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Review: The Swan Thieves

January 15, 2010

After Robert Oliver is caught trying to attack a painting at the National Gallery of Art, he was admitted to a private psychiatric hospital.  Dr. Andrew Marlow agrees to take his case and goes to visit Robert.  During that first visit, Robert tells Andrew that he can talk to anyone he wants to about his case and says, “I did it for her.”  He doesn’t say much of anything else and refuses to speak at all on subsequent visits.

Knowing that Robert is an artist, Andrew brings him some art supplies and notices that he draws and paints the same woman over and over again.  Andrew discovers some old letters, written in French, in Robert’s room and copies them and has them translated.

Andrew becomes almost obsessed with Robert’s case and tries to solve the mystery surrounding it by any means possible – at times even crossing legal and ethical boundaries to do so.

I quickly became captivated by the story and the writing of The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova.   There are two parallel stories in this book – the modern day one with Andrew and Robert, and another one that takes place in France during the Age of Impressionism, and I found both stories equally compelling.  The modern day story is told from alternating points of view between Andrew, Robert’s ex-wife, and Robert’s ex-lover and the other story is told mainly through the translated letters.

There are two mysteries in The Swan Thieves – I was able to figure one of them out fairly early, but didn’t know the results of the other until the very end of the book and it left me rather stunned.  There are also several love stories in the book, but I wouldn’t call it overly romantic.  This book is really about passion – for art, life and love.

The Swan Thieves is 561 pages long, but I was so enthralled with the story, it didn’t feel like a long book.  I think Elizabeth Kostova has a wonderful way with words and I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with this book.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for an autographed copy of the book.

I received this book at the SIBA Supper at the SIBA Trade Show.  I am an Amazon Associate.
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47 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2010 6:06 am

    I’m so glad you liked it! I love when a long book doesn’t really feel long because you’re enjoying it so much. I had that with The Historian.

  2. January 15, 2010 7:19 am

    Sounds wonderful! I admit to being a little intimidated to pick it up because it is so long, but if you thought it read quickly then I just need to bite the bullet.

  3. January 15, 2010 7:32 am

    Very interesting. As I read your review, I was reminded of The Gargoyle. Not that the story itself reminded me, but the feel of the dual stories in different time periods and that sense of obsession. I’m looking forward to reading it. Great review 🙂

  4. January 15, 2010 7:39 am

    This sounds really interesting, and I love it when long books just fly by. Glad to see you really liked it. I hadn’t really thought much about whether I’d actually read it, but you’ve prompted me to add it to my to-read (some day…LOL) list.

    –Anna

  5. January 15, 2010 7:52 am

    I love it when there is more than one mystery in a book. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

  6. fleurfisher permalink
    January 15, 2010 8:04 am

    Now that sounds wonderful. I’m off now to check for the UK release date.

  7. January 15, 2010 8:30 am

    Between you and Swapna, I’m salivating I think. Kostova is such a beautiful story-teller, and what I love most of all is how she weaves the intrigue with letters. Oh! I just want to bury myself in it. I entered sort of a mourning period when I finished The Historian. Great review!

  8. January 15, 2010 8:32 am

    I loved your review. This book sounds fantastic! I think its great that there a few mysteries within the book and not just one big one and I love the idea of learning about the past via the letters. Seems like Kostova’s new book is a must read. Cheers!!

  9. January 15, 2010 8:35 am

    I love your enthusiasm for this writer and her books — love your story of traveling to see her. The review makes me want to read this!

  10. January 15, 2010 8:46 am

    Nothing quite as good as a chunkster you can just be immersed in. This sounds like such a compelling read. I like books that have different time frames and alternating points of view.

    Great review, Kathy!

  11. January 15, 2010 8:48 am

    YAY….Kathy..I’m so glad to read your favorable review, especially after reading a few that that were not very positive. Thanks

  12. January 15, 2010 8:53 am

    Actually, I hate to sound like a pandering commenter, but this does happen to be the first review that makes me want to read this! :–)

  13. January 15, 2010 8:56 am

    This is the first review I read of this book and it sounds so intriguing! I’ve heard good things of Kostova.

  14. January 15, 2010 9:08 am

    Now I just can’t wait to read it.. I hope the book arrives here soon so that I can pick it up.

  15. tea permalink
    January 15, 2010 9:18 am

    Love, love your review. I bet the book is fascinating. Makes me want to look closer at Kosova’s other book.

  16. January 15, 2010 9:28 am

    I know this is really good. A long book that didn’t seem that long is possibly a good book.

  17. January 15, 2010 9:52 am

    I started reading this last night and unfortunately had to stop at page 60. I am SO glad the mystery read-athon is this weekend and I spend several hours reading this captivating novel!

    I know this is one that I will want to have in my own collection, so I will gladly enter your give away.

  18. January 15, 2010 9:56 am

    I have yet to read the Historian or her new book but have heard great things about this author. thanks for the review.

  19. Julie H. permalink
    January 15, 2010 10:13 am

    I can’t wait to read it–love your description of it being enthralling! Sounds wonderful.

  20. January 15, 2010 10:14 am

    Beautiful cover. But I must say, I find that length a bit much. Am I a terrible reader for always thinking a book that long is a book in need of some hard editing?..of course I say this not having read it. 😉

  21. January 15, 2010 10:17 am

    Great review. It sounds very interesting, especially since it was a long book and it held you captivated. That’s a positive recommendation right there!

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

  22. stacybuckeye permalink
    January 15, 2010 10:32 am

    This sounds like a great book to get lost in. I hope I win 😉

  23. January 15, 2010 11:23 am

    I can’t wait to read this book. Glad to see you liked it!

  24. January 15, 2010 12:51 pm

    Great review. I’ve seen some reviews that were not so good. I just got my copy of this book this week.

  25. January 15, 2010 12:55 pm

    I love a really long book that you can really dig into. So often I get done with the long ones and wish they had been edited down 100 pages. But oh, those delicious ones that you actually end up wishing were longer!

  26. January 15, 2010 1:29 pm

    I am really excited to read this book. I think I may be picking it up in audio and that is fine with me as well…. I am so interested in it!

  27. January 15, 2010 3:51 pm

    I just bought my copy yesterday and can’t wait to start it!

  28. January 15, 2010 6:27 pm

    I can’t wait to read this book and the fact that you speed through it so quickly made me even more excited! How lovely is that cover as well?

  29. January 15, 2010 7:14 pm

    To think that I almost missed this post! The length of this book is daunting, but your review makes me eager to read it. Wonderful review.

  30. January 15, 2010 9:18 pm

    This one didn’t catch my eye at first, but after seeing your positive review I will have to consider it.

  31. January 15, 2010 11:16 pm

    I’m glad that you didn’t find the length of the book to daunting. That you read it quickly speaks for itself. I am wondering how the audio version will compare to the print version due to the length. I’m looking forward to reading this book.

  32. January 16, 2010 6:22 am

    I enjoyed The Historian (though I wasn’t quite as crazy about it as some other readers), so I’d like to check this out at some point.

  33. January 16, 2010 7:07 am

    Super review. I’m so glad you got a chance to meet her! I really must get to this soon, soon, soon.

  34. January 16, 2010 9:01 am

    Loved your review…I’m sure that I’ll read this one at sometime but not right away.

  35. January 16, 2010 10:00 am

    I’m going to listen to this one and can’t wait – your review made it sound wonderful!

  36. January 16, 2010 10:31 pm

    I’m intrigued. I’ll add this one to my list.

  37. January 17, 2010 8:46 am

    I need to read this one, i’ve heard nothing but good things about it. Great review!

  38. January 17, 2010 11:49 am

    I’m excited to read this and my copy should be coming by Wednesday. I am starting to really enjoy chunkster books that you can sink your teeth into. I hope this is one of them. Great review, thanks

  39. January 17, 2010 12:33 pm

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this one so much. I’ll be listening to it and I can’t wait.

  40. January 17, 2010 6:28 pm

    It sounds like such a great read! I still have to finish reading The Historian, but this one is definitely on my TBR list too. Great review!

  41. January 18, 2010 10:11 am

    As long as the story is good I don’t care how long a book is. Good stories make the pages fly by. this sounds quite interesting and I can’t wait to read it.
    Great review B!

  42. January 18, 2010 3:40 pm

    This looks and sounds sooo good!! Great review!

  43. January 18, 2010 4:04 pm

    Great review! I love that Kostova writes with such intensity that you can forget the book is a door stopper and just get lost. I think the synopsis really sounds very interesting and I am sure I would definitely enjoy this book as well.

  44. January 18, 2010 7:28 pm

    This is just so lovely. Thanks for the review AND the giveaway. I really, really hope I would win a copy of the book. Otherwise, I’m off to the bookstore to get it (I hope it’s available). Am keeping me fingers crossed.

  45. January 18, 2010 8:55 pm

    This sounds intriguing … I’m going to enter your giveaway!

  46. January 20, 2010 10:59 am

    This one sounds interesting. I’ve never read Kostova before but I love books I can lose myself in!

  47. January 22, 2010 7:42 pm

    I would love love love to read this book. How delightful you are having a give away.
    The premise is of interest to me, and I haven’t read Kostava yet.

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