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A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson

Set in Austria and London just before and during World War II, A Song for Summer follows a young woman named Ellen Carr who takes a job as a housekeeper at an unusual private school in the Austrian Alps. I knew this book and I would get on when Ellen first arrived at Schloss Hallendorf to find a tortoise on wheels speeding across the lawn.
It looked much as tortoises do, its neck extended, its demeanor purposeful--but fastened to its back end was a small platform with two wheels on which it scooted as if on roller skates.

"It's Achilles," said Sophie. "His back legs were paralyzed and he was dragging himself along. We thought we'd have to have him destroyed and then Marek came and made him those wheels."
Soon after the well-equipped tortoise, Ellen encounters Professor Chomsky who teaches metalwork and swims naked in the lake at all hours, Professor Ritter who teaches drama and encourages the children to be kitchen utensils and to give birth to themselves, and a cabbage-person from an English mining village masquerading as a Russian ballerina. These delightful, at time hilarious, side characters bring a wonderful flavor and variety to the novel as, one by one, they are drawn into the bright circle of Ellen's influence. There is humor, danger, romance, and a beautiful longing for the world as it was and as it should be among the pages of this book. Ibbotson's light, lyrical writing flowed through each chapter, like the glissandi and grace notes of the music that is so central to its theme. And at is core is Ellen, a girl who is both strong and domestically inclined. The daughter and niece of dyed in the wool suffragettes, she is independent and smart and firmly chooses baking over marching. And, as so many of the characters do, reading this book means falling in love with her.

This was my first Eva Ibbotson book and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. I have to say, finding a fabulous debut author is a delightful experience. But is there anything that compares with the tingle of discovering a wonderful established author, who already has six or seven books out there ready and waiting and in paperback? Nope, nothing comes to mind.

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  1. Wow, this sounds really great! Thanks for the review.

  2. You bet. It was a pleasure to read.

  3. I know what you mean. There's such a feeling of plenty when you find a new author who you love who has written a whole bunch of books. I've read several of her books for younger kids, and have been saving the slightly more advanced titles - this one definitely goes on the list. Thanks!

  4. Lol. Nice cross post, Jen. I'll have to look into her books for younger readers now. I saw that she has a new one, The Dragonfly Pool, coming out in September.

  5. Ibbotson's books are just so ... satisfying. They are like a perfect meal, great from the appetizer to dessert. I love her humor.

    Thanks for referencing my review!

  6. Exactly. The humor in A Song for Summer absolutely delighted me.

    And you're most welcome, Camille!

  7. nirmitee1:12 AM

    the book is feel completely content after reading it.iv read it about 5 times and can read it 25 times more without getting tired of it

  8. Hi, Nirmitee! I know what you mean. I was completely enchanted by it.

  9. Anonymous7:45 PM

    I loved this book! I got it for my thirteenth birthday. I wonder if the Kohlroserl is real.

  10. mikey7:49 PM

    I loved this book! I got it for my thirteenth birthday. I wonder if the Kohlroserl is real?

  11. Anonymous2:54 PM

    I just started reading a Song For Summer yesterday and so far I like it. I did a search for kohlroserl to see what it looked like and it came up with your page. I want to recommend A Company of Swans. It's woderful! It is perfectly enchanted and the greatest herione and hero.

  12. Anon, I'm so glad you're enjoying it. And I have read A COMPANY OF SWANS and absolutely adore it! It may be my favorite Ibbotson. You're so right about the heroine and hero. They're perfect.

  13. I just read this book and LOVED it! I've been devouring the rest of her books. Each has been delightful and enjoyable experience.

  14. thank you for your post

  15. Anonymous5:14 AM

    I am twelve and have just finished reading A Song for Summer. I have read several of her books such as The Star of Kazan but A Song for Summer is more mature than those. Nevertheless, it still has that timeless, enchanting charm that all books should have but not all do. I too loved the kohlroserl and the idyllic Austrian Alpine countryside. I was wondering if any of you know if Mareks home (I forget what its called) is a real place because it sounds spellbounding and I would love to visit. Eva Ibbotson is definetly my favourite author because of her eccentric writing and the endless humour - I may be going on but does anyone know how I can write to her because it would be a magical, exciting experience thouggh I will be apprehensively awaiting for her reply. Thanks x

  16. This book is really good I read it some month ago because it was a gift for my last boyfriend but I have to admit that he had great likes choosing books. Viagra Online Viagra


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