Orfeia is the third and hardest to describe of Joanne Harris’ enchanting fairy tale novellas.
A journey, taken at a run, that leads readers along a difficult path to understand the importance of memory, story, and identity.
The protagonist is an older woman, a widow, and a mother who has lost a daughter. Although it explores the depths of a mother’s grief, the account never wallows. It is controlled, fast-moving, and every word is carefully chosen to offer maximum emotional weight.
Still a story about loss and longing, it is punctuated with quirky encounters and whimsical happenings that prove a narrative can be tragic and thought-provoking but also hopeful and magical.
Loosely based on The Child Ballads 2 & 19 (The Elphin Knight & King Orfeo), it is a gender-flipped retelling of the Orpheus myth but manages to bring a fresh perspective and compellingly unique conclusion to a story most readers know well.
If you are hungry for more fairy stories about powerful, darker, trickier fae, or always looking to explore new corners of folklore and myth, I could not recommend this more.
Although a brief dreamy afternoon read, it is a stunningly illustrated hardback worth holding on to in order to return to time and time again when you need a cleansing dose of the fantastic.