Award-winning British novelist Almond (Kit’s Wilderness, 1999; The Fire-Eaters, 2004, etc.) mines the tragic Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in this modern-day love story, told in the voice of Claire Wilkinson, a 17-year-old poet.
Claire loves her childhood friend Ella Grey, and they are “young and bright and free” with their kisses and sleepovers until…“Ha!” Everything changes one spring day when Claire encounters Orpheus, a wild, black-haired, lyre-playing wanderer in a purple coat and Doc Martens, on Northumberland’s Bamburgh Beach. Claire calls Ella on her cellphone from the boozy bacchanalian beach party so her friend can hear the mesmerizing songs that Orpheus plays, enchanting the dolphins, the sea, even the pebbles and sand…and soon wishes she hadn’t. When Orpheus sings for Ella Grey, she falls madly in love with him, sight unseen. “Go to Hell, Orpheus,” Claire whispers. The rest of the tale mirrors the myth: Ella and Orpheus marry, Ella dies by snakebite, and Orpheus enters the beastly Underworld to rescue her from Death, a section of the book effectively distinguished by black paper with white type.
Almond brings his hypnotic lyricism to this darkly romantic tale that sings of the madness of youth, the ache of love, and the near-impossibility of grasping death. (Fiction. 14 & up)