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Publisher's Summary

Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe has a perfectly ordered life--solitary, perhaps, but full of devotion to his profession and the painting hobby he loves. This order is destroyed when renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient. In response, Marlowe finds himself going beyond his own legal and ethical boundaries to understand the secret that torments this genius, a journey that will lead him into the lives of the women closest to Robert Oliver and toward a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism.

Ranging from American museums to the coast of Normandy, from the late 19th century to the late twentieth, from young love to last love, The Swan Thieves is a story of obsession, the losses of history, and the power of art to preserve human hope.

©2010 Elizabeth Kostova (P)2010 Hachette

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Such Potential Wasted

I really had high expectations and was ecstatic when I heard that Kostova had written a new book. I had enjoyed "The Historian" very much. It was something I devoured in the print version. While listening to "The Swan Thieves" I found myself wondering if the difference I was experiencing was due to the audio versus print experience. As this story progressed I became more and more disenchanted and realized that it wasn't completely the narration. I really tried to connect with this odd story of obsession, art, and history. It just never happened. I found myself thinking "what??" as each new twist occurred. In the end, on finishing the book, I sighed with disappointment and chalked it up to rushed writing and poor story development. So much potential and so little follow through.

32 of 34 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Kinda Embarrassing

I am a professional artist and teacher, and I am used to reading the depiction of artists "with a grain of salt". Not that we are that elusive, but every good artist can spot when their trade/craft is being portrayed instead of lived. I found the contemporary characters, especially the artists, in the book terribly banal and tiring. If I were actually reading the book instead of listening to it, I wouldn't have made it past chapter 5. As it was, I yawned through it, as I have a very long commute. I was also disappointed with her male characters. They were one-dimensional, monochromatic and without edges. The only breaks in the monotony are the flashbacks- but they are very rare.

I read The Historian, in "real" form (book), it kept me up late into the night- I was riveted. Sadly, this book is pale in comparison to the last.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


I have listened to a great many audiobooks by various authors, including this one. While "The Historian" was interresting, this book was not at all. The main character is mundanely obsesessed with a boring artist, who has an even more boring obsession with an historical figure who's significance is scant. The author uses too many descriptives to detail minute by minute what the reader surmises in the first few encounters with each character. There is no exciting revelation at the end to make up for her wordy drudgery. It's one of the few books that I found a complete waste and I'm sorry to have purchased it. I try to find some redeeming aspect in every book, but this one was almost impossible to finish listening to. Listener beware.

24 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Carol
  • Southaven, MS, United States
  • 01-26-10

Why, oh why, didn't I trust the reviews?

Good grief. Many, many words about not much. I stuck with this until I thought my ears were going to bleed. I may try it again later but I don't know if it was the reader or the story that turned into a gentle roar in my head. Either way, I give.

18 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

dragged on and on

This book had some good points - I was interested in knowing what made the artist tick - but it dragged on so long that I just wanted it to be over. I hung on until the bitter end, though, and there continued to be good mixed with bad. I wasn't too fond of the psychiatrist, which didn't help, and I found the resolution to the artist's portion of the story to be just ridiculous. I thought the narrators did a good job and it helped bring out the story that there were different narrators for different characters.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • nevina
  • CT, United States
  • 02-18-10 listening to paint dry.

I had high hopes for this book but it was an all around dud for me. The story began in an interesting way but soon became repetitive and tedious. The female characters point of view was told in way too much detail, and in the end as I suspected there was no earthly reason to have listened to these girls drone on and on for hours about the minutia of their lives with the painter.
I also figured out the "surprise" ending about 8 hrs in. Not very subtle plotting.
The narrators of this book did not help alleviate the boredom at all, I do like the sound of Treat Williams voice but this was more of a read aloud effort rather than a performance.
Very disappointing and not in my opinion, credit worthy.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dina
  • LAKE ZURICH, IL, United States
  • 01-29-10

Very Dispappointed

I loved the Historian and was looking forward to The Swan Thieves. I listened to the entire 18 hours hoping that it would come together in the end, but it didn't. The unethical psychiatrist, cheating spouses, etc. made for unloveable characters. But, I could have gotten over that if the plot hadn't been so disconnected. The readers were good, but they couldn't save this novel.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Less Than One Star

I really enjoyed "The Historian", so I was looking forward to this, but it was perhaps the most boring thing I've ever listened to. She goes into ridiculous levels of detail about things that have no bearing on the story. I started to give up after the first of three parts, but didn't. I should have. Also, this is the first book I've listened to narrated by Treat Williams. I guess he's an OK actor, but I don't think he's much of an audiobook narrator.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Vickie
  • Chattanooga, TN, United States
  • 01-30-10

rather dull but pleasant at times

I found it curious that the stories of Robert's women was told in such excruciating detail and Robert's "recovery" was handled rather ham-fisted. Why both the wife and, especially, the lover felt the need to tell the psychiatrist about mind numbing details of the beginning of their relationship with patient was and still is beyond my ability to understand and appreciate. The relationship between the psychiatrist and the patient's ex-lover was not developed well in the least. None of the characters elicited warmth, empathy or sympathy.

But, I am an older reader who had more patience with this rather poorly portioned and paced book, more so when the history of the painting was brought into the story.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Falling in love with art

This book not only kept me wondering and interested in the characters but was also so beautifully written especially when describing the art. Worth the read and the readers were tremendous!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful