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The Swan Thieves: A Novel Hardcover – 12 Jan 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 564 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (12 Jan. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316065781
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316065788
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 5.1 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,989,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A mesmerising psychological mystery. (Good Housekeeping)

An atmospheric, richly entertaining piece of work. (The Times)

The Swan Thieves is an intriguing detective story that kept me guessing from start to finish. (Daily Express)

Her highly anticipated new novel does not disappoint, serving up another intriguing tale which explores secrets of the past. (News of the World) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

* The highly anticipated new novel by the author of the international bestseller THE HISTORIAN. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By winelover on 16 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
The Historian is one of my favourite recent books and I was looking forward to another well-written and absorbing story. Unfortunately, The Swan Thieves has a thin plot, unbelievable characters and I was left asking a number of questions at the end, in particular why the obsession with Beatrice, why did Robert suddenly recover at the end and why had I bothered to finish it? Some of the descriptions are nicely written but that's the only positive thing about the book. Very disappointing given the quality of it's predecessor.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Katie Stevens on 30 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
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 convenient framework for these first person interludes. This apparently frustrates a lot of people, but it's what made the book so appealing to me.

'The Swan Thieves' is not a book that is driven by action but by a gradual development of the characters encountered, all of whom are vivid and fascinating. I thought the author used different points of view and writing styles well, blending first person narratives in the past and present tenses, third person narratives in the present tense and letters to create an elaborate whole piece by piece. Usually this sort of switching irritates me, so it's a mark of the author's skill that in this case I thought it perfectly suited the book. Each different bit of the writing told me more about the characters and it was this gradual revelation and exploration which made this book such a pleasure to read.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Read Me on 19 April 2010
Format: Hardcover
Kostova's second novel has a great premise - Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe begins treating an artist (Robert Oliver)who attempted to attack a painting of Leda in the National Gallery. In delving into Oliver's life, work and past in particular he finds himself delving into a historical mystery involving Impressionist art and passionate romance. Well thats the idea. Sadly it never really delivers what it promises. Marlowe interviews Oliver's ex wife Kate and ex mistress Mary in order to understand him better, but it is Beatrice the lady whose letters he reads over and over again who is the object of his obsession. Who was she and why did such a promising artist dissapear from history?

I like the idea behind the book and the story sounds intriguing, but Kostova just can't write. Not in the sense of its terribly written because really its ok, the descriptions are well done, the artistry is there in relation to landscapes and scenes, yet she cannot deliver any kind of tension or suspense. That was really my main problem with this. The plot twists around as much as it can throwing in a trip to Acapulco and a quick visit to Paris but this all feels unrequired. Every time Kostova reveals something that is meant to be a teasing mystery you can guess whats happening a mile off. Who is the mysterious woman that Oliver keeps painting? Who is the 'dead' woman that he loves? The big question of why he tried to attack the painting is answered so weakly I nearly threw the book down in disbelief.

Other reviewers have mentioned that the historical parts of the novel are better or more interesting and thats true as they do leave you wondering where that side of the plot is going. Perhaps if that section were a novel on its own it might be quite good.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C. Phillipps on 28 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I read this in a day (and most of a night!) Like other reviewers I would agree that it is probably the writing style that polarises opinion. I personally thoght it suited it, and in a strange way it reminded me of the way the original Dracula is set out (which may not entirely be a coincidence considering the subject matter of one of Kostova's earlier books!)
It is true that there is not a lot of action in the first parts. The interest is in the unfolding of the characters. The prose is good, intellegent without being 'difficult' and the whole thing flows very well.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Victoria Roberts on 31 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
Perhaps I should be as succinct as my precis above, and leave it there? However, you might think I was lazy, like Kostova's editors, who could have done something to tighten this book up and make it less of a chore.

1) The plot was simply not strong enough to sustain so very many pages. I am a fast reader, but it was a chore even for me to make progress. I decided to stop on about page 300, because:

2) I simply couldn't care enough for the people involved. None of them was interesting, yet they thought they were, and treated one another as fascinating and irresistible, which really made me question their judgement and be rather annoyed that they continued to pander to one another and bore their audience.

3) As for the self-indulgence, it seems to be rather a feature of literary America. Even more generally, this this kind of "sensuous" writing - random things happening at the edge of one's senses - is not Chekhovian; it is self-indulgent, especially if there is too much of it.

Elizabeth Kostova just needs a chance to rest and recharge her creative banks after the years of effort and imagination which went into her Historian. A second novel is never easy, and she either needed more support (and less sycophancy) or else was pig-headed despite support offered.

I'm very sorry to be so harsh, but she can do better, and be better done by. Let's look forward to number three!
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