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Books: A Company of Swans

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Penguin is re-releasing (4 at last count) Eva Ibbotson's YA romance novels. They are terribly hackneyed for the most part in terms of actually plot, but the writing and characters are pure genius. I find them both totally swoon-worthy and totally hilarious at the same time. If you know her younger reader books (Which Witch, The Star of Kazan, Journey to the River Sea, Island of the Aunts) you know her brilliant, funny, tough minded style.

A Company of Swans tells the story of 18 year old Harriet Morton, the daughter of a pedantic, dreadful Classics scholar in the early years of the 1900's. Her father (despite teaching her to read both Greek and Latin) does not believe in education for women and so Harriet's only outlet is ballet class. She lives in a house where her maiden Aunt keeps a box labeled, "String too short to tie." One day she gets an invitation to dance with a Ballet Russe-ish company and runs off with the company (on tour in Brazil) to learn and dance and fall in love. But her father, aunt and priggish fiance are determined to drag her home for punishment.


There's lots of fabulous, authentic ballet detail and, as I say, the story is absurd, but the writing is charming and extremely funny in most parts. Not your average "romance novel." I'd recommend it for highschool students (and above) mostly. Parents might want to check. There's no explicit sex, but there's actually quite a lot of sex and sexual situations.


The other novel which has quite a lot of ballet material has apparently been (badly) renamed The Secret Countess. I knew it as A Countess Below Stairs, and I give you a link to a great book review (from a great book review site--full disclosure: the author of Bookshelves of Doom is a friend of mine).

Countess Below Stairs Review

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I loved A Company of Swans! A ballet alertnik sent a copy to me as a gift several years ago. :) It's funny; I was cleaning out a room a couple days ago, came across it, and set it aside as a fun reread. I'm glad to hear it's being re-released.

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I just got that book and started it a couple of days ago. I am really enjoying it and I am glad other people red it and loved it.

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  • 3 years later...

I really enjoyed this book. It was fun and I had a lot of laugh out loud moments, and its out on Kindle format. I will have to look up The Secret Countess now.

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  • 1 year later...

I've read that book, it's very good :)

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Just reserved a copy at the library. Sounds like a light read for the summer that should be humorous.

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I actually found it more of a romance than a comedy......

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  • 1 month later...

Really am enjoying reading this book. Does anyone know if any of the references to dancers or ballets or performances are actually referring to things that really happened? Or is it all just fiction?

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Thanks for the link. I'd never heard of it. Wish I'd thought to look it up myself.


So far, I'd have to agree with the original poster who mentioned parents should read it first. It really does have quite a lot of sexual situations so I wouldn't have wanted my DD to read it until late high school years.

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Yes, I agree, there are some "romantic" moments, and I think it really depends on the person, but definitely not for younger girls. I think highschool age is good.

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