Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Company of Swans, Eva Ibbotson

Title: A Company of Swans
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Published: 1985, St. Martin's
Category: Romantic Fiction
Rating: 7.5/10

Reading A Countess Below Stairs last week sent me on a bit of an Ibbotson binge. I found a copy of A Company of Swans at the library. This book is currently out of print, but an edition (with this pretty cover) is being reissued in September.

Harriet Morton has led a repressed and dreary childhood, growing up in a lonely and cold house in Cambridge under the thumb of her narrow-minded professor father and meddlesome spinster aunt. The only thing that makes her really happy are her ballet lessons. In 1912 when she is 18, a Russian ballet master sees her dance and offers her a place in a touring ballet troupe that he is taking to South America. Of course, Harriet's father would never allow it. Dancing is low class and he's decided that Harriet will marry the pretentious entomologist Dr. Fitch-Dutton. But Harriet works up her courage and runs away and soon she is sailing for Brazil. She loves her new life; dancing before an appreciative audience, becoming friends with the other dancers and staff, and then falling in love with the mysterious Rom Verney.

Ibbotson has delivered again for me; I loved this book too (though not quite as much as Countess). Harriet is lovable in much the same way that Anna is: quietly appreciating life and living every experience to the fullest. And Rom was an even more interesting and complex character than Harriet. But while the two of them were great, the secondary characters in this felt a bit lacking. That was one of the things that I thought so amazing about A Countess Below Stairs---each person in the huge cast of secondary characters was so well drawn, no matter how little space was given to them. Whereas in this book, I had trouble remembering who everyone was. My other complaint is that the conflict, which starts out so promising, eventually diminishes into a simple Big Misunderstanding. Argh. A bit annoying, as always.

But I thought the setting was fascinating. Harriet's troupe sails up the Amazon river to the city of Manaus. I had never heard of Manaus (my knowledge of South American history is, well, a bit non-existent) and thought that maybe it was fictional. But no! A look at my atlas told me that much (have I ever mentioned how much I love my atlas?). And Wiki has a photo of the famous opera house where they performed. Isn't it great? Anyway, very unusual--exotic and interesting.


Marg said...

This one sound good too! Another book added to my list!

dancechica said...

I think I mentioned before that I've had this on my wishlist for a while (I'm waiting for the new edition with the pretty cover!) I can't resist stories which include dance and romance. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this one. :-)

nath said...

Hey Jennie :D

the author is really lucky... getting all those new nice covers :D I'm definitively going to try The Countess Below the Stairs :D Glad you enjoyed her books :D

Rosario said...

I remember loving this one back when I read it, but I can't remember much. That means.... reread!! :-D

Unknown said...

It's good to see them reissue these books. I've always had a copy around here**somewhere** but never read them. I'll have to dig them out. Thanks for the review.


Mailyn said...

I LOVE that cover! I've loved ballet since I was way little so I may have to get this. ^__^

Jennie said...


Dance Chica--Yes, this is definitely one for you. I've never done any sort of dance, but what girl doesn't sometimes dream of being a ballerina? I loved that part of the book.

Nath--It is pretty, isn't it? Though that girl looks a bit young to be falling in love, but whatever. It's nice anyway.

Rosario--I think I'll have to buy a copy of this, so I can reread it in a few years too. ;)

Keishon--You should pull it out and dust if off! ;) Well worth a read.

Mailyn--I recommend it! The bits about ballet were really well done.

Em said...

I've had an Eva Ibbotson thing going on lately too! I was actually thinking of posting about her books as a whole...I just finished the two you reviewed and also "A Morning Gift." Is it ok if I link to your reviews on my post? Cheers!

Jennie said...

Hi Em! Link away! I'll be interested to hear what you say about A Morning Gift, as I was thinking of getting that one next. ;)

Josette said...

I've bought A Countess Below Stairs but haven't gotten around to reading it yet! Since you liked it so much, then I'm assuming it should be a very, very nice book! I bought it because I read the blurb on the back of the book and felt it might be interesting.