We've reached a milestone here at Read Between The Lines: our first guest blogger! Cassadaga Valley's own, Danielle Raymond will be reviewing A Company of Swans. Danielle writes for the Cougar Beat, CVCS's newspaper and also attends Writers Ink teen writing group, which I run at the library. It was there that I met Danielle. Without further ado...
A Company of Swans
By Eva Ibbotson
The first time I read a book that completely swept me away into a different world that was as vivid and realistic as the one in A Company of Swans was in the first grade. I was six when the first Harry Potter book came out and my dad bought it for me. Hogwarts was so tangible, so detailed and described that it had to exist somewhere, even if magic and Harry Potter himself didn't. Those kind of books are very rare to find. They completely suck our conscious from our place and point in time to another.
I have to say that's one of the reasons I'm such a huge fan of Eva Ibbotson. Her writing is near flawless – no matter how hard I try, I can never seem to find anything wrong with it. Her plots are always well thought out, with all loose ends tied up at the conclusion and delivered to you in a neat little package. Her characters are deep and distinctly individual – when you walk away from the book, you aren't going to forget about them, simply because each and every one of them is unique and has their own quirks. Even minor characters that flit into the story for a brief second or two have memorable qualities and backgrounds. Her descriptions – be they of emotions or scenery – are simple and perfect.
A Company of Swans is a fantastic book, whether you're looking at it from a reader's perspective or a writer's perspective. I, consequentially, look at it and love it both ways.
The book's main character is eighteen-year-old Harriet Morton. Harriet is a quiet, considerate girl who is stopped from doing a great many things in life by her women-hating father who has the most absurd ideas of what is or is not decent, and by her penny-pinching aunt who is - let's face it - just a giant grouch who doesn't want anybody to be happy because she obviously has some neurological inability that prevents her from experiencing it herself. The one outlet Harriet is allowed is ballet. And she's good – which is why when a scout comes by her ballet class looking for a recruit, he picks her - plain-looking Harriet - out of all the others. Forbidden to go with the company to Brazil by her aunt and father and offending her suitor Dr. Edward Finch-Dutton (what a name, eh?) with the mere mention of such indecent behavior, Harriet feels the need to escape Cambridge (England!) more than ever.
On a forced visit to the historical Stavely Manor, Harriet meets an intelligent little boy by the name of Henry. Henry, looking trustingly up at Harriet through his humongous glasses, confesses to her that his father died recently and that he and his mother are going to lose Stavely because there's no money left. He tells her the story of the boy who used to live at Stavely. He was brave and adventuresome and strong – but he left a long time ago to go to the Amazon, and never returned. If only he could be found – Henry is sure he would be able to help him. Harriet mentions that she was supposed to go to that very place. Henry begs her to look for the boy, find him, tell him what's happening. Harriet can't help but almost instantly love Henry (I can't blame her – he's freaking adorable). So she agrees to search for the boy, and sneaks her way to Brazil with the company.
This boy, it turns out, is Rom Verney. Now a very rich man and an illustrious member of Brazilian society, he owns the opera house where Harriet is set to debut with the ballet company. Harriet has experienced a lot of things since she left Cambridge and her restricted, stuffy life. One thing she can't predict experiencing is Rom. Things kind of go from there – if you catch my drift.
I'm not a fan of romance novels. Ask any of my friends. But that's not all that this story is about. It's about seeing the world, stepping outside your comfort zone, living life to the fullest, making new friends, being passionate about something. Those are philosophies I support one hundred percent. I actually don't mind the romance in this novel so much. It's not as in-your-face as others can be. Overall, this is probably in my top twenty favorite books of all time. And that's a place of honor in my book, ladies and gents.