THE SWAN THIEVES by Elizabeth Kostova, Review: Engrossing

Elizabeth Kostova’s The Swan Thieves is an engrossing novel with deep, intertwining storylines and thought-provoking and elegant prose.

The Swan Thieves Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves Book Synopsis:

Andrew Marlow, a psychiatrist, 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 the renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes Marlow’s patient.

When Oliver refuses to talk or cooperate, Marlow finds himself going beyond his own legal and ethical boundaries to understand the secret that torments this silent 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.

Moving from American museums to the coast of Normandy, from the late nineteenth 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.

(Hachette Book Group)

Genre: Historical, Literature, Romance, Mystery

Disclosure: If you click a link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.


Engrossing. In my opinion, elements that make for an excellent novel are deep, intertwining storylines and thought-provoking and elegant prose. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova ticked all those boxes for me.

Kostova invests considerable time and effort building the multiple storylines and complex characters. Stylistic elements such as the use of multiple narrators and stories told in reflection through a series of letters read by those narrators, bring a timeless quality to this novel which I found very appealing.

The Swan Thieves has invariably been compared to Kostova’s first outing, The Historian, and found lacking by reviewers. I must agree it didn’t quite reach the very lofty heights of her first novel – it was again very engrossing, but not quite as compelling. The characters do not evoke as much empathy from the reader and the ending is a little more obvious.

Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed The Swan Thieves and believe it is a high quality read in its own right and a must for art lovers.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ,  The Writing 5 / 5  —  Overall 4.75

Get your copy of The Swan Thieves from:

Bookshop US Amazon Book Depository Booktopia AU

OR listen to the audiobook FREE with Audible’s Trial (check eligibility)

UPDATE: Kostova’s next novel, The Shadow Land, will be released in April 2017.

About the Author, Elizabeth Kostova

Elizabeth Kostova is the author of the international bestseller The Historian. She graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress.

Check out Elizabeth Kostova’s website.

This book qualifies for my participation in the Chunkster Reading Challenge (564 pages) and the Global Reading Challenge (North America).