David Almond's dramatic retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in 'A Song for Ella Grey' is an updated story of doomed love that serves as a wonderful showcase for his luminous, lyrical writing.
You don't need to be familiar with the original story to know from the start that everything is going to end badly as the prose sweeps with sadness.
The bitter-sweet tale is told by Claire, best friend of over-protected and dreamy Ella. When Ella meets musician, Orpheus, capable of charming not just the birds and the beasts with his magical music, but even the rocks and the sea, Claire knows her place in Ella's life has been moved to the sidelines.
Will Claire watch the blooming of a beautiful relationship in the coming together of ethereal Ella, with her trusting poet's soul, and the wandering Orpheus? They instantly feel they were meant to be together and that love will conquer all and Claire can only look on at the whirlwind and find a role in helping the couple. But there is a palpable sense of foreboding throughout - that the love is too perfect to last.
The most wondrously created scenes are of the 'wedding' party, where a group of kids nearing the end of their school days camp wild on a beach. As more and more of their friends arrive to re-create Greece in Northumberland, there are adders in the sand and jealousy at the heart of the party that Ella and Orpheus have found what everyone else is seeking - a magical bond with someone they can call true love.
The book is faithful to the original myth, but by making modern teenagers walk in the shoes of mythical characters gives the story an added poignancy as they try to find a way forward for their fragile and tender love.
A beautiful read for anyone who likes their love stories beautiful and dark - the way all love stories should be?