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A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

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."
She stood for a long time looking at the verses in which Emily Dickinson had chronicled her heartbreak. 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.
I remember feeling that way when I was a teenager. The first time I read Middlemarch, passages from A Tale of Two Cities, most of Shakespeare. Certainly Dickinson. The feeling of making contact on the page with someone long gone, at a time when it is so difficult making any contact at all in real life.

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 offers her the chance to join a touring ballet company on its way to Brazil, Harriet can't sit back and watch life pass her by once more. Escaping from her father, her insect-obsessed intended, and England in general, she sails to the Amazon and into another life.

In Manaus, Harriet finds friendship, hard work, inspiration, and Rom--the mysterious and wealthy expat who owns the Teatro Amazonas where the company performs. Ibbotson's novels are all about home. About finding it somewhere you least expected it, about returning to it again after you thought all was lost. Harriet is, without a doubt, the most beleaguered of all her heroines, and this tale is a particularly sweet one because it is about a young woman trying so hard to do the right thing and keep a grasp on happiness at the same time, and a man who is afraid to hold onto hope when it is offered him for what, he is certain, is the last time.

Bookshelves of Doom Review
Jennie's B(ook)log Review
The Ravenous Reader Review


  1. I love Eva Ibbotson! She was a favorite when I was younger, and I had no idea she had something new out. I'll be checking this out from the library asap.

  2. I only discovered her this year, Em. And I am so glad I did. This one is probably tied with A Song for Summer for my favorite of hers.


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