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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Swan Thieves

by Elizabeth Kostova

I am so far behind with my book reviews.  Hopefully, getting this one posted will get me past the barrier.  I received this book from Hatchette and I was delighted to have the chance to reading Kostova's 2nd book.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Historian a few years ago when I read it shortly after reading Dracula.

The Swan Thieves is not at all like The Historian except that both are long and circuitous.  I have often heard people talk of character studies without fully comprehending the term.  I think I understand it now.  The Swan Thieves concentrates significantly on the characters, painting each character with layer after layer of description. 

The story can be summed up briefly:  An artist is caught with a knife attempting to stab a famous painting and is incarcerated in a mental hospital.  The psychiatrist caring for him becomes obsessed with him and searches for answers to the artist breakdown.  This search leads to interviews with the 3 women in the painter's life and a story told through letters the painter obsessively reads.

I liked The Swan Thieves but not as much as The Historian.  I wanted to learn why the artist would stab a beautiful piece of artwork and that small mystery kept me reading.  I was intrigued with the story told in the letters and thought it the most enjoyable part of the book.

I'm not strongly recommending this book.  I think there are many who will like it and even a few who will love it.  It doesn't make my list of memorable books or my rereads list.  A quick look at amazon. com shows a higher rating for The Swan Thieves than for The Historian.  That surprises me.  And the ratings may change as more people read it as currently there are only 5 posted reviews - none are mine.

23 comments:

Aarti said...

I think I'll skip this one. I didn't really love The Historian- I didn't think Dracula seemed all that evil and there was just SO much information. While this story sounds interesting to me, your lukewarm reaction doesn't make me feel enticed :-)

Thanks for helping me keep the TBR list pared!

Kailana said...

I still haven't read The Historian, but I kind of want to read this...

Staci said...

I really enjoyed The Historian and wasn't put off by the sheer size of it, but if you can't really recommend this one then I am certainly not running out to get it. Thanks for your thoughtful review of this one!

Diane said...

I was looking forward to this one as I like the Historian a lot. Sorry it was disappointing.

Framed said...

I'd have to read a glowing report before I committ to another book the size of The Historian. Too bad because I really liked that book, but this one doesn't sound as good to me.

Kristen M. said...

I had the same reaction -- good but not great. I did love the French story too. I hope that too many people don't skip it just because of lukewarm reviews. It's still better than so many other books out there!

Hazra said...

I still haven't read The Historian, but my friend raved about it so much that she made me feel guilty for not reading it. Sorry this one disappointed you, but I'd like to read it all the same.

alisonwonderland said...

I loved The Historian, and I'm eager to read this one - despite your lukewarm response. I guess I'm hoping to find, like Kristen M. did, that "it's still better than so many other books out there." Thanks for your review!

Cath said...

I adored The Historian but am not at all sure this new one is for me. Maybe I'll grab it from the library sometime. Nice to see you back!

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

I haven't read The Historian yet, I think I will start with that first.

Bybee said...

I might try this one although I wasn't crazy about The Historian.

jenclair said...

I really enjoyed The Historian, and have just brought The Swan Thieves home from the library, but have yet to read a glowing blog review of this one. I'll give it a chance, but won't feel bad if I decide to abandon it. :O

Shelley/Book Fanatic said...

I loved the Historian and will add this to my to-read list. Thanks for your honest review!

Zibilee said...

I read The Historian a long time ago and have wondered if this would make a good read for me. I am sorry that it wasn't as compelling as her first book for you, but I do appreciate your honesty and insight on it.

Les said...

I haven't read The Historian, so I wasn't very interested in this when I read the blurb when it hit the shelves. I think I'll pass. Still not even sure if I'll read The Historian, although there are quite a few positive remarks here, so maybe I should.

BTW, I'm not behind on reviews, but I sure am behind with my blog-hopping! Sometimes I wish everyone would just take a week off so I could catch-up on what's already posted out there! :)

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

I've granted you an award!
Enjoy!

http://gerberadaisydiaries.blogspot.com/2010/01/one-lovely-blog-award.html

Amused said...

I loved the Historian so now I am not sure! It's such a big book. I think I'll want to read it just for comparision for that author's work. Great review!

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I keep seeing this book at the bookstore, and wondering about it. So glad to read your review here! It doesn't sound like a book that would keep my attention, so thanks for taking that bullet for me. ;)

Vicki said...

I haven't read The Historian but have The Swan Thieves on it's way.

I have an award for you HERE

Margaret Pangert said...

Your review is very well done and a "good read" in itself. I liked your remark that one small mystery keeps you turning the pages. I actually enjoyed reading this book and also wrote a review for my blog at www.whattheowltoldme.blogspot.com. I would appreciate your giving it a look if you get the chance, and let me know your thoughts. Thanks! Best.

Kirsten said...

Thanks for posting your review - I didn't love The Historian as much as I expected to and have been debating whether or not to read this one.

Anonymous said...

hey. As a person who fell in love with the book, just want to say that, i understand your reservations but at the same time would encourage people to find out for themselves if they like it or not.its compelling, read it for the romantic backstory, if nothing else. Also, pick it up when you're feeling meditative/contemplative. it's that kind of book...where people may come, talk, go and it doesn't affect you, because you're in a different space altogether.Don't read it if u want pace and excitement. This book is rather like a painting itself!

Avani said...

i jst now finished THE SWAN THIEVES it is a good book but to really enjoy one should know a little bit about french impressionism and painting techniques. without that knowledge it becomes a little bit boring sometimes.
otherwise; its nice..