From the Archive: A Company of Swans

Sometimes, it’s fun to revisit books I didn’t like at all.  :-D  Originally posted 27 June 2012 on tumblr.


by Eva Ibbotson

published 1985

This story started well…  good plot, interesting characters, although the story was, from the beginning, a bit heavy on the “all conservative people are total jerks who are blind and refuse to see the world as it is” malarkey.  Still, things moved along, and the heroine, Harriet, runs away from the truly nasty people who comprise her home and joins a ballet troupe headed for the Amazon.  (The story, by the way, is set in 1912.)

And again, things go along interestingly as you get to know a few of the other girls, and see what ballet means to different people, and of course you meet The  Man with a Past and he is charming BUT at this point, the story begins to devolve into a very boring romance novel, in which the two main characters are constantly misunderstanding each other (to the point that you wonder HOW, in the long run, will this relationship work if they can’t even have a SINGLE conversation without both people walking away with completely different ideas of what just happened??), and then The Man has to kidnap Harriet to keep her from being kidnapped by someone else, and even though this book is no way graphic, suddenly the two of them are just sleeping together and that is somehow supposed to be romantic, but it’s not, because they STILL don’t understand each other, and so the idea of them sleeping together, besides the obvious, Hey, you aren’t married reflex, also makes you twitch because it’s just not romantic for two people to have sex when neither of them has the remotest idea what the other is thinking about the situation.

Then there are even MORE misunderstandings and MORE confusion and I really had to make myself finish this book because it got more and more unrealistic and ridiculous because Harriet ends up back in England where her father and aunt imprison her in an attic and keep all of her clothes so she can’t run away again and Harriet decides to just starve herself to death because she can’t go on living and when I was able to recover from stabbing myself in the eyes with pointy objects and continue reading, The Man finally rescues her and then, Oh happy ending they get married and all is well.  Or something like that.  Sheesh.

So yes.  2.  Which is a shame, because, like I said, it started well.

From the Archive: ‘Animal Farm’

Originally posted 25 February 2012 on tumblr.

51iSxG6+ixLby George Orwell

published 1945

I hadn’t read this book in years, since early high school, maybe.  I accidentally checked out some anniversary edition, so there were almost as many pages devoted to introductions and prefaces as there were to the actual story.  However, in one of them, a writer was lamenting the fact that Animal Farm is always read in English class now, not for History or Social Studies.  It’s used as an example of an allegory.  Look at the imagery.  How did Orwell get his point across about human activities?  etc. etc. etc.

But when this book was written, it wasn’t being read by bored middle-schoolers in English class.  It was being read by adults, by people who had been completely taken in by Stalin’s words and “vision.”  Orwell was one of the few writers who stood up and declared that what was happening in Russia was very, very bad.

It was amazing to read this book sort of “in context” as I have been reading so much about World War I, Czar Nicolas, the Russian Revolution, Marx, Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin.  This book really came together for me and I loved it in that horrible, creepy, shivery kind of way.  The book is brilliant.

Orwell was a socialist.  He believed in Socialism, believed in the writings of Marx.  But he also saw that what was happening in Russia was not true Socialism.  Animal Farm does not denounce Socialism.  Indeed, the speech given by the old pig who represents Marx is beautiful, poetic, inspiring.  Perhaps part of the depth of passion that fed Orwell’s writing flowed from the fact that he saw something in which he strongly believed being misused and misrepresented.

You should read this book.  It is a tale of tragedy and horror.  It is not a story that ends happily.  But it is a story of depth and thoughtfulness, as the rules are rewritten and the pigs become the very humans they strove so valiantly to overthrow.

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”