Book Review: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova (GIVEAWAY!)

**This just in: Miriam with Hachette is giving me 5 copies of The Swan Thieves to giveaway! If you are already a follower, than you are automatically entered. If you would like additional entries, then leave me a comment or tweet about this giveaway. The giveaway is restricted to US/Canada, no P.O. Boxes. Winner announced Dec. 4th (book will ship in January)**


The Swan Thieves

Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Little Brown / Hachette
January 2010
ISBN: 0316065781

Imagine a beautiful love story of a talented painter at the dawn of the Impressionst period in the post-Revolution France of 1877. Béatrice has fallen in love with Olivier Vignot, an experienced and well known painter, a friend of her husband’s, old enough to be her father or grandfather, and who fought in the Revolution and lost his wife in a horrifying twist of fate at the barricades.

Imagine that her most beautiful painting, The Swan Thieves, never saw public view, depicting a naked woman laying by a stream with a swan at her side, with two men approaching in the shadows. The swan’s wings spread in anxious defense. Do the intruders come for the swan? Who is the swan?

The narrative of the Impressionist era lovers is their letters, preserved through the many intervening years...

Interspersed with the historical romance, is the story of a talented artist, Robert Oliver, who has come under the care of a psychiatrist in a treatment center, also a painter. This man will not speak and paints only the picture of the same woman in many different poses, shadings, states of dress, and mood. Oliver was institutionalized after being interdicted trying to stab a painting in the National Gallery in Washington. There were two paintings on the wall. A painting of the famous scene of Leda and a swan, generally assumed to be the God Zeus in the form in which he appeared to ravish the beautiful mortal woman. Leda and the Swan also contained a prone naked woman and a swan in obvious distress. The plaque for Leda and the Swan showed that it had been purchased by Gilbert Thomas, a Parisian gallery owner of the same earlier period. The second painting was a self-portrait of Thomas with coins rolling through his fingers. Oliver’s mother was French, a World War II war bride.

Dr. Marlow is Oliver’s psychiatrist, fascinated with the psychology of creativity and disorders that plague brilliant people. He becomes intrigued by the silence and fame of the painter, as well as the haunting beauty of his many paintings and sketches of a woman. Who? As the bachelor doctor traces Oliver’s life, he experiences an ocean full of emotions, including falling in love himself.

The path of Dr. Marlow leads to France, where the mysteries of the letters of Béatrice and Olivier Vignot seem to provide the key to unlocking the mysteries of Robert Oliver. The reader is treated to the beauty of villages made famous by the Impressionists, Étretat, Marly-le-Roi, and Grémière. We are also introduced to an engaging, centenarian Frenchman who lived with the daughter of Béatrice, Aude Vignot until her death. Robert Oliver had traveled many of the same paths.

Present, past, and future are woven together in this masterpiece with dazzling skill. The often vague relationships of people in history, or silent bodies still breathing, create a collage of mystery for Dr. Marlow to explore. What bewitched Robert Oliver? What is the connection to him of the people in the letters? Why would he want to stab The Swan Thieves? Why was he so vexed by the woman in his paintings and sketches? Who was she?

The beginning and ending of The Swan Thieves explore another painting of a woman walking in rather formal dress through the snow having delivered something someplace in the night. Could this be Béatrice or Aude? Delivering a clue? To whom?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this wonderful novel. I found it to be thought-provoking. The veritable fountain of emotional relationships, and possibilities, could each become the grist for more engaging writing from Ms. Kostova.

When I was done, I had an inkling of my initial questions: who or what is the swan?

If you love art, romance, literary fiction, excellent story telling, and page-turning emotion, you will love this marvelously crafted novel. It is a deserving successor to Ms. Kostova’s prior # 1 New York Times Bestseller, The Historian. It will be available in January so make sure it is on your reading list..


**Thank you Miriam from Hachette for the opportunity to review this book**


  1. This sounds fantastic - can't wait! Great review! I thought The Historian was only so-so, but really liked Ms. Kostova when I met her at a signing. So I'm excited for her follow up!

  2. Great review! I am looking forward to reading this book. :)

  3. Sounds very interesting Cym! Thanks for sharing the great review.

  4. I really enjoyed Kostova's The Historian and am sure I will like this one as well. Maybe I'll pick this one up as a birthday present to myself in January :) Thanks for the review.

  5. This book sounds fantastic and a story that I would like to read. Great review!!

  6. Awesome review. The premise of the novel sounds really interesting. I definitely want to read this. :)

  7. Exciting giveaway! I just re-tweeted it. :)

  8. I am so excited to see you are offering this giveaway. I have been wanting to own and read this book.
    knittingmomof3 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

  9. Can't wait to read this new novel.
    Thank-you for your great review!


  10. I would love to win, read and write review for "The Swan Thieves."


  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. I read The Historian this year and really enjoyed it. This one sounds good as well!

  13. Great Review. I've heard wonders about this author. Please count me in.

    +1 Follower

    cindyc725 at gmail dot com

  14. Excellant Review! I really enjoyed The Historian!

  15. Great review Cym - I've kind of been on the fence about reading this one, but now I really want to read it. Thanks for sharing your review.

  16. I am so excited about his book. Are you still now sure about the swan? Interesting.
    Thank you for the giveaway!

  17. I listed this book in a Waiting on Wednesday feature a while back. I would love to win a copy. I am a new follower. Thank you for entering me.

  18. Good morning, Cym,
    I would love to receive on of the free copies of this wonderful novel. The cover is awesome.
    Please enter me in the contest.

  19. Hi,
    I just became a follower. Would love to win a copy of this book. Great Review!

    Thanks for the chance,
    LooseEnds AT Snet DOT Net

  20. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of Kostova's new novel! I loved The Historian and am looking forward to reading The Swan Thieves, as well.

    I just became a new follower.

    I also tweeted:

    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah Emmerson

  21. Hello
    I am a new follower and I would be interested in the Swan Thieves. Thank you

  22. She is one of my fave authors, I would love to win this. I am a new follower.

  23. This sounds like such a good read! I enjoyed The Historian very much. Thanks for the review and the contest entry!

    gaby317nyc at gmail dot com

  24. I subscribed to your feed (via friend connect) yesterday and just found this post in my reader. Yey! Please enter me. oohbooks at gmail dot com

  25. would love love and love and then some to win this book

    wheresmyrain at yahoo dot com

  26. Whoops, I thought the contest was over.

  27. I've just finished reading this book and I couldn't agree with you more. A lovely review-I only read full reviews after I've read the book. You did a wonderful job.