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A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson
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A Company of Swans (1985)

by Eva Ibbotson

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I didn’t enjoy this as much as the other two I read by the same author. It all seemed a little improbable and the characters veered a bit farther into the romance book category than I can reasonably stand. (June 2008)

----

None of the other Ibbotsons I’ve read quite stacks up to A Countess Below Stairs for me, but I did enjoy this one quite a bit. It’s hard not to love Harriet. [Nov. 2010] ( )
  maureene87 | Apr 4, 2013 |
You guys, this was so enjoyable! A girl in 1912 escapes from her extremely oppressive home and runs away to Brazil with a ballet troupe.
I can't imagine you're not already sold just from that description, but may I also mention the dashing hero, the amusing tricks played on the hideous unwanted fiance, the charmingly insane prima ballerina, and the astonishing series of ridiculous coincidences that drive the plot along.
You're welcome. ( )
1 vote JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |
Alright, I'm sitting here trying to think of why on earth I did not particularly like this book the first time I read it several years ago.

I mean, how could I FORGET Agatha & Grunthorpe--Rom's pet MANATEES????

LOVE.

'The Reluctant Heiress' is still my favorite of Eva Ibbotson's historical romances, but 'A Company of Swans' might become my second favorite.

Now hurry up and make a movie out of this already, somebody!!!! ( )
  FutureMrsJoshGroban | Feb 4, 2013 |
This book follows the usual Ibbotson formula for Cinderella-style romances but this time much of it takes place in Manaus on the Amazon, rather than in Britain or Vienna. Manaus, Brazil and its famed opera house will be familiar to readers of The State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, but Ibbotson’s Amazon is a paradise rather than a dark and threatening milieu as in Patchett.

It is 1912 and Harriet Morton, 18, whose mother died when she was two, lives in Cambridge, England with her much older, narrow-minded, and unloving father, as well as his sister, her Aunt Louisa, who resents Harriet and treats her poorly. Her only joy is taking ballet at the Sonia Lavarre Academy of Dance. One day one of Madame’s old friends arrives, a Monsieur Dubrov, looking for outstanding pupils to join his corps de ballet soon traveling to Manaus to perform. He is intrigued by Harriet, and invites her, but Harriet knows she will not be allowed to go. By chance, however, she befriends a little boy, Henry, who is obsessed with the Amazon, and desperately wants Harriet to go there and help find his uncle, rumored to be there. Harriet, like any Ibbotson heroine, could never deny the requests of a little child.

Harriet claims to be going to stay with a school chum, and joins the Dubrov Ballet Company. The opening night in Manaus, she catches the eye of Rom Verney, the chairman of the Opera House trustees, and coincidentally the very man she promised Henry she would find. Rom is rich and charming, but isn’t he rumored to be in love with someone else?

Discussion: The scaffolding of every adult book by Eva Ibbotson is the same:

1. a lovely fresh and innocent young girl instantly beloved by all who meet her
2. encounters an older, wealthy, unmarried man (with inner pain but good at heart) who becomes convinced she is what he needs
3. but there is at least one terrible misunderstanding that pulls them apart
4. until the very end when suddenly the clouds of misunderstanding break and love conquers all

On top of this underlying and pretty much unerring plan, the distinctive elements of each book change and tend to reflect the author’s passions: opera, ballet, classical literature, and so on.

Does that mean the books are too predictable to read more than one? Absolutely not. That is, absolutely they are predictable but each one of them is still a joy.

In this book, I loved the exotic setting of Manaus with its riotous color and picturesque foreign landscape, and the details of the rigors of ballet training that are so lovingly depicted. And as is very much the usual case with Ibbotson, the side characters are memorably and delightfully drawn, from young Henry, whom Harriet befriends, to the imperious but so understandable Simonova, the aging star of the ballet company. And the romance in this book is more fully explored than in the others by Ibbotson, and so enchantingly!

Though set in 1912, there isn’t much to the historical fiction aspects of this book, unlike Ibbotson’s others. But again, no complaints – the story is pleasurable regardless.

Evaluation: This book follows the usual Ibbotson formula for romance, which means it is a bit of a Cinderella story. But I hope no one holds predictability against it. Like Ibbotson’s other books, it is engaging and endearing, and the character portrayals, especially those of the minor characters, are especially well-done. ( )
1 vote nbmars | Oct 9, 2012 |
19-yr-old Harriet Morton is trapped by the restricted life permitted her by her father and her dour aunt in 1912 Cambridge. Her passion, and her only escape, is ballet. It is ballet that allows her to flee to South America where she finds love.

This is a YA book that adults can enjoy. It rather reminds me of the romances I read when I was in my 20's. ( )
  bookwoman247 | Jul 7, 2012 |
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There was no lovelier view in England, Harriet knew this.
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Book description
For nineteen-year-old Harriet Morton, life in 1912 Cambridge is as dry and dull as a biscuit. Her stuffy father and her opressive aunt Louisa allow her only one outlet: ballet. When a Russian ballet master comes to class searching for dancers to fill the corps of his ballet company before their South American tour, Harriet’s world changes. Defying her father’s wishes and narrowly escaping the clutches of the man who wishes to marry her, Harriet sneaks off to join the ballet on their journey to the Amazon. There, in the wild, lush jungle, they perform Swan Lake in grand opera houses for the wealthy and culture-deprived rubber barons, and Harriet meets Rom Verney, the handsome and mysterious British exile who owns the most ornate opera house. Utterly enchanted by both the exotic surroundings and by Rom’s affections, Harriet is swept away by her new life, completely unaware that her father and would-be finacé have begun to track her down. . . .
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142409405, Paperback)

For nineteen-year-old Harriet Morton, life in 1912 Cambridge is as dry and dull as a biscuit. Her stuffy father and her opressive aunt Louisa allow her only one outlet: ballet. When a Russian ballet master comes to class searching for dancers to fill the corps of his ballet company before their South American tour, Harriet’s world changes. Defying her father’s wishes and narrowly escaping the clutches of the man who wishes to marry her, Harriet sneaks off to join the ballet on their journey to the Amazon. There, in the wild, lush jungle, they perform Swan Lake in grand opera houses for the wealthy and culture-deprived rubber barons, and Harriet meets Rom Verney, the handsome and mysterious British exile who owns the most ornate opera house. Utterly enchanted by both the exotic surroundings and by Rom’s affections, Harriet is swept away by her new life, completely unaware that her father and would-be finacé have begun to track her down. . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:34 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Ibbotson's latest romantic frolic concerns the delightful young daughter of a pompous, repressive Cambridge University professor. After escaping her father's stifling household (maintained by his spinster sister) and pursuing her dream to join a ballet company, Harriet Morton finds herself on a physically exhausting yet emotionally uplifting journey up the Amazon to perform in Brazil's famous opera house in Manaus. Naturally, she is pursued by her outraged father and rescued by a dashing Englishman who has hewn his fortune and a wondrous estate out of the South American jungles.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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