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A Company of Swans
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A Company of Swans

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  6,457 ratings  ·  564 reviews
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 n...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 6th 2007 by Speak (first published July 1st 1985)
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Teen Historical Novels
26th out of 486 books — 834 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Amanda
Here's a checklist for you:
1. do you like ballet?
2. do you enjoy romantic semi-tragedies?
3. would you travel to the Amazon to escape from over-bearing and protecting family members?
4. would you defy everything you've been brought up to believe for something you think is right?
If you say yes to at least to of these, then this book is definetly one you will read again and again!
Sherwood Smith
Sep 18, 2013 Sherwood Smith added it
Shelves: fiction
An odd book, with some beautiful writing, and an absolutely spot-on-target evocation of the ballet life. I think it came out in the eighties, but it has a thirties feel, though it's set in Edwardian times, just before WW I. There were moments that felt startlingly modern, then there were outdated concepts (Orientalism), and the central romance was handled oddly, based as it was on misperceptions and misunderstandings, then a stunning decision on the part of the heroine.

Was it all due to the wri...more
D.G.
Feb 22, 2011 D.G. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to D.G. by: willaful
*4.5 stars*

This is my second book by this author and I just loved it. Her books have been recently marketed as YA but like the last one, this is really a clean historical romance with a really great heroine (nice, loving, smart, hard worker) who is NOT a beauty but still shines because of her personality. Add to that the great setting (a ballet company touring Brazil in the 1910s), an interesting hero and an amazing cast of secondary characters and you get another gem by Ibbotson.

The ballet comp...more
AlixJamie
I love Eva Ibbotson's writing. It's funny, witty and refreshing. And I liked Harriet too, even though she was humble and quiet and good, which is something I usually can't stand in a heroine. I admired her innocence, enjoyed the detail of ballet life and the intricate and laugh-inducing writing. But abruptly ending my enjoyment came the unfortunate circumstances between pages 287 and 295 and several subsequent pages after that. It wasn't just the acts of adultery that offended and disappointed m...more
Melee
The plot was rather predictable, the love story (and the two characters it concerned) cloying to my inner cynic, and the other characters weren't particularly memorable but still interesting to read about. Harriet was too... too something to ever really be a sympathetic heroine in my eyes. Too good, perhaps? Sentimental? Asininely pleased at being a ruined woman? I don't know; I'm thinking it was probably a combination. Also, I would just like to say, there was not enough communication going on...more
Veronica
By far the worst Ibbotson book I've read to date. I'd give it 2.5/3 stars. I'm starting to notice a theme in her books- young, not traditionally attractive girl who is involved in some kind of performing art company catches the attention on an older, tall, dark, and handsome, brooding rich man. It usually takes me a while to get into her books, but this one took me unusually long. The story seemed rushed, and the transitions between the different storylines were awkward. I couldn't connect to an...more
Chelsea
Feb 04, 2009 Chelsea rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Chelsea by: Jen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brillare
Anyway, my biggest issue with this book was the message I got from it. It practically said, "Life is sad and dull unless you're rebellious. Oh, and always remember, happiness comes from boys.

That's just my feelings, of course. I felt like her life began to revolve around the guy, and she was a bit obsessive.

So, yeah, I never really finished this book, just skimmed through - I'm pretty sure it will stay on the never-finished shelf forever.
JoLee
Oct 16, 2010 JoLee rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
A Company of Swans is official my second favorite Eva Ibbotson book, and it is a close second indeed. Harriet leads a dismal life in Cambridge with her professor father and miserly aunt. Her only solace is ballet class. Inexplicably the director of a ballet company finds himself offering her a position in his company for a tour to the Amazon. Harriet is lacking in training, but she has something special, and he knows it. Of course, she's not allowed to go, but after a visit with young Henry, th...more
Angie
Once again Ibbotson shows how apt she is at expressing just how her character is feeling, in such a way that the reader sets the book down in her lap and sighs, "Yes. That is exactly how it feels."

When we first meet Harriet, it is indeed difficult to find an aspect of her life that is not dreary and isolated. Kept on an unbelievably tight rein by her scholar father and spinster aunt, her only outlet is the weekly ballet lessons that have somehow slipped under the radar. When a talent scout offer...more
Leah
Apr 15, 2008 Leah rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Leah by: Stephenie Meyer
I couldn't agree with the morals in the books. I know that a lot of people think that's a stupid reason to hate a book, but it's true. I gave it away (I hate to throw out books) because I couldn't stand it. Certainly clever, and very intriguing, a strong heroine...but I just didn't agree. At all. It was well written though, with some very loveable characters. I just...couldn't get passed the moral thing. I found it in the YA section at my local bookstore...umm I don't think that it's really appr...more
E.L.
I'm such a fan of Ibbotson's children's books, that I didn't like this one came as a surprise and a disappointment to me. And I didn't hate it; it just fell flat.

The protagonist was a drip. We were told - quite forcibly - that she was GOOD, and intelligent, and disciplined, and all that jazz, but what we saw ... she was a drip.

The romantic lead, as so often happened in romances written in that particular day and age (1980s), fell in love with her instantly, and then just as promptly decided that...more
Rachael
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen
I surprised myself and liked this book more than I thought I would. Since I used to dance, I was probably swayed by the nostalgia of reading a bunch of french ballet terms and feeling intelligent understanding the references to famous ballerinas. But, even without all that, it remains that, I really liked Harriet.

I liked that she was Good. And yes, I intended that capital G. She grew up in such a harsh atmosphere, but instead of making her afraid or bitter, is made her thirsty for information a...more
Sarah
I was astonished by this book because I don't think I've ever actually read a book like it, where the heroine really does wait around passively until a man saves her. Luckily the man saves her from some implausibly wacky scenarios (kidnap, moral dissolution, falling into piranha-infested waters after balancing delicately on a leaf) so the book is pretty fun. The scene-setting in the Amazon and the portrayal of the ballet company are the best parts of the book. There is also an elaborate sub-plot...more
Jennifer
I really like this author's books for slightly younger readers so I was excited to read this young adult romance. It's about a ballerina who runs off and joins a tour to Brazil, and a man she meets there. It's an exciting and tender story with some very admirable characters and some very laughable ones. My only criticism is that the book glorifies premarital intimacy. The main character, in every other respect a very moral, sweet, good role model of a girl, wakes up in her lovers arms rejoicing...more
Merritt
Ok, I don't know if I can justly review this because I didn't finish it. But here's my bit:

The story was great. I loved it. Tons of Ballet and fun and love and mysterious attractive people. Wonderful! Everyone loves the main character because she is so good and nice and innocent and kind. And then.... BANG! She leaves all her goodness behind and revels in being immoral. I mean, it's not gratuitous or anything, it's simply that Ibbotson completely changes the character and then the character lov...more
Miss Clark
Well, I would have liked it so much better if Ibbotson could write one book that portrayed love with anything approaching a true understanding of it. In all her "adult" novels anyone in love inevitably has premarital relations, this being the only way that people truly in love can express themselves, of course. It frustrates me to no end, given that I like her characters and wish they could act in a dignified manner. It is the one thing that always keeps me from really being able to recommend th...more
Amy
Feb 09, 2014 Amy rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Amy by: Chara
Frankly, quite a surprising disappointment. Eva Ibbotson's romances half-scandalized me as a teenager, but at least they were generally clean. They were appropriate, anyway, which is is more than I feel I can say for this novel. I wouldn't have read it except that Chara was so insistent that this was her favorite Ibbotson book she had ever read (which, considering she has read all of two, only says so much). However, I am a sucker for a book, any book, and particularly for a highly recommended b...more
Jenne
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.
joy *the clean-reader extraordinaire*
horrendous moral message
unlikeable, unrealistic characters
scarce plot believability

pg13 green for occasional shocking language, some cabaret dancing, our hero's womanizing ways, and our heroine's delight in her ruination
Elizabeth
Entertaining read for its genre. I do take some issue with the ending, but don't want to spoil it here.
Amelia, the pragmatic idealist
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 e...more
Brittany
Eva Ibbotson's work is lyrical and intelligent and always true to the period. She sweeps you away in the language of ballet and the stuffy world of England in the early 1900s. Harriet Morton is 18, and the daughter of a chauvinist Professor of Classics at Cambridge University circa 1912. He educates his daughter, teaching her the glories of the classic works of Greece, Rome, and early England -- and then he asks her not to use that knowledge -- to be a silent, thoughtful, intelligent trophy wife...more
Emily
Overwhelming feeling of UGH. This book gets two stars because I loved the descriptions of the Amazon and the descriptions of the ballet; both were extremely vivid, and I spent some time looking up video clips of specific dance scenes after I'd finished the book. But the main characters (and the romance!) were so incredibly dull that I couldn't bring myself to care about their eventual fates, (view spoiler)...more
Jane Stewart
It was wonderful. I am torn that I couldn’t give it 5 stars.

There were a few scenes that were wonderfully surprising and delighting. I found myself amazed and laughing out loud when I thought about those scenes later. However, I was disappointed to find the author used one of my pet peeves. The hero and heroine made erroneous assumptions about each other that would have been cleared up if only they had communicated in a normal manner. They loved each other and wanted to marry, but each one thoug...more
Molly811
A Company of Swans, by Eva Ibbotson, is a great book for people who like romance. The plot is kind of complex, but you have to keep reading it in order to figure out the whole story. If you look really hard in the reading, there is a lot of hidden things in the text that will really help you understand the story. In other words, this is the kind of book that you can’t skim, because if you do, you will miss something.
Harriet Morton is a girl living in 20th century England. Her mother died when...more
Caroline
I'm a sucker for novels involving dance. In many cases I am disappointed with the obvious (to me, since I'm a dancer) lack of knowledge when it comes to the dance sections. This book however, did not disappoint in this category. Ibbotson obviously did her research or wrote from personal experience, as the sections that had to do with dance came to life on the page--aided in part by her perfectly balanced use of the French ballet terms. To most this may not seem important as it doesn't necessaril...more
Tracy Robbins
Sep 11, 2013 Tracy Robbins rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Teen girls
Love, love, love this story!

As a child I was in love with Ibbotson's book 'A Journey to the River Sea' and so one day my teen self decided to look for more books by her (which weren't childrens books). To my total delight I found an old hardcover, brown paged copy of 'A Company of Swans' in the adult section of the library! I couldn't believe there was more that I hadn't discovered - and to top it off, the book was based in the VERY SAME PLACE as Journey.
I wasn't sure what to expect, and it too...more
Tally
As far as ballet goes, I loved it. The descriptions were rich and elaborated, depicting a world which is beautiful and magical and tragic, all at the same time. I enjoyed that glimpse behind the scenes because it seemed… realistic, or something quite close to it.

I enjoyed it less in terms of its plot and characters. While the writing style was nice and flowing and the tale as a whole was sweet and charming, the entire plotline felt unoriginal in the sense there was no real complication in there...more
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Eva Ibbotson (born Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner, 1925, Vienna, Austria) was a British novelist specializing in romance and children's fantasy. Eva Ibbotson was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1925. When Hitler came into power, Ibbotson's family moved to England. She attended Bedford College, graduating in 1945; Cambridge University from 1946-47; and the University of Durham, from which she graduat...more
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“Loneliness had taught Harriet that there was always someone who understood - it was just so often that they were dead, and in a book.” 72 likes
“She was so intelligent that she could think herself into beauty. Intelligence...they don't talk about it much, the poets, but when a woman is intelligent and passionate and good...” 58 likes
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