Michelle's Reviews > The Swan Thieves

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
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Jul 27, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: adult-fiction, audio, historical
Read in July, 2012

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, I suppose, but then what is the point of having Oliver in the story at all? Aren't I supposed to feel something for him or care about what happens to him?

I suppose that Robert was intended to be egnimatic. This successful, dramatic, tortured artist. But the problem with creating a character that is hard to relate to is that he is hard to relate to. And so I just didn't like him or feel any sympathy for his condition. And then each character that narrated focused on their own feelings about Oliver instead of him. So that just muddied the water. Perhaps there should have been a "Robert" section - one in which he told his story.

And then he has this obsession with an artist from the late 19th century - a French woman. I never understood what it was that made him feel so compelled by her work or her story. He goes to great lengths to paint her, learn about her, etc. And yet...I don't know why. So the "mysterious" aspect of his love for her fell flat in the end.

I really liked Kostova's The Historian, at least the first 450 pages. I think she's talented, and she has a great voice. But the way this story was structured took away from the focus of the main character and so it wasn't great.
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06/19/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4)




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message 4: by Jami (new)

Jami You know, I didn't really love The Historian. I found it dragged on and on in a not very compelling way, if you know what I mean. I haven't been very interested in picking up anything else by Kostova, so I'm glad to hear that I haven't been missing out on anything.


Michelle I liked The Historian until the last 200 to 300 pages when I thought that Kostova lost total control of the story. It just got so heavy handed with the "historical" aspects, and the ending was so so bizarre. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to try another Kostova novel again. They are so long, and it just isn't worth it when there are better books out there.


message 2: by Jami (new)

Jami I totally agree! I really thought it was going somewhere, too, and I was being patient with it, but by the last 1/3 of the book, I had completely lost any patience with Kostova!


Michelle That's funny because that is how I felt by the end of this, and I think I just forgot that when I read The Historian. I had totally lost my patience and wasn't paying a lot of attention. I hoped that I would find out some detail that made reading it worth while but...nope.


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