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A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson
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A Company of Swans (original 1985; edition 2008)

by Eva Ibbotson

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6382215,162 (3.97)32
Linnet71's review
Eva Ibbotson said she was surprised that this book (along with 'A Song for Summer' and 'The Magic Flute', etc.) was successfully re-packaged as a Young Adult title. She said she wrote them for people who had had flu and were convalescing. Having read them for the first time recently while ill, I can confirm they are delightful comfort reading. ( )
  Linnet71 | Apr 18, 2012 |
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Showing 22 of 22
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 |
Eva Ibbotson said she was surprised that this book (along with 'A Song for Summer' and 'The Magic Flute', etc.) was successfully re-packaged as a Young Adult title. She said she wrote them for people who had had flu and were convalescing. Having read them for the first time recently while ill, I can confirm they are delightful comfort reading. ( )
  Linnet71 | Apr 18, 2012 |
Harriet Morton is eighteen years old (or nineteen according to the back cover copy) and her dreary life with her aunt and her college professor father is illuminated only by her ballet lessons. When Dubrov comes to her lessons, for he is a friend of her teacher, looking for girls to take across the ocean in a production of Swan Lake, he instantly sees Harriet's talent. Except, there's no way she'll be allowed to go. Not by her father, not by her aunt, and not by her equally dull college professor intended husband-to-be. But a chance encounter encourages her and Harriet will pursue her dreams no matter what.

I loved the nontraditional setting, both in time and subject matter, of this book, used as I am to reading about urban fantasy and vampires and dragons. Harriet is a delightfully plucky young woman who doesn't whine or cry about her situation; she takes everything with aplomb. And when circumstances happen, she takes her chances, knowing full well what might happen.

Though the plot does rely in several places on more "chance", something that this author and publisher found wearing towards the end of the book, it kept me engrossed and I had a hard time putting this book down. The story pulls you in and takes you along with prose that is appropriate to the time and very robust in its descriptions. So much so, that it did take me about a chapter to get into this story.

If I had any complaints about this book, it would be the "chance" encounters and things that happen, as well as the way, I felt, the story because wrapped up all too neatly in the end. The epilogue showing Harriet and others ten years in the future was a nice touch, especially given that WWI had happened in the meantime.

For lovers of the arts, lovers of a story, or young adult readers (or adults) looking for a story that teaches you that it is all right to follow your dreams at all costs, this is a highly recommended story. ( )
  marymuse | Apr 8, 2012 |
Acquired via BookCrossing Nov 2010

The last of the books passed to me by a colleague for the BookCrossing Zone at the University, and quite a good one. Avoiding too much War stuff, for once, this is the story of Harriet and her wish for a career in the ballet. Like "Journey to the River Sea", we have a lot of the plot set in Manaus, which is lovely, although it is a fairly standard love story with a bit of romance for the teen readers, and as usual the author loves her principal characters too much - this should be shown rather than told! A diverting and engaging read, anyway. ( )
1 vote LyzzyBee | Jul 17, 2011 |
A beautifully written novel about a strong headed girl defying her parents in a time when it was unheard of. Love story is perfectly balanced between its explicit nature and its innocence. ( )
  KristiLynn11 | Jul 8, 2011 |
Almost as good as "A Countess Below Stairs", better than "The Reluctant Heiress". This one about a young girl, Harriet Morton, who escapes a cold father and cruel aunt by absconding to Brazil with a ballet company. Her heroines are wonderfully present in the world, strong-willed and determined. ( )
  Liabee | Dec 31, 2010 |
Harriet Morton, faced with both the coldness of a penny-pinching aunt,and distant father, and the prospect of an unwelcome marriage runs off to Brazil to dance in a ballet company headed for the city of Manaus. In Manaus she meets Rom, a wealthy rubber "barron" who shows her kindness and friendship. When the man her father intended her to marry shows up in Manaus to cart her back to England, Harriet must look to her new friends to save her from the bleakness of her life in Cambridge.
This novel clearly expresses the narrowness of an upperclass woman's life in 19th century England. Although Harriet (like all Eva Ibbotson's heroines),is clearly too perfect, the story is well written and romantic. It is a delightful bit of fluff that is both inspiring and exciting. I cannot account for my delight in Eva Ibbotson's works considering how much I'm bothered by her over sentimentality. It must be a testament to the lady's superior writing abiltiy to make me adore her stories despite my knowledge of their rather obvious flaws.

If you like romantic and adventerous plots, if you've ever enjoyed another of Eva Ibbotson's stories, then I reccomend this book for you. ( )
  liahna89 | Sep 28, 2010 |
This is one of my favorite novels. "A Company of Swans" is a about a young woman who runs away from strict father to join a dance company that is performing in Brazil. While there she embraces her new life and falls in love. Unkown to her, her father is searching for, and threatening to send her back.

This is a very romantic novel, that shows that you should never give up on your dreams dispite all costs. ( )
  cstieglitz | Sep 18, 2010 |
This sounded like a super interesting book. All about ballerinas and a trip to the Amazon jungle. I listened to it on audio book and it made an absolutely fabulous audio book. I loved this book to death; it was adventurous, beautiful, sweet, and inspiring.

Harriet Morton is the daughter of a professor. He starts teaching her at a young age and Harriet, being exceptionally smart, learns quickly. As she approaches adulthood her father (who is absolutely against anything but a traditional female role) decides that learning is too masculine for Harriet and ends all of her lessons except for her ballet lessons. One day at ballet school a man shows up who is planning a Ballet tour through the Amazon; he wants Harriet to join the dance company and come with them. Harriet's father is enraged and forbids it. Harriet shows some backbone and decides to chase her happiness by running away and joining the dance troupe. In the Amazon she meets an amazing rubber baron named Rom; together they challenge the bounds of proper English tradition.

This was an amazing book. The characters were beautifully done and the plot was incredibly well woven together. There are many small things in the beginning of the novel that have huge effects on things that happen later in the book; the book was just so well thought out. There is a touch of humor throughout the novel so you will find yourself smiling a lot, if not laughing out loud.

Harriet is a wonderful character; she is smart, graceful, kind, but refuses to give up her quest to be happy. In the Amazon she meets Rom Verney, an English nobleman who shares her passion for learning and for following his heart. Rom is an interesting character that has conflicted background. Even all of the side characters have interesting and intricate pasts. The best thing of all is that most of the people in this book are inherently good people. Even the bad people are just misled or misunderstood. It would be nice if all of society was as good as most the people in this book are.

Ibbotson has quite a way with language. She writes intelligently and beautifully. The way she describes the scenes you feel like you are actually there looking at plants in the forest or feeling the heat beat on your skin. The number one way to describe this book is just beautiful through and through.

At times you feel like maybe Harriet is a little bit too good, she is so sweet and good that is it unbelievable. Still it is refreshing to read about a gentle, yet strong, character that is very inspiring. Overall this is a feel good novel, everything ends exactly how you would wish it to end and (given what good people the characters are) you just couldn't wish any other type of ending on them.

If you are interested in a beautiful, romantic novel that depicts an interesting era this is the book for you. I also learned a ton about ballet, the rubber mining in the Amazon, and about the Amazon itself. This was such an interesting, heartwarming, and adventurous book. I just loved it. It is one that I could definitely read again. This book made me check out more of Ibbotson's book...she definitely has a talent for this sort of writing. ( )
1 vote krau0098 | Jun 4, 2010 |
Ehh...it was okay. As a former ballerina, I absolutely loved how ballet was incorporated into the story; it wasnt just used as a way to describe the characters, but it had its own place in the story. But past this general positive, my feelings about the book get a little more confused. This is the only Eva Ibbotson I've read (and you know, while it wasnt an awful read, I certainly dont feel the impulse to go out and read more of her stuff) and her writing style is descriptive and at times even elegant but her characters are very vacillated and her story pacing is really, REALLY weird. This is first and foremost a romance story (there's little to no actual "HISTORY" here) and so therefore the romantic aspect should be the most important and the one that carries the weight of the story. Well, the whole thing just left me feeling rather confused: the relationship is way WAY too rushed at the expense of a moderately-paced blossoming love story in which the reader gets to know the characters well and really see their relationship grow. What could have been sweet and "romantic" gets questionable and downright tawdry. And I consider myself one of the last true Romantics running around today. I love "happily-ever-afters." I love "true love" and all that jazz. But this is just weird. Now granted, there were some good dialogue segments here and there, but not evenly or properly spaced throughout the story. And this is just a personal pet peeve of mine, but I don't understand why authors feel the need to include "previous encounters" of the love interest... THIS IS NOT A CARFAX HISTORY REPORT! I dont want to know all the other people who have driven your car!!! And I am certainly not a progressive, but I found it just a bit weird that this seemingly good-natured, innocent but grounded character would be so quick to tramp herself up. Girls, when you're shacking up with someone on a regular basis (well, that is what "shacking up" means), that's trampy. When the main character (who is at the ripe old age of 18 i might add) communicates a willingness to live as a "kept woman," that's trampy. that's adultery, also. How is that romantic? Like I said before, the characters' profiles just seem to constantly contradict each other. The ballerina in me was satisfied, and there were SOME parts of the harriett-rom romance that i thought was sweet (i like it when guys "rescue" girls--not because girls cant do anything for themselves, but because guys need to get off their butts and be productive! Not because we're weak, because WE'RE WORTH IT!) but overall, not one of my favorites. Ann Rinaldi is still the queen of "HISTORYCAL FICTION" in my book! ( )
1 vote Ameliaiif | Apr 8, 2010 |
Ibbotson is wonderful. I love her writing -- such descriptions about music, dance, plants and animals. In this story we get a glimpse of South America as she details the life of a girl who ran away from her oppressive family to join a ballet company performing in Brazil. Harriet is so young and refreshing and I loved Rom and his almost immediate attraction to her. Although sometimes it was a little weird how he wanted to protect her - almost like a father figure. I felt this book was a little more mature than her others. A story full of tragedy, humor, and love nicely developed that often left me guessing. I especially liked Henry as a little boy (and a grownup). I can just imagine him suffering through the measles with his impatient (and awful) mother. However, this book suffered from a very poor editor. I found typos. Lots of typos - never a good thing.And if you were wondering: I still like a Song for Summer the best, but this was a close second. ( )
  mmillet | Dec 14, 2009 |
A Comapany of Swans tells the story of Harriet Morton, an eighteen-
year-old girl living with her Academic father Professor Morton and overly-frugal Aunt Louisa in a cold, dark house in 1912. Her only escape from this dreary life is her ballet class. One day, the Russian director of a ballet company comes looking for dancers to join the corps. She is refused permission to join the company on a tour to Manaus by her father, but after a visit to Stavely, a stately home in Suffolk, she decides to run away and join the company. Once in the Amazon, she meets a charming Englishman, Rom Verney, whom she discovers ran away from Stavely after his finacee left him for his elder brother. She falls in love with him, and, after many set-backs, they eventually find happiness together.

I realy enjoyed this book; Mrs. Ibbotson's writing style is witty and intelligent. Her main characters are always likeable, without being annoyingly 'good', and this is no exception. The way Rom and Harriet are re-united is brilliant (and rather unexpected).
I definitely recommend this one, and all Eva Ibbotsons books! ( )
  theapothecary | Jun 15, 2009 |
If you like Ibbotson's style, you'll like this book, although in my opinion it wasn't as good as A Countess Below Stairs. Harriet Morton lives a dull life in Cambridge, constantly repressed by her cold father and aunt. Her only release is ballet class, where she is one day "discovered" by the head of a traveling ballet corps. She is invited to go on a tour to South America, which she eagerly accepts, running away from her oppressive home. In the tropical atmosphere of Brazil, she comes into her own and falls in love: but will she be forced to leave by people from her past? Even though I'm not particularly interested in ballet, I enjoyed this book very much. It's extremely romantic, and Harriet is a likeable character. Oh, and her wet-mop fiance from England is hysterical. The book does get a bit melodramatic in places, but who cares when the writing's so good?
  christina_reads | Mar 12, 2009 |
Harriet is stifling in her excessively academic home, penned in between her professor father's stiffness and her aunt's stinginess. Her one escape is ballet. But when even her weekly lessons have been cut off, Harriet finds the courage to escape her colorless life and journey to Brazil.

I liked Harriet as a character, and I liked the romance. I was a little disappointed with the way the story twisted, bringing Harriet and Rom together in such a way. The setting and the characters were well written, but it could have been so much better.

Update: I decided that I was being just a little hard on the book. I really liked epilogue. So I'd give it 3 1/2 stars. ( )
  cmbohn | Jan 22, 2009 |
A book about a girl born and destined to be a ballet dancer, but held from her dream from priggish parents and a stuffy suitor, this book will capture your heart, eyes, and brain all the way to the last page. Wonderfully woven in is humor, a fair amount of love, adventure, and of course a happy ending. ( )
  BookWhiz | Dec 28, 2008 |
I enjoyed this book but not as much as her others -- I felt the heroine was too passive. ( )
1 vote chouffin | May 26, 2008 |
This was lovely. Harriet lives with her miserly and misogynistic father and aunt - her only outlet is the ballet classes she takes. When finally she sees no other choice but to run away, she joins a ballet company who are going to perform in South America. There she meets a man who knows at once that Harriet is what he wants, but they have a lot of misunderstandings ahead of them.
1 vote alasen_reads | Dec 8, 2007 |
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