I really like Eva Ibbotson, but this novel was pretty boring....sorry, Eva!
This is one of Eva Ibbotson's early romantic books. Like all other books from Eva Ibbotson I've read, this one also follows the adventure of a young girl/woman. Harriet Morton is born into an oppressive household, and when her mother dies when she is just two years old, she is left into care of her father and his sister.
Her father is a professor of Classics at Cambridge but he is supremely stuffy and doesn't believe in equality between men and women and certainly does not believe in women receiving higher education. In fact, when Harriet's headmistress talks to him about which university the brilliant Harriet should consider and which scholarships she should apply to, he is appalled and pulls Harriet out of school (a place which she loves dearly in comparison to her oppressive household). Harriet's aunt is a frugal woman to the extremities that her father is sexist. She and her group the Trumpington Tea Circle basically run Harriet's life.
Harriet has only one outlet: ballet. Sasha Dubrov visits Harriet's her advanced class one day and instantly wants her for his company which is going on a South American tour, with it first stop in Manuas. He invites Harriet to go and she kindly thanks him for his offer, but says her father would not allow her.
A few days later, The Trumpington Tea Circle go on a trip to Stavley, dragging unwilling Harriet along with them. Harriet puts up with the ladies and Edward (the man who Harriet's father and aunt want her to marry and whose stuffiness can compete with that of Harriet's father), who they decided to bring along. She feels bad that the house, as elegant and posh as it is, is so overgrown and forlorn. She strays from the rest of the group and finds a maze. She walks into its core, coming across a small boy reading a book "Amazon Adventure", who introduces himself as Henry St. John Verney Brandon. He tells her that the book belongs to The Boy used to live at Stavley, and was brave and strong, though something happened and he left. Harriet tells him about the Company and Manaus and is told by Henry that he has reason to believe that the boy might be in the Amazon. Harriet promises to Henry that she will find The Boy. Harriet then escapes and joins the Company and they leave for Manuas. They are performing Giselle, Swan Lake, Fille Mal Gardee, and Casse Noisette.
There are some amazingly outrageous coincidences and other plot devices (such as some big misunderstandings between Harriet and the main male character, Rom) in this book, but you can accept them easily when you might not accept in a lesser work simply because of the way Eva Ibbotson writes them out.
There are frequent references to mythology, classic literature, and musical arts in this book, which sets it apart from the ordinary romance books. I have learned a lot about opera, ballet, and the classics just from reading this book.
It is a very enjoyable book overall and I recommend it it highly.
(Some of the above sentences are taken word for word from or derived in some way from the Plot Summary section of the Wikipedia page of this book)...Continua