Sneak peek: Elizabeth Kostova’s ‘The Swan Thieves’


Elizabeth Kostova

One of the first big releases of January 2010 is Elizabeth Kostova’s follow-up to her hit debut, The Historian, a literary vampire story that topped bestseller lists in the summer of 2005. Her new novel, The Swan Thieves, is a tale of love, obsession and art that, like The Historian, goes backward and forward in time to unravel a mystery. We asked Kostova a few questions about the book as a teaser for fans–and a preview of our full-length BookPage interview coming in January.

What elements in The Swan Thieves will most appeal to fans of The Historian?
I think readers who enjoyed The Historian will probably enjoy the mix of historical and contemporary settings in The Swan Thieves, as well as the travel to France and through time.

swanthievesImpressionist art is frequently referenced in books (yours!) and films (Amelie), and probably adorns 8 out of 10 dorm room walls. What is it about these artists that continues to speak to people today?
I think we still look at and love the Impressionists because they capture something about nature that is both vivid and idealized. As we watch the destruction of natural beauty in our world, we probably value these images in a new and piercing way. I think it’s also important to note that many people are understandably sick of Impressionist art from sheer over-exposure to it, and because in reproduction it radiates a certain prettiness. Looking closely at an original Impressionist masterwork is still a radical experience, and very different from looking at a notecard or tote bag.

The mystery of The Swan Thieves revolves around a 19th-century female artist, and the sacrifices women in particular must make to pursue art. Is there a real-life artist who inspired this character?
Beatrice de Clerval is not based on a single real artist, but in developing her I was inspired by the life of Berthe Morisot, one of the six original exhibiting Impressionists, a dedicated and very gifted painter who also protected the conventions of her social and family life.

Who is your favorite character in the new novel, and why?
I think I’m fondest of Andrew Marlow, because he changes the most over the course of the book. I feel very close to him in his struggles to figure out who he is, and I like the way he evolves from vanity to love–rather as Professor Rossi does in The Historian.

How was writing this book different from writing The Historian?
In writing The Swan Thieves, I had to move away from using the models of Victorian literature and into something more exactly fitting my story in terms of language and structure. I also wrote it in large swathes, as different episodes became vivid for me, and then rearranged these in the editing, rather than writing straight through from beginning to end as I did with The Historian. I learned a tremendous amount from writing The Swan Thieves and it is a deeply felt book, for me.

6 Responses to Sneak peek: Elizabeth Kostova’s ‘The Swan Thieves’

  1. Alayne says:

    Excellent questions. I just finished reading and reviewing The Swan Thieves on my blog, and thought it was fabulous. Thanks for posting.

    • Trisha says:

      Thanks Alayne! I especially liked what she had to say about Impressionism — it’s so true that they are much more alive when you see the paintings in person. Looking forward to reading your review.

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by wordrunner: RT @BookPage: Elizabeth Kostova gives us a preview of her January 2010 release, THE SWAN THIEVES:

  3. […] Rule by Robert Crais Witch & Wizard by James Patterson The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova (Read a sneak preview here) A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova (Read about the memoir’s fantastic blurbs) Roses by […]

  4. […] favorite Elizabeth Kostova gave us a sneak peak into The Swan Thieves in November, and today you can get the rest of the story. Kostova’s second […]

  5. C.Dudley says:

    I decided to try Swan Thieves because I throughly enjoyed the search for
    Dracula in the Historian,
    The Swan Thieves truly moved me, especially at the end.
    As an old painter who has spent many happy hours out in the plien aire
    with paint,brushes and easel struggling to get it right I felt a closeness
    to the major characters. Also I grew up on the coast of Maine and a lot
    of my work was done there. Ms. Kostova I LOVED IT!

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