Saturday, December 16, 2006

[Book Review] A COMPANY OF SWANS by Eva Ibbotson


Heather Lawson reviews A COMPANY OF SWANS by Eva Ibbotson (St. Martin's Press, 1985)

Certainly, one has to accept coincidences to enjoy this warm and graceful novel, but getting past that is not too difficult. This is a slow-paced, gentle romance novel with a great deal of interesting details regarding the flora and fauna of the Amazon. At the same time, details on various ballets and life as a ballerina are a major part of the novel and may be appreciated by those who love this form of dance. So for those interested, here is the basic plot.

Harriet Jane Morton is ready to take any road that leads away from her father, a self-absorbed professor at Cambridge, when she agrees to tour with a ballet company destined to Manaus, Amazonia in 1912. Although her father and aunt care little for her, they are worried about how her departure will be perceived by society. So they enlist the zoologist who they hoped would marry Harriet to follow her and return her to Cambridge.

An important part of the story is what happens before Harriet runs away from her family. In the garden of a beautiful estate, a young boy asks her to find his uncle and send him back to the estate, his former home. He speaks of his uncle, "the boy," relates the courageous and daring stories he has heard about him over the years, and explains how his uncle can save the estate and his troubled mother. Harriet does in fact meet "the boy," a wealthy and celebrated rubber tree plantation owner in South America. Yes, coincidences aside, this novel has been chosen by Joyce Saricks as a "sure bet" for gentle fiction fans in The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction.

Heather Lawson, Adult Services

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