Customer Reviews for

The Swan Thieves: A Novel

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

25 out of 27 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 November 29, 2009

    The Pieces of the Puzzle Fit Beautifully!

    Elizabeth Kostova...does the author's name ring a bell? Unless you picked up her bestselling novel, "The Historian", it probably won't. "The Swan Thieves", to be published in January, is Kostova's only other published work. Unlike...oh, shall we say...James Patterson, she takes her time in crafting marvelously ingenious tales. It will probably take you awhile to get to the end of "The Swan Thieves". It should. The short chapters (all 106 of them) should be savored until you get to the wonderfully satisfying ending.

    The story centers around Dr. Andrew Marlow, a psychiatrist, who is trying desperately to find a way to help his newest patient...the gifted artist, Robert Oliver. Oliver is placed under Marlow's care when he tries to stab a painting in a museum. Oliver will not speak, so it is up to Marlow to try to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Along the way, he interviews many people from Oliver's past, who, sometimes reluctantly, tell his story. Interspersed with present day, we are taken back in time to Paris to the late 1800s, where we are introduced to Olivier Vignot, an elderly painter, and his muse, Beatrice de Clerval, through a series of letters between them.

    Kostova masterfully alternates between the two stories, until we come to the heartbreaking conclusion and the connection between them. This is not a book that you can't put down; nor is it a book that you will breeze right through. But when the pieces come together, you will feel that you just read a very quality piece of literature.

    MY RATING - 5/5

    To see my rating scale and other reviews, please check out my blog:
    http://www.1776books.blogspot.com.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2012

    Incredible Book

    I am very disappointed to see any negative reviews of this book. Not all books need to have someone brutally murdered, or a boogeyman jumping out from behind a bush in order to make it interesting. In fact, what makes this book so great is that the author doesn't need to employ any of the cheesy techniques that many other not-so-great authors need. Kostova has written another amazing story, equally as amazing as The Historian.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2011

    I loved this book!!

    Reading The Swan Thieves is like visiting a museum and being able to jump into the master paintings.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2011

    A phenomenal follow up to the Historian!

    I very much enjoyed Kostova's first novel, but this one eclipsed its predecessor. I like reading "smart" novels, fiction that is closer to (L)iterature than the average beach read. "The Swan Thieves" delivered, in a big way. It's poignant and witty, and very, very well written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Kostova does it again

    In quite a change of pace from her first novel "The Historian", Elizabeth takes us from Eastern Europe and the Dracula story to Washington, D.C., and a work of art. A patient is referred to a psychiatrist after attempting to slash a painting. The patient is non-commmunicative, the psychiatrist is an amateur artist who through his interest in art, the history of the painting and its artist, Kostova weaves a most interesting tale to explain the patient's attraction to this work of art. The author keeps the readers attention through all 550 plus pages.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    A marvelous read!

    The Swan Thieves is another fascinating story beautifully told by Elizabeth Kostova! With characters and settings lovingly and realistically created the story immerses the reader in an obsession that connects two worlds one hundred and twenty years apart. The Swan Thieves with Kostova's beautiful flowing writing is a book I found difficult to put down. It is a joy to read and a book well worth rereading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2010

    Add to my all time favorites

    I truly enjoyed this book. In fact so much that I have gave it to one of my friends who loves French things and has just begun painting. The imagery was amazing! The flow of the characters was exciting. I felt the pain this trouble painter felt as well as the confusion of the one who loved him. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves art, history and relationships. Elizabeth Kostova wrote this book from a man's perspectives and did it superbly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2014

    Loved it!

    Super long, I used this book as my beach read. I personally enjoy multiple storylines, I appreciated the way this one was woven together.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2014

    Highly recommend

    Second book by Elizabeth Kostova that I've read. Great story line

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2013

    Another Exhilerating tale.

    I bought this after reading The Historian. I am by no means an arts appreciator, but even so, the suspense and writing style kept me glued to this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2012

    Great book

    I would reccomend this book to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2011

    Very good

    This was a very good book. Well written and interesting story. Would recommend it to all.

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  • Posted June 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Must read

    Excellent dtory full of thrill and suspense that will have your mind reeling from beginning to end.

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  • Posted January 20, 2011

    Listen to it on CD

    Each character's part is read by a different person. It was fantastic!!!

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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Hard to beat?

    I have not read the Swan Thieves yet, but I do know one thing if a writers first book is out of this world, a read that sucks you in to were you can't stop making you want more.Then one should know that any other book can not compare. Looking forward to reading Ms. Kostova the "Swan Thieves," openly with no comparison to the "Historian".

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Great Read for All Ages

    The Swan Theives kept you guessing and wondering,and brought you from the present USA to the past France. It made you feel for the characters and wonder who might fall in love with who. I have a background in art and therefore understood and appreciated the artistic aspect of the book. However, I passed the book onto my 84 year old Grandmother, who does not have an art background, and she loved the book as well. She told me she couldn't put it down and stayed up late reading it until she finished. Later, she talked to me about the book and characters as if we both new them intimately. A great book, no matter what generation you are.

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  • Posted March 14, 2010

    Great read!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved that it went back & forth between the present and the past and both stories were very interesting. Such a love story!

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    An intriguing read...

    This is the second novel written by Elizabeth Kostova. Her first novel was "The Historian." Her books are very interesting with detailed multiple stories within each novel. The research for this novel was incredible and has opened my eyes to a new way of viewing art, particularly the Impressionists. She brought art history and the artistic temperment together with an intriguing love story that transcended time. Her writing method used old love letters to tell a story of a love long ago that still captures hearts today. It is a fantastic read and I highly recommend it for personal use, book clubs and as a gift to readers who enjoy great literature.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Book, Great Author

    I love Elizabeth Kostova. I read her first novel, the Historian and she has done the same with the Swan Thieves, she puts you in the shoes of the characters. She puts so much history of the subject she is writing about in the novel that it makes me interested enough in that subject that I want to learn more about it. With the Historian she put so much about the Eastern European Nations and the story of the real Dracula, that I did more research on a topic I really didn't know much about. Now with the Swan Thieves, she has put history of Art, the French Artists and the Social Psychological Problems that can affect someone, that I want to know more about it. I love the way she parallels the French letters with the way Robert Oliver portrays his painting. It is a book worth the read and I will read many more of her novels as they appear at the bookstores.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    Outstanding!

    This was an amazing book. The story is different, not something you will run across ordinarily and it's fascinating. The information, detail and understanding of painting was a learning experience and the juxtaposition of people and events masterful. I didn't want it to end. Beautifully written.

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