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A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson Review

Title: A Company of Swans

Author: Eva Ibbotson

First published July 1, 1985

374 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780142409404 (ISBN10: 0142409405)

Rating: 4


In the boring and stifling world of 1912 Cambridge, nineteen-year-old Harriet Morton finds solace in ballet. But when a Russian ballet master comes to her class in search of dancers for his South American tour, Harriet’s life takes a dramatic turn.

Despite her father’s objections, Harriet joins the ballet on their journey to the Amazon, where they perform for the wealthy and culture-deprived rubber barons. Amidst the wild and lush jungle, Harriet falls for Rom Verney, the owner of the most ornate opera house, and is swept away by the exotic surroundings and Rom’s affections.

However, unbeknownst to her, her father and would-be fiancé are hot on her trail, and Harriet must choose between her old life and her newfound love and freedom.

About the Author

Eva Ibbotson was a British author who specialized in romance and children’s fantasy novels. She was born in Vienna, Austria in 1925, but her family moved to England when Hitler came into power.

Ibbotson attended Bedford College, Cambridge University, and the University of Durham, where she earned a diploma in education in 1965. Although she had originally planned to become a physiologist, she decided against it due to the amount of animal testing required.

Instead, she focused on raising her family and later became a teacher in the 1960s after returning to school.

Ibbotson began her writing career with the television drama ‘Linda Came Today’ in 1965, and ten years later, she published her first novel. Throughout her career, she wrote numerous books, including ‘Journey to the River Sea,’ which won the NestlĂ© Smarties Book Prize.

Despite disliking the supernatural, Ibbotson’s books often feature magical creatures and places, which she created to help decrease her readers’ fear of such things.

Her love of nature is also evident in many of her books, particularly ‘The Star of Kazan’ and ‘A Song for Summer,’ both of which are set in the Austrian countryside. Ibbotson wrote ‘A Song for Summer’ in honor of her husband, a former naturalist, who had passed away just before she wrote it.

In her books, Ibbotson often creates antagonists who embody qualities such as “financial greed and a lust for power,” which she dislikes. Some readers have noted the similarity between “Platform 9 3/4” in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and Ibbotson’s own creation, which came out three years before the first Harry Potter book.

Overall, Eva Ibbotson’s books are imaginative, humorous, and reflect her love of nature and her desire to help children overcome their fears.

Editoral Review

A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson takes readers on a journey to the heart of the Amazon rainforest. First published in 1985, this novel captivates readers with its enchanting tale of love and adventure.

Eva Ibbotson, a renowned British novelist, has written a number of popular books for children and young adults. Her works are known for their whimsical language, engaging characters, and imaginative plotlines.

In A Company of Swans, she weaves a spellbinding story set against the backdrop of the early 20th century. The novel tells the story of Harriet Morton, a young woman who lives a dull and stifling life in Cambridge.

She dreams of breaking free and pursuing her passion for dance. When she learns of an opportunity to join a traveling dance troupe performing in Brazil, she jumps at the chance.

But her journey takes an unexpected turn when she falls in love with the charismatic and mysterious Rom Verney, a young naturalist working in the Amazon. Ibbotson’s vivid descriptions of the rainforest, its inhabitants, and the danger lurking around every corner, set the stage for a thrilling adventure.

Harriet’s transformation from a sheltered young woman to a daring explorer is a testament to the power of self-discovery and the freedom that comes with following one’s true passions. One of the novel’s strengths is its character development.

Ibbotson brings her characters to life in such an authentic way that readers feel as though they have come to know them intimately. Harriet, in particular, is a complex and relatable character.

She is torn between her sense of duty to her family and her desire to pursue her dreams. Rom, too, is a compelling character, with a layered backstory that is slowly revealed throughout the book.

The pacing of the novel is well-suited to the storyline, with just the right amount of suspense and drama to keep readers engaged. The plot structure is carefully crafted, with each scene building upon the last to create a cohesive and satisfying narrative.

Throughout the novel, Ibbotson touches on themes of identity, family, and the pursuit of happiness. She also explores issues surrounding colonialism and cultural appropriation in a nuanced and sensitive way.

However, the book is not without its flaws. At times, the dialogue can feel a bit stilted, and some of the plot twists are predictable.

Nonetheless, these minor issues do not detract from the overall quality of the book. For fans of historical fiction, romance, and adventure, A Company of Swans is a must-read.

It transports readers to a lush and vibrant world, rich with detail and emotion. Ibbotson’s masterful storytelling and compelling characters make this a novel that will stay with readers long after they have turned the last page.

Overall, I would give A Company of Swans a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. It is a skillfully crafted novel that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for an immersive and emotionally resonant reading experience.