David Almond

Book Review: Half a Creature from the Sea

David Almond is definitely a unique author.

This book is a collection of short stories based on Almond’s own childhood, mixed in with anecdotes of his own experiences. Like most of Almond’s writing, there is a very strange magic realism throughout these stories.

The stories are all based in Felling-on-Tyne, but Almond notes how he altered the setting to fit his stories. The characters are also a mix of fictional and real people.

Religion was clearly a big part of Almond’s upbringing, and he envelopes tht in his writing. However, the stories aren’t particularly religious at all. It’s more the daily routine of the young boys and how religion is incorporated into this.

I’m a big fan of short stories. This collection was really good, though they were all very similar in atmosphere/genre. Not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily, but I do like a bit of variety.

Almond’s writing is fantastic, as always. Descriptive enough, but still leaving some details to the reader’s own imagination. It was easy to just sit and read this book without needing to put it down. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: A Song for Ella Grey

Sorry I waited so long before writing this. My life is a bit hectic at the moment.

I found this book really quite strange – but then everything I’ve read by David Almond has been a bit different. It really teeters on the line between the real world and fantasy, and I honestly couldn’t be sure whether some of the story was metaphorical or actually literal. It was a really interesting read.

Claire is the narrator of this book, telling us the events of the past. The story isn’t told entirely chronologically but more like a person would speak, with tangents and relevant contextual events thrown in.

Ella Grey is Claire’s best friend and possibly the protagonist of this book. Claire tells the story of how she met a strange boy called Orpheus on a beach one day, and how he turned up outside their school for Ella. The couple had a marriage ceremony soon after, but the day ends in tragedy.

Claire’s affections for Ella seem to blur the line between friendship and romance, which was definitely an interesting aspect. Her opinions of Orpheus seem a little mixed, and she is clearly looking out for her friend’s welfare.

Orpheus’s ‘journey’ at the end of the novel was especially strange; as was the way it was told¬†through¬†Claire. The entire book – especially when describing Orpheus and Ella – was extremely lyrical. The language was all very romantic and poetic, which I guess was to emphasise the musical quality that surrounds Orpheus’s character. It also really added to the sense of fantasy and mystery, giving the whole tale a strong ethereal quality.

This book was fantastically written, and definitely unique. I must say it was a little too romantic and poetic for my personal tastes, so I’m giving it 3 stars out of 5. I can definitely appreciate the beauty of Almond’s writing, though.