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A Company of Swans
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A Company of Swans

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  8,294 Ratings  ·  660 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, 374 pages
Published September 6th 2007 by Speak (first published July 1st 1985)
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Lucy March 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)

Community Reviews

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Sherwood Smith
Sep 18, 2013 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though it's set in Edwardian times, just before WW I. There were moments that felt startlingly modern, then there were outdated concepts (Orientalism), and the central romance was handled oddly, based as it was on misperceptions and misunderstandings, then a stunning decision on the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
Amanda
Feb 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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!
Linda
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
...more
Georgie
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
...more
D.G.
Oct 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 21, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
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.
Veronica
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Melee
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
Brillare
Jan 25, 2008 rated it did not like it
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.
Theresa
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 ;)
Angie
Mar 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: belovedbookshelf, ya
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
Chelsea
Feb 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Chelsea by: Jen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Leah
Apr 15, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Mela
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 G
...more
Abby
Jan 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
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

- narr
...more
JoLee
Oct 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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, t ...more
Miss Clark
Nov 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: adventure, historical
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
Rosalind James
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Amy
Feb 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Rachael
Oct 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Holly
Sep 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Holly by: Angie
Shelves: young-adult
Have you ever read the perfect book at the perfect time? This book was precisely that. I needed something sweet, something enchanting, and something with a happily ever after. And since I'd read Eva Ibbotson's YA historical fiction before, I knew it would deliver. But what I didn't know was how well.

"Loneliness had taught Harriet that there was always someone who understood - it was just that so very often they were dead, and in a book."

It's 1912 in Cambridge, and nineteen-year-old Harriet Mort
...more
Kathryn
Jan 28, 2011 rated it liked it
The year is 1912 and though Harriet is the daughter of a widowed professor in England and is intelligent and sweet, her ballet lessons are about the most "exotic" or exciting thing she has ever been allowed to do in her young life. So when Dubrov, leader of a ballet company, comes to her little school to scout talent and deems Harriet worthy of inclusion in the chorus of his company, she is thrilled. But, her father would hardly allow such a thing to happen in England, let alone that Dubrov's co ...more
Charnell (Reviews from a Bookworm)
I was almost certain that I had found my favourite Ibbotson novel when I read Magic Flutes, but then A Company of Swans came along and proved me wrong. This book took me on such a journey, and the romance in this one completely won me over. The romance was as cute as I had come to expect, but it was also a much more passionate romance than I would have expected.

This book takes us on a journey, along with Harriet, as she leaves her sheltered life in London to join a touring ballet company as they
...more
Karen
Sep 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: youth-fiction
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
E.L.
May 22, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ballet
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
Jennifer
Apr 23, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Aug 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Kate
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I don't have a lot of organized thoughts about this story. I enjoyed it, but it was slow. I think that has to do with the time period in which it was written. I liked Harriet. I was surprised that she wanted to be "ruined." It seemed a bit out of character on one level, but completely within the character of a stifled young girl experiencing love and freedom for the first time. Altogether, I enjoyed it reasonably well.
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Jul 12, 2015 01:39PM  
2015 Reading Chal...: A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotsen 4 22 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.

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 graduated with a diploma in edu
...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.” 101 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...” 73 likes
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