Review: The Swan Thieves (audio)

The Swan Thieves Audio Version

The Swan Thieves
By Elizabeth Kostova
Ready By: Treat Williams, Anne Heche, Erin Cottrell, Sarah Zimmerman and John Lee
(Hachette Audio, Compact Disc, 9781600247453, January 2010)

The Short of It:

I adored the references to art and the mystery behind the main character, but the story was too long and drawn out for my taste.

The Rest of It:

Robert Oliver, a well-known artist, attacks a painting in the National Gallery of Art and is institutionalized due to his unstable behavior. Dr. Marlow is called in to treat him and as luck would have it, he is an artist himself so he understands Oliver in a way that no one else does. As Marlow investigates Oliver’s past, he talks to Oliver’s ex-wife Kate, and his ex-lover Mary in an attempt to piece together a life that has become a big mystery for all involved. In addition to Oliver’s story in the present day, the author also takes us back to the late 1800’s to explore the artists of that time and the painter that Oliver is obsessed with.

There are lots of wonderful visuals in this novel. As an audio book, I lost myself in the descriptions of the paintings numerous times. Listening to it was very calming and the characters were interesting and complex but it’s one of those novels where nothing really happens. There is very little action…very little movement if you get my drift and this made the story drag. Drag, I say! Plus, the reading itself was not that great. Much of it seemed trite and I can’t figure out if that is due to the readers (there are several) or the dialogue or a combination of both.

As an audio book with 17 CDs, I was willing to put up with the lack of action but as a book, I think I would have gotten frustrated with it. At about disc 14, I was thinking that I might skip a few tracks just to get back to the meat of it, but I continued on thinking I’d miss something critical. In hindsight, I don’t think I would have missed much.

I don’t want you to think that I didn’t enjoy this one, because  I did but I don’t think this author is for me. I had a hard time with The Historian and could not finish it (too wordy). Had this one not been on audio it probably would have been a DNF (do not finish) for me because it was also very wordy and dense. If it had been a bit shorter, and the dialogue a bit more realistic, I think I could have loved this one because it contains all of the elements that I love…madness, art, conflicted characters, etc.

For those who choose their audio books based on the reader, you should note that this one is read by many readers (Anne Heche and Treat Williams) to name a few, but the reading was sort of flat and blah.

P.S. I listened to this one with the kids in the car and a couple of tracks were not appropriate for their little ears so if you are taking a road trip with the kiddies, you might want to listen to something else.

Source: Won in a giveaway.

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22 thoughts on “Review: The Swan Thieves (audio)”

  1. i enjoyed this for much the same reasons that you did, and the ending brought something back in the story for me that saved it. But there was time in the middle that was pretty slow. I don’t know if I will ever read The Historian, but I might try her next just because of how much i enjoyed the writing and characterizations.

  2. I listened to this one about a year ago on audio, and I would agree with you. I can tolerate more on audio I think, but I would have died of boredom had it been in print. I love the immersion in Impressionistic art, but sister, I could not STAND the crazy artist. I would have loved to have given him a big kick in the ass.

    1. Oliver was a pain in the ass but the reader for Beatrice (french accent) made me want to stick a pin in my eye several times. Oui Oui!

  3. Have The Historian on the TBR but I’m waiting until the vampire craziness passes. Right now I’m a little fed up of them.

    Interesting that for all the attention that The Historian got, you don’t hear much about this one. probably because of the problems you had with it.

  4. I am afraid Kostovo may be one of those authors who write chunksters just to do it. I found The Historian to be too lengthy, so I am putting off reading this one.

    1. You may be right. So much of this one could have been edited out. I thought it was funny that her acknowledgments on audio lasted nearly three minutes!! It was almost like hearing a super-long Oscar speech.

  5. Oh, thank goodness, someone else who couldn’t make it through The Historian. Everyone in my book club loved it and I just couldn’t finish. I want to give this one a try because I too love the idea of art and mystery. Knowing it’s another long one worries me but it sounds worth it. Sounds to me like the author never met a word she didn’t use.

  6. I definitely had a hard time with The Historian as well. I tried to listen to it, and I just couldn’t make it through. This sounds like another one just like it. Too bad because the premises of both books sounds so fun to read, but we need someone to seriously edit them it seems.

  7. Too long, too long, too long. A friend of mine commented after I read it that it would probably have been better to listen to it since the reader would address some of the things that drove me crazy reading it (the similarity in the language/voices of the different narrators for example). But I did really enjoy the last 200 pages and the story of the letters….:>)

  8. I’m impressed you made it through! This was my very first audio ever and let me tell you I did not get the hype of audiobooks because it was the longest book ever! Luckily, I’ve gotten over that now!

    1. I thought it was long, and then Mary told her story and then I thought it was REALLY long. LOL. I do like audio books for road trips though and this one was good for the one we took and I still had a week’s worth of listening for my work commute when I got back.

  9. I have picked this book up so many times… I even burned the CD’s so I could listen on my ipod. A year later it was still there so I deleted it.

    Guess I made a good choice based on your review. 17 CD’s a long time to listen.

    1. I prefer longer audio books actually because they aren’t cheap and I always feel as if I get more bang for the buck if they are longer, but longer with action is what I guess I like. Not long streches of minute little details. I’d get lost listening to it on an iPod. I still haven’t quite figure out the track system on an iPod. I always manage to skip something major. I did that so many times with Moby Dick and I absolutely could not tell with that one where the heck I was in the story.

  10. I’ve tried getting through this audio a few times and haven’t been able too. I’m not really sure why other than it just doesn’t seem to hold my interest for long.

  11. I listened to this on audiobook in the car and it helped to break it up since it was so long. I liked the story but agree it was drawn out in parts and could have been edited. The narration was a bit flat but I liked that it changed narrators as it helped to hold my interest. I have no interest in reading The Historian so I’ll pass on that one. A friend of mine picked up the audiobook after reading my review and she let me know that she didn’t like it at all.

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