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The Swan Thieves

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  21,705 ratings  ·  3,419 reviews
Robert Oliver, a renowned painter, has brutally attacked a canvas in the National Gallery of Art. From the confines of his hospital room, Oliver maintains a stubborn silence, offering only the briefest explanation before he stops speaking altogether: "I did it for her."
But who is she? Andrew Marlow, a psychiatrist, prides himself on his ability to make even a stone talk, b
Paperback, 564 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2005)
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I'm sorry Goodreads First Reads program. First I win a book I only entered to win to tear it apart, and then I win this book which I also didn't like. But please believe me that I didn't go into this book hating it, I had an open mind. Please take this into account and send me more books for free please!!

A whole lot of my friends here on seemed to really like Kostova's first novel, The Historian (with the exception of Kasia, who seemed to feel about the same way that I feel about t
I think the reason that this book seems to polarise opinion is because nothing much happens in it. Psychologist Robert Marlowe acquires the renowned painter Robert Oliver as his patient, and subsequently travels around meeting people who might be able to shed some light on the reasons behind Oliver's breakdown. The majority of the book comprises the memories and insights of these people told in the voice of that particular individual, and so takes place outside the narrative which is really a co ...more
Elizabeth (Miss Eliza)
About 20 pages in I thought, this is crap, but I kept reading because I loved The Historian. In retrospect, I should have stopped because this book was so badly written and just such a waste of time it made the Da Vinci Code look wonderful by comparison. Every single character was an annoying pompous jackass and I hope they all die horribly.

A better, more thoughtful review as to the multitude of reasons behind my hating this book will be forthcoming. And they are legion! From glaring continuity
Dec 04, 2013 KatieDMD rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!!

It has been a long time since I've read a book that made me hungry for the next word, whose 400 pages (or so) flew by in an instant, and that after finishing it, I could scarcely breathe and think about anything else for the next few hours. Even the day after, I find my mind drifting to the complex plot, the inscrutable and complicated characters and mulling over the series of events, to see if there could have been any other way the story could have ended, or even begun. I decided that no, the
There were things I enjoyed in this novel including some of the writing with its descriptions of art, although, all in all, it was much about nothing. It took too long for the parallel stories to merge and to be connected, and by the time it was done, I was fed up and just wanted to be done with it. I would probably not recommend it to my friends.
I can’t believe that the average rating on this book is only 3.41! I think because of that lowish average I went in to this book expecting a little less…but I thought this book was amazing. The whole time I was reading it, I thought, if I was to ever write a book, this is what I would want the voice to sound like. I absolutely loved her use of language, her writing style--great detail, but not overdone, beautiful character development with just enough left to the imagination. Robert was for the ...more
The Swan Thieves, Elizabeth Kostova's sophomore effort after The Historian, is altogether a very satisfying experience from beginning to end. It's nearly 600 pages long, and luckily it uses the pages well. It doesn't lag or become dull in places; instead, it moves forward at a slow but steady pace and reveals secrets bit by bit. Kostova lays out the pieces quite clearly so that even a half-attentive reader will figure out the secrets before they're explicitly confirmed. Some reviews have suggest ...more
Sarah Ryburn
My goodness, this was engrossing. I heard Elizabeth Kostova read from the novel at Lemuria earlier this month, and I have been happily giving over my lunch breaks and evenings to it ever since. A long novel, but thoroughly engrossing––that's twice I've used this word. Fitting.

There were moments in the narrative when I couldn't quite shake the sense of the author's being female, a problem when the protagonist is male. Then again, large passages of plot are narrated through letters written by fem
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is an exquisitely written art history mystery with a difference: it is elegant. Crafted with poise and knowledge of the art period that is arguably the most eventful, The Swan Thieves enthralls on three levels, and is written from a range of perspectives that ring utterly true.

The reader wishes for the book never to end, because the atmosphere is mesmerising and totally engaging. One never doubts the ability of the author, and trust is never a question: the mystery unfolds and the reader go
This was, in a word, disappointing. The attempted narrative structure just really didn't work for me. The story is told from the perspective of three different narrators, along with letters from the past interspersed throughout. I think the structure was problematic simply because the main character - Robert Oliver - was less than interesting. Each of the narrators was telling a story about Robert's life as it related to them, but I never really felt like I knew him. I knew the other characters, ...more
Elizabeth Kostova accomplishes something in The Swan Thieves that no one whose review I've read has mentioned: a true feeling of what it is to be an artist, both young and struggling or older and proficient..she helps those of us who are "wannabee' painters see thru the eyes of a real painter...the importance of light, shadow, a flicker of color added, the emotion tendered in a few brush stokes.She also summons the living presence of the Impressionist movement with a vividness that reminds us wh ...more
I just headed over to amazon to pick up a picture for this review, and I was dreading the act of clicking on The Swan Thieves link, because I didn't want to see how many stars readers had given the book. You see, The Swan Thieves (like her previous book, The Historian) is one of those novels that is so gripping that I want to stand on street corners and press copies of it into the hands of passersby. It's 600 pages long. I started the book on Sunday morning and finished it this afternoon. I know ...more
If readers pick up this book, hoping for a story similar to "The Historian," they will be disappointed. Personally, I am disappointed by the number of readers criticizing this book for such reasons. In "The Swan Thieves," Kostova steps away from 'another person's' story and builds a mesmerizing foundation of mystery and breath-taking narrative(s) for her readers.

The story is a number of character developments amidst an intricate storyline, one filled with historical fact and fiction. A fourth o
Heather steff
First let me say that I have had this book on at the library since the fall of 2009 and just recieved and read it. I was so so so excited to dive into it.

Secondly, I was and am still an absolute fan of the author's first novel THE HISTORIAN. i recommend to anyone and everyone.

Thirdly!!! What a gynormous waste!!! I so so so wanted to Love this novel. At this point I would just wish I could like this novel. the art genre novel has now been passe for sometime. The author chose such an enthralling s
Jul 05, 2010 Jamie added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Katie McCracken!
While there's undoubtedly a shortage of literary fiction in the world today and I feel compelled to give credit where credit is due--this book paled in comparison to the MASTERPIECE that was The Historian. Those crisp suits, the dark forests, the jet setting and travel by boats. It was so TIMELESS, so elegant and effective, beautifully written by what could only be a thoroughly intelligent woman who LOVES books and thrives on a good story.

The Historian was a modern (ish) Rebecca. A mystery, a ri
This book was entertaining, and gorgeously written - maybe too gorgeously written. I felt some of the descriptions were so drawn out that they made me loose the thread of the narrative. I also felt that although it was supposed to be written in different voices, they aren't distinct enough to be truly compelling. And Kostova gave too much away at the beginning -the mystery surrounding the painting and Robert and Marlowe 's fates seemed so inevitable. Definitely a good read, but not a great one.
Lori Anderson
Following this book can be a little hard if you don't pay attention to the chapter headers and know WHO is doing the speaking in each chapter. The chapters not only cover present day but delve into the 1800's via letters and a few brief forays into the eyes of a painter.

In a nutshell, a famous painter loses his grip on reality and becomes completely enamored and in love with a woman who paints in the 1800's. All he can paint is variations of her face. A psychiatrist (who also happens to be a pai
Personalmente me decepcionó un poco, es tan descriptivo que cae en lo aburrido y predecible en algunas partes. Mis expectativas eran muy altas después de leer La Historiadora, que te tiene totalmente hechizada durante el libro completo. La autora toma un periodo histórico y hace una historia relacionada con la pintura, pero nunca me queda claro el verdadero problema ni del personaje principal ni de su paciente, creo que debió investigar más de psicología porque desde mi punto de vista la patolog ...more
When I started this book I was enjoying it. About half way through, for various reasons, I had to put the book down for almost a week. When I picked it back up I just could not get back into the story. I found I really didn't much care about the characters or what happened to them. And the plot, such as it is, also had me unmoved. Which pretty much sums up my review.

Diane Challenor
I abandoned "The Swan Thieves" after getting three quarters through, party skimming the last quarter for the core of the story too. Why? It's difficult to say. Maybe because it's a romance, not a "mushy" one, but a romance all the same, which is not a genre that attracts me. There is a mystery, and I love a mystery but maybe it was just too drawn out. I'm sure many people will love this story, it's filled with references to art and literature and beautiful scenery. Whatever my reason is for aban ...more
Ricki Jill Treleaven
I have heard many mixed reviews about The Swan Thieves from my friends. It seems that my artist friends tend to like it better than my non-artist friends, which I imagine is due to the subject matter. The book is about a nationally-recognized artist named Robert Oliver who goes nuts in the National Gallery of Art and tries to attack a priceless painting with a knife. He is hospitalized for mental illness, and psychiatrist Andrew Marlow, an exceptional artist himself, takes on Robert's compelling ...more
Now, I have not read The Historian (I do plan on reading it) so this was my first exposure to Ms. Kostova's writing. At first glance, this book does not seem really exciting because it's about a painter who attacks a painting and the psychiatrist who tries to figure out what drove him to do it. Andrew Marlow, the psychiatrist, ends up having to go to the women in the painter's life in order to figure out the mystery because the painter refuses to speak.

Kostova's writing is beautiful and descript
В един студен майски ден се разхождах по улиците на Дрезден, след 4-5 часов интензивен сити тур, вече окончателно вкочанасяна реших да се скрия в Цвингера ( виж.снимка профил:)))) и да разгледам за няколко часа художествената галерия и ако остане време експозицията с рицарските доспехи. И както за Лувъра звездата е " Мона Лиза", то за Цвингера е "Сикстинската мадона", спокойна че вече съм се докоснала до този шедьовър и леко разочарована, че снимането е забранено ( тук французите ме печелят, не ...more
I received "The Swan Thieves" through GoodReads' FirstReads program and was really excited to be the winner! I read "The Historian," thoroughly enjoyed that and had put "The Swan Thieves" on my to-read list as soon as I knew it was being published.

I must say that I admire Kostova as a writer. It's evident this woman does her homework; she's a total academic for mainstream/general-fiction literature. She's a talented author, but she also fully immerses herself in a place and in a culture. In this
I just finished reading "The Swan Thieves" by Elizabeth Kostova, whose debut novel, "The Historian" was a runaway bestseller. In fact, "The Historian" was the first debut novel to hit #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list. While "The Swan Thieves" will undoubtedly finds its way to this and other bestseller lists, my feeling is that it will quickly find its way off those same lists.[return][return]"The Swan Thieves" is primarily the story of two men, Dr. Andrew Marlow and Robert Oliver, as we ...more
It has been a long time since I have read a book slowly and thoroughly and enjoyed every word. The story of a painter of modern times, Robert and his psychotic attachment to a woman in a painting from the 1800's is well written and enjoyable. It alternates chapters spoken by the characters so that a clear picture is portrayed. Dr. Marlowe is a painter himself and the physiatrist who unravels the mysteries of the past that haunt his patient Robert. We witness as he struggles to be professional ye ...more
Да си призная, отдавна не бях чел книга в продължение на 2 месеца. С "Крадци на лебеди" обаче това сякаш не тежеше. Втория голям роман на Елизабет Костова от самото начало ме предразположи към търпение и изкорени всякакви очаквания, че ще имам желание да го "изгълтам" наведнъж. Мисля, че с книга, толкова силно вплетена в изкуството, това няма как да се случи. За щастие.

Неведнъж съм казал, че харесвам книги, за които писателят се е подготвил добре. Чувствах го, четейки "Черната кутия", после и пр
This story builds up in layers, just like a painting would on the easel. It’s lush and rich and detailed and only slowly becomes clear to the reader.
I can see why opinions on this book could be polarized. It’s like watching an artist at work. The process can be fascinating as the picture slowly comes alive as the layers are added and seeing how those layers interact and play with the former layers. Or it can be excruciatingly slow and dull if one wants to skip the slow development of the work a
I started reading this on a plane, couldn't put it down. I finished it in a couple of days.

The story is of Marlowe, a psychiatrist and amateur painter who is trying to figure out and help Robert Oliver, a brilliant painter who has attacked a painting in the National Gallery. The man won't speak, so it's difficult for Marlow to know what to do. The book has the flavor of a mystery, as Marlow tracks down the painter's ex-wife and other key people.

And there is a historical flavor too, as Marlowe t
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Left Hanging? 7 84 Jul 05, 2013 04:33PM  
Is the poet Mary mentions real? 4 27 May 06, 2013 05:30PM  
who is the artist? 2 55 Jan 19, 2013 10:28AM  
Real v. fictional artists 6 95 Aug 03, 2011 06:10AM  
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Elizabeth Johnson Kostova is an American author. She is a graduate of Yale University and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress.

Her first novel, The Historian, was published in 2005, and it has become a best-seller.

More about Elizabeth Kostova...
The Historian L'historienne et Drakula, Tome 2 L'historienne et Drakula, Tome 1 Der Historiker Frankenstein

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“And how could anyone consent to give up the smell of open books, old or new?” 65 likes
“It's funny; in this era of e-mail and voice mail and all those things that even I did not grow up with, a plain old paper letter takes on amazing intimacy.” 54 likes
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