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A Company of Swans

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  9,734 ratings  ·  774 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

Paperback, 392 pages
Published July 4th 2008 by Young Picador (first published July 1st 1985)
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Abby Rose There are a couple of mature themes (tastefully handled and presented in a tongue-and-cheek manner, but still there), I'd say WAY more YA than middle …moreThere are a couple of mature themes (tastefully handled and presented in a tongue-and-cheek manner, but still there), I'd say WAY more YA than middle grade. Also it's good to bear in mind Ibbotson wrote this with an adult audience in mind and it wasn't marketed to children of any age until a reprinting in the United States. (less)

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Average rating 3.99  · 
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Lucy Powrie
An absolute dream to read. I fell in love with bookish ballerina Harriet, wanted to snatch Henry away from his evil mother, and also fell in swoony love with Rom.

Eva Ibbotson's books are all out of this world, but this one maybe even more so than the rest. (Except maybe The Morning Gift, which I think will always be my favourite).
Sherwood Smith
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though it's set in Edwardian times, just before WW I. There were moments that felt startlingly modern, then there were outdated concepts (Orientalism), and the central romance was handled oddly, based as it was on misperceptions and misunderstandings, then a stunning decision on the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
Feb 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Utterly charming story as all Eva Ibbotson’s stories are and full of quirky and whimsical characters under the guise of a romance.

The Characters
Her father: A desiccated stick that gets a comical and well deserved comeuppance. (view spoiler)

Her equally desiccated aunt who has a box in her room labeled “String too short to tie” which is possibly my favorite description EVER of a character.

The fiancee: A boring scientific type stick that specializes in fleas as they “are h
Imprinting, it's called. The perfect book; the developing reader. The conviction thereafter that all other books are striving to be this one.

Why is The Company of Swans *so* good? - and, believe me, even years later, it really is still that good.

Partly it's because the plot is pure Cinderella (my favourite trope): Harriet Morton is cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd by the conventions of Edwardian Cambridge. Her widowed father and aunt live unimaginative lives of quiet monotony, and actively discourag
‘Sometimes I think you’re a little mad. Perhaps you should come upstairs,' he had said furiously. ‘I don’t seem to be able to make you understand anything when you’re on your feet.’

Ooh, so rapey. Uh, I mean romantic. Not your best, Eva.

This novel is problematic. (Yes, I can hear you sharpening your pitchforks.) To anyone poised to attack me with the specious argument that the novel reflects the moral orthodoxy of the time in which it is set, written or received and can therefore be exempt from a
At eighteen years of age, Harriet Jane Morton lived in the attic of her father's depressive house. Her sweet mother died when she was a little girl along with what remaining love was in her life. Her stifling spinster Aunt Louisa assisted her brother in running the house. I won't call it a home because it was just a building. With people living in it.

The always-serious Professor Morton expected his daughter to marry the man he had chosen. A zoologist, Edward Finch-Dutton gave himself the goal o
Mar 21, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 08, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
on the one hand, this is the Most Uncomfortable eva ibbotson i've read; it feels like all her favourite elements are at their extremes in this one, the biddable, childlikeness of the heroine, the ten year age gap, the almost predatory desire fr innocence & delicacy, the hero's wealth & power coming from a hugely romanticised vision of colonialist exploitation. some, & occasionally all, of these have shown up in the other novels & short stories i've read from her so far, & have felt easier to for ...more
Oct 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Rosalind James
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How anyone can give this one star is just...beyond me. Lyrical writing, a wonderful heroine (a drip? Seriously? A DRIP? No. So brave. You put yourself in her situation and see how brave YOU are.) A terrific, sexy hero. Sure, there's a Big Misunderstanding. Not my favorite part, but I don't care. An old-fashioned, sweeping romance, a terrific sense of place, a book I've read again and again. Love it. ...more
Harriet is the daughter of the worst professor at Cambridge, a man who doesn't mind teaching her Latin, but won't even consider the possibility of her attending university. Her aunt, Louisa, keeps house for them and is the cheapest person ever, so were Harriet to hack them to pieces with an ax, no one would be surprised. fortunately, Harriet is offered the opportunity to join the corps of a ballet troupe headed up the Amazon for an extended stay among the insanely wealthy rubber barons of 1912.
A sweet love story complete with intrigue, enjoyably comical moments and a satisfying ending where the baddies get their comeuppance. I've enjoyed many of Ibbotson's books (which I learned about from Jane Penderwick) but this is definitely my favorite. ...more
Feb 09, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
There were all Ibbotson's characteristic elements, which I like in her novels:

--> a nice, pure, good heroine (good like in fairy-tales), but Ruth from The Morning Gift had more life, was better created;

--> the Hero, a bit brooding, moody and with a big heart, but I loved more Marek from A Song for Summer;

--> a charming world which doesn't exist any more, (mostly) Russian ballerinas just before the IWW somewhere in Brazil, but I was much more interested in Vienna world from The Morning Gift (here
Apr 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 25, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ghost of Margot Fonteyn haunts so much 20th century ballet fiction it's kind of wild. ...more
Jan 25, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
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.
Mar 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This book had every quirk, tick and awful trick I despise in romance novels layered up like a big sundae:

- the lovely and perfect heroine who borders on TSTL swirled together with the roguish and charming hero who subscribes to the "one bad relationship + one broken heart = ALL WOMEN ARE MORALLY BANKRUPT" theory of life

- the conniving ex oozing into every scene for dark drama

- the rainbow sprinkle-saccharine and precocious child

- BIG MISUNDERSTANDINGS like nuts that would break your teeth

- nar
Feb 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chelsea by: Jen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was astonished by this book because I don't think I've ever actually read anything 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-pl ...more
Apr 15, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is such a heart-warming book, I really really enjoyed it. It's definitely kind of tropy but also makes fun of those tropes at the same time. Eva Ibbotson is such a wonderful writer! This book has a lot of whimsy and is just so FUN and yet moving at the same time. Definitely recommend it if you love books about ballet and/or tragic/cute romance ;) ...more
Daisy May Johnson
I think sometimes Eva Ibbotson can be so perfect that you can't quite figure out how she can be better, and then she writes: "At which point there entered a deus ex machina.
It entered in an unexpected form: that of a lean, rangy and malodorous chicken." and you just realise that she can get better, and it's kind of blindingly brilliant how she does it, and just worship every inch of this glorious, glorious book.

A Company Of Swans is stunning. A whimsical, wild, romantic delight. Harriet lives a
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
Oct 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, ...more
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 2 Jul 12, 2015 01:39PM  
2015 Reading Chal...: A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotsen 4 24 May 15, 2015 07:30PM  

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Eva Ibbotson (born Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner) was a British novelist specializing in romance and children's fantasy.

She was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1925. When Hitler came into power, her family moved to England. She attended Bedford College, graduating in 1945; Cambridge University from 1946-47; and the University of Durham, from which she graduated with a diploma in education in 1965.

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