Customer Reviews for

The Swan Thieves: A Novel

Average Rating 3.5
( 320 )
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(83)

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(75)

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(30)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

24 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

Excellent, multilayered novel.

If you've read Kostova's first novel, The Historian, then you know she likes to tell a long story; and you know that it will be rich, and deep, and full of life and mystery and intrigue and suspense. If you haven't read The Historian then I highly recommend it. The good...
If you've read Kostova's first novel, The Historian, then you know she likes to tell a long story; and you know that it will be rich, and deep, and full of life and mystery and intrigue and suspense. If you haven't read The Historian then I highly recommend it. The good news is that you can get it now, whereas The Swan Thieves will not be released until January 12, 2010. I actually feel a little bad that I am reviewing this now, since it's not released for a while, but I want it to be fresh in my head, and I promise I won't spoil it. The Swan Thieves begins by introducing us to Dr. Andrew Marlow, a psychiatrist whose newest patient is Robert Oliver, a painter who attacked a painting at the National Gallery of Art. Robert has recently been divorced from his wife Kate, has abandoned his latest girlfriend, and now refuses to speak . Since his patient refuses to talk, Marlow must delve into Robert's personal life to find the mystery behind Robert's display of violence and lack of communication, as well as discover the identity of the woman he paints over and over. In doing so, Marlow discovers a long hidden secret and scandal in the world of 19th century art. This book is like an onion; fold after fragrant fold reveals something intriguing, spicy, and a little exotic. It's a mystery, an old fashioned love story, and a new romance all at once. It's not simply about a psychiatrist and his patient, it's about the pressure of people's expectations, and the lengths you go to to protect the ones you love. It's about art, and passion, and beauty in barren landscapes. Kostova artfully switches between the present dialogue of Marlow, who is telling this story to us, and the past entries of ancient letters and scenes from the 19th century, as well as chapters from other characters points of view. She skillfully rotates the other characters so that we're never subjected to second-hand information. It's almost as though there are several stories woven into one, but each of them as lovely as the one before, and the one after. It's a multilayered novel, with more than one question and answer that Marlow, and now us readers, are searching for. Why did Robert attack the painting? Who are the women in his life, and what do they mean to him? How are the ancient letters he reads over and over related? Is Robert actually ill, or is there more to his silence and obsession? I found myself wondering all of these things, and hypothesizing on my own as to what would happen. There came a point, about seven-eighths of the way through the book, when part of the puzzle fell into place and I realized my breathing was so shallow, and my shoulders were so hunched, that I was completely tense waiting for the piece of information I had just received. I had to swallow the lump in my throat and take a deep breath and relax before I passed out on the train. That would have been great, right? I am not sure which character I like best in this book, because truthfully Kostova's characters are so tangible and realistic that I can't not like any single one of them, even Robert. If you wanted her second book to follow the vampire theme from The Historian, you will be disappointed. But if you want a mystery, an old-fashioned honest-to-goodness mystery complete from fiction and imagination, then this is a book you must read. You will not regret it. I'm torn between 4 and 5 stars on this one. It's a fantastically wonderful, beautiful book and I can't wait to see what is next.

posted by TheCrowdedLeaf on November 18, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

I'm struggling.

I count the Historian as one of my favorite books. I can hardly believe the Swan Thieves is written by the same author. I wanted to like this, knew I would like this, but I can't finish it. I've read the first few chapters, thinking I would give it time and wait for th...
I count the Historian as one of my favorite books. I can hardly believe the Swan Thieves is written by the same author. I wanted to like this, knew I would like this, but I can't finish it. I've read the first few chapters, thinking I would give it time and wait for the story to unfold but I can't stand any of the characters (except the one that won't talk) and it's taking forever to get the ball rolling. I'm bored and I hate to say that about this book--I'm sad to say that about this book. If she writes another, I won't be able to help but at least give it a try. The Historian was just that good.

posted by A_J_O on February 21, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2012

    Why am I still reading this! It's become more of an endurance te

    Why am I still reading this! It's become more of an endurance test at this point. The book is very well written, but LABORIOUSLY so. It's a heavy read, giving you so many details about really very minor things that it begins to feel like a text book. I am an avid reader, and I find myself exhausted after a few chapters. There is really NOTHING left to the imagination about the settings and these characters. Several well-known cities are described throughout the narrative, and it gets a bit irritating to have such common settings described to me over and over again.
    Additionally, this is a multiple narrative, but every character seems to have the same voice. And it's so pretentious! Every stereotype, every preconceived notion you have about artists-- let's start the checklist: lived in NYC, atheist, unmarried because it's too (___), mentally disturbed, obsessed with France, sketching in cafes, become a teacher for income/hours, hands/clothes covered in paint, couch cruising..... Yeah, Swan Thieves hits all those.
    I paid for it, so I'll finish it, but this book is too detailed to get through with long sittings. I wouldn't recommend picking at it either, because it's SO detailed, you may forget something important between reads.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2012

    Not so good

    It was ok. Hard to get into.

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  • Posted February 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Too much work to get to the end, then a letdown

    Wow, this book was detailed and l-o-n-g. I don't hate long books, but this one just was not worth the time and effort. THe ending still left issues unresolved. The attacker could have just explained what Marlow worked so hard to find out. There are so many books I want to read; I'm sorry I stayed with this tome.

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  • Posted February 1, 2011

    Not recommended

    I struggled reading this novel. BORING!!!

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  • Posted June 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Disappointing 2nd Novel

    I read Kostova's first book, The Historian, and was thrilled to read her second novel, hoping for something just as engaging. The Swan Thieves is sadly disappointing. There is a lack of connection between the present timeline and the historical timeline in the novel. The writing seemed stilted causing the storyline to stop and start. As a result I was unable to connect with the plot, characters and themes.

    Robert Oliver, who seems to be the main character, says almost nothing throughout the entire novel. The other character that is the focus of the novel, Beatrice, only makes an appearance in a handful of chapters and short letters scattered among the 550 or so pages. It's difficult to connect with characters who are driving the plot when they won't speak and make rare appearances.

    In the end, the mystery of why Oliver attacked the painting was excellent, however, I don't feel Kostova set the plot up to make the reveal as powerful as it could have been.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2010

    A character study book. Long and drawn out in every detail. Needed to skip through large parts of book.

    Long drawn out audio book. character study. In parts, very interesting. But so many details ad nauseum. An abridge version would be much better. Much ado about a painter, who won't talk. His crime, attacking another painting. 17 cd's. Wordy. Insufferable in parts. Other parts, interesting

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  • Posted April 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not half as good as The Historian

    I thought for sure I would love this book as much as I loved The Historian. I fought my way through the entire book and not until the very last chapters did I enjoy the book. I loved in The Historian how she flipped back and forth between the two stories, which she did again with the The Swan Thieves. The Swan Thieves caught me for the first couple of chapters, but then the store lost its spark and did not get that spark back till the very end. This book in all became a very dry read. I wish I could say it wasn't because I love Elizabeth Kostova's writing style. I will buy her books again and hope for the better with her next book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2010

    Nothing compared to the Historian

    The historian was amazing and I was very excited to see her next book out. However The Swan Thieves did not compare. It was exciting at the end when everything came together finally but getting there took forever. I could hardly put the Historian down, but The Swan Thieves was the kind of book I could have stopped reading in the middle and never wondered what happened. It was an okay read, but I wouldn't recommend it to a friend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2010

    Tedious Reading

    This story could have been told in half the number of pages. Large sections of the narrative could have been either left out altogether or condensed. The actual story is interesting, if you can finish before putting it down. I liked Kostova's first novel, The Historian, and had been looking forward to more from this author.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    not in the same class as The Historian -and disappointing because of that. The characters were not particularly believable - nor did you care what happened to them - which actually wasn't very much anyway. A book you could pick up and put down and

    not care very much either way.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2010

    A disappointment...

    500 pages that could have been a contender to the Historian if ONLY the author focused simply on the 1800s story characters and followed them thru to the life and death of Aude. She should have dropped the 20th century catalog of loser characters (Marlow, Kate, Mary, Oliver - it was like WHO CARES?). They were irrelevant to the plot, no really; change the plot - its very lame; as was the miraculous mental healing of Oliver.

    ¾ thru the book and I was still lost and wondering what IS the point to this novel.
    The truly mezmerizing areas of the book were the 1800's flashbacks; or the back story. If the author had made the backstory THE story, this could have been incredible. Great attention to detail in her subject - she does her research. .

    Definitely not the caliber of her first book; this is an embarrassment if we were expecting another 5 star book.

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    Posted January 18, 2010

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