Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I was afraid

So Anna Karenina may have put me off Russian novels for quite awhile. Therefore, I was a bit hesitant to read Eva Ibbotson's A Company of Swans. However, it only featured a few Russians, so no worries! When I opened the first page, I saw it was dedicated to Patricia Veryan, a fun Regency/Jacobian romance and mystery writer. I figured if they were friends, the book had to be good.

Gorgeous cover! I love tulle and ballet. It's so fluffy.

The story follows Harriet Morton, who grows up in a bleak home with her academic father and nasty old maid aunt. Her only bright point is her ballet class, which she thrives in. One day, a Russian choreographer (I think? maybe he's a manager?) offers her a position in his ballet corp. The company is going to travel to Brazil and the Amazon and offer ballet for the rich rubber barons. Harriet sneaks away and joins the company (and you cheer for her--Ibbotson does a great job at describing an ordinary--yet so bleak--life). Harriet ends up meeting (and falling in love with) Rom Verney, who just may have a connection to her old life. People chase after Harriet and there's drama. The book ends happily, though.

The book is so full of Nature--but in a good way! (See, I'm not totally against "Nature" books!) The descriptions are so vivid of the Amazon. It's fabulous. A Company of Swans had its funny moments, too. The secondary characters are great and actually add to the story.

One of my favorite aspects is the clever weaving Ibbotson does. Earlier, Harriet and Rom discuss someone else's opinion of Romeo and Juliet. Their conversation ties in beautifully at the end--and it involves a chicken feather. I like crafting in a story and there's definitely craftsmanship in her writing. Incidents aren't just random, but hold meaning. That's a sign of a good book.

On a side note, the book is generally labeled YA, but adults will definitely enjoy it, too.

Rating: 8/10


Jennie said...

Love Ibbotson!! She was my best discovery last year. Since you liked this one, you should read The Countess Below Stairs next. It's my favorite, though be warned, there are many Russians. But they're really not depressing ones--it is a very joyful book.

rachel said...

I read The Countess Below Stairs last year, too! You're right...plenty of Russians, too. :)

I've noticed the ballet theme in both of these books--do you think she was a ballerina?