the Underworld to fetch his wife only to lose her by looking back at her too early. It’s a fairly straightforward retelling, but it’s got a twist too through Claire being our narrator and a section toward the end wherein she channels Orpheus’s spirit to find out what happened when he went down to the Underworld. The design of the pages and the way they were written was utterly spectacular and very creative.

That said, these characters don’t act or talk like teenagers at all and are very flat. Overwrought writing emphasizes how ~wild and free~ they are when they’re partying on beaches, but then they open their mouths and utter dialogue like this and it gets so much worse:

“Bliddy right. He can tek the two of us.”

“Ding dong.”

“Ding dang dong.”

“Ding dang diddly diddly ding dang dong.” (p. 239)

I understand that some of it is dialect, like the spelling of “take” as “tek,” but I don’t think the rest has any excuse. I can’t imagine that any two teenagers in any part of the world would have an exchange like this.

A Song for Ella Grey is a novel that tries too hard to be Literature. It’s overwritten to the point that an adult reader like me couldn’t understand what was going on and it’s deeply alienating in how it wants to be so highbrow that it’s utterly impenetrable. It is possible to read a work of literature and be able to connect to it instead of being alienated. Likewise, it’s possible for a work to be literature if it does alienate you to a degree. If I learned anything in college, it’s that certain schools of literary criticism are all about literature alienating the reader. This book alienates readers too much, however, and you wonder what the point of reading it in the first place is. Based on dialogue exchanges like the one above, it wouldn’t be surprising if someone finally made it over the wall only to find there’s nothing of substance there.

If you were really, really into Sarah McCarry’s just-completed Metamorphosis trilogy, A Song for Ella Grey is a good best for you, and vice versa if you’ve read this novel but not McCarry’s series. I’m not about highbrow literary stuff and never will be, so this might just be a matter of personal taste. There’s a reason I avoid books like this unless I’ve been informed the book has a great deal of diversity or comes from an author I trust.
Profile Image for Megan .
261 reviews
January 17, 2016
A Song for Ella Grey is a modern retelling of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Claire and Ella are best friends who grew up together in Northumberland. On the cusp of their senior year of high school, the two girls make plans to live free and camp on the beach with their group of friends. Their group is known as the "hippies"in their small town. Claire and her friends shops in vintage clothing stores and play instruments. They smoke weed and drink wine; celebrating love and freedom. Everyone, including Ella, is aware that Claire is madly in love with her friend. Their lives are changed forever when on their trip to the northern beaches, the group of teens meets Orpheus. He plays his lyre for them and sings songs so sweet they weep with joy.

While I enjoyed reading A Song for Ella Grey, I did not find it terribly successful as a retelling. It is basically the exact story of Orpheus set in modern times with an extra main character thrown in. The story was fairly straightforward until Claire puts on the mask to take the place of Orpheus in the underworld. It isn't very clear why this is necessary or why Claire needs to go in his place. Does she love Ella more? Is it their history? I did greatly appreciate the strangeness and aesthetics of the book. When Claire enters the underworld as Orpheus, the pages turn black and the print white - opposite of the real world. The writing is also quite lyrical and beautiful to match the philosophies of the main characters. This book was just strange enough that I don't think teens will be rushing to read it, but it will speak to a select crowd. Fans of Sofia Coppola movies would probably enjoy this title.

Grade Range: 9-12
Genre: Retelling, Mythology
Literary Merit: Good
Characterization: Excellent
Recommendation: Recommended
Profile Image for Galadriel Thoman.
69 reviews1 follower
August 8, 2014
*based on an ARC edition

Not being British it took me a little bit to get used to the different way of punctuation and how the author wrote the dialog essentially phonetically (so the characters read in a Northern England accent) but once I got through that I fell in love. This is a book about love. It is a retelling of the Greek tale of Orpheus and Eurydice (Eurydice in this case being our titular Ella Grey) and it is of course about the love between Orpheus and Ella, an insane, magical, cosmic event; but it also more about the love of Ella's best friend Claire who narrates the story. She is the one who bears the tale because she says she must as she knew them both. But more she was in love with Ella as much as Orpheus ever could be. Anyone familiar with the myth knows how things end up and as with all Greek tales it isn't happy. So we know that there is loss and pain and magic but more than anything what touches you is Claire's love of Ella. It doesn't read as exactly romantic, but maybe it is. Some kinds of love are greater than friendship or romance, and if that was the intention of the author, to portray that of Claire and Ella, he does so admirably. I loved this book. It was written like poetry and it flowed like water over rocks. We feel through Claire Ella's love for Orpheus and his for her; we feel the pain of their loss and his struggle to retrieve Ella from the depths because only he could. Orpheus isn't even human, not really, is more Pied Piper than flesh and we feel that as we read, but at the end his loss and end is more human than anything. I highly recommend this book for just about anyone. Young or old.
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