It was my turn on the BlogTour Orfeia by Joanne M. Harris yesterday, but due to unforeseen circumstances I am posting today instead. This beautiful book is illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins.
‘The stunning new novella from No 1 bestselling author Joanne Harris: Orfeia is a gender-flipped retelling of the Orpheus Myth.’
About the Author
Joanne Harris is an Anglo-French writer, whose books include fourteen novels, two cookbooks and many short stories. Her work is extremely diverse, covering aspects of magic realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. In 2000, her 1999 novel Chocolat was adapted to the screen, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. Chocolat has sold over a million copies in the UK alone and was a global bestseller.
She is an Honorary Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, and in 2013 was awarded an MBE by the Queen. Her hobbies are listed in Who’s Who as ‘mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion’. She plays bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16 and runs the musical storytelling show Storytime. Joanne lives with her husband in Yorkshire, about 15 miles from the place she was born. Find out more at www.joanne-harris.co.uk or
About the book
When you can find me an acre of land, Every sage grows merry in time, Between the ocean and the sand Then will you be united again.
So begins a beautiful and tragic quest as a heartbroken mother sets out to save her lost daughter, through the realms of the real, of dream, and even into the underworld itself. But determination alone is not enough. For to save something precious, she must give up something precious, be it a song, a memory, or her freedom itself . . .
I can only recommend you buy a hardcopy of this beautiful book. It may only be novella length with 224 pages, but the illustration and the story make up for the length. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it as a gift and it is one of those books that takes up a special place on your bookshelf.
It’s inspired by folklore or the myth of Orpheus, who tries to return to the Underworld to be reunited with Eurydice, but cannot do so whilst alive. The myth also speaks of him playing a mourning song to call on death, depending on the variation of the retelling. The songs and sound of grief, longing and love are important in this story.
Harris takes the tale and puts her mark on it as only she can. Orpheus becomes Orfeia the grieving mother, who returns to the world she has forgotten to find her lost child. To do so she must also enter a world, which demands death as an entrance fee, but before doing so she must also remember and adhere to the sly and often insidious games of her people. The people she left behind to live the life of a mortal, which in retrospect has only caused her grief.
I have to say the first chapters were heartbreaking. It was as if Harris was reaching out from within the pages and squeezing my heart. Words so beguiling and yet simultaneously brutally frank. One wonders, why isn’t there a word for mother or father who has lost there child. We have a title or phrase for everything else – perhaps the hope that one never has to endure said situation is why it remains nameless. No shout-out to the universe, hence no echo returning to inflict such pain. If only that were true.
I absolutely loved it.