A Novel

A dazzlingly imagined novel that embraces two centuries, two women, a long-lost Journal and the mystery behind the legendary Casanova’s last great love. 

It’s 1797, and an aging Casanova has returned to Venice in disguise to elude the authorities. There he meets Asked For Adams, the niece of American President John Adams, who is accompanying her father on a trade mission to the city just as Napoleon’s army invades, throwing everything into flux. Casanova convinces Asked For to abandon her future the wife of a Yankee farmer and set out with him on a dangerous adventure through post-Byzantine Greece to Istanbul, which she records in intimate detail in her Journal-until the travel diary ends abruptly and mysteriously.

Two hundred years later the Journal comes into the possession of Luce Adams, Asked For’s 21st-century descendant, awkward, shy, and grieving her mother’s death. En route to her mother’s memorial service in Crete, accompanied by her mother’s lover, and entrusted with delivering the precious letters between her ancestor and Casanova to the Venetian library, she becomes enmeshed in unraveling their story. And as the journeys of the two women come together, Luce finds her own way of moving through the world, and Asked For discovers how vulnerable the great Casanova is-a man whose appetite for life and generous spirit ignites possibilities in every person he touches.

Like Possession by A.S. Byatt, What Casanova Told Me illustrates the mysterious influence of the past on the present and celebrates the unexpected in life and love, the lure of pleasure and freedom, and the transforming lessons of travel.

What Casanova Told Me was a finalist for the 2004 Canada Caribbean Commonwealth Regional Prize and picked as one of The Globe and Mail’s top books of 2004, as well as selected as one of top ten books of the year by Canada’s Sun-Times, the Calgary Herald and Toronto’s NOW magazine. The December edition of Macleans, Canada’s national magazine, named the novel’s protagonist Asked For Adams as one of the five best fictional characters for 2004 and said she was “the utterly charming core of Susan Swan’s parallel-track historical novel, What Casanova Told Me.”

Alberto Manguel, critic and author of The History of Reading, says:

“Susan Swan has given us a great romantic novel. What Casanova Told Me is a graceful and literate meditation on the uneasy relationship between the New 
World and the Old, on the gossip of history, and on the nature of love. This is a sentimental education for our oblivious times.”

Canadian Praise

“A fictional character takes up with the legendary and complex lover.The ramifications span two centuries.”
— George Fetherling, Vancouver Sun, January 8, 2005
“A young archivist, travelling with her dead mother’s lesbian lover to Venice and Athens, reads the diaries of her ancestor Asked For and discovers that she had an affair with Casanova. Neatly crafted, wonderfully romantic yet real.”
— NOW, Toronto, December 23-29, 2004
“A very tall 18th-century Yankee with an unfortunate relationship with her body (which she refers to as My Poor Friend) is the awkward but utterly charming core of Susan Swan’s parallel-track historical novel What Casanova Told Me.
— Brian Bethune, Macleans Year in review: literature, December, 2004
“Elegantly sensual…. Swan has created an exotic romance, a rollicking adventure, a work of prose that could almost be poetry…. This magnificently sad and funny and exciting trip is, indeed, one you’d be very sad you missed.”
— Calgary Herald
In its inventive range, its playful engagement and tantalizing mystery, What Casanova Told Me is breathtaking, a tour de force that detonates echoes of the past within the present. Utterly seductive. The lesson learned here is simple: Leave home, fall in love and believe in the accidents of pleasure and freedom.”
— Globe & Mail, September 18, 2004
“Susan Swan gets all romantic on us in her new novel, What Casanova Told Me. But with its historical base and crafty parallel structure, it turns out to be a winner… One of Swan’s best.”
— Now Toronto
“Swan explores travel, home, love, sex, culture and communication in this splendid book. You will probably want to read it more than once, for the suspense of the story and the beauty of the language.”
— Vancouver Sun
“York humanities Professor Susan Swan’s new book celebrates the unexpected in life and travel as a form of love…”
— York University’s Y File.
“By the end of the novel, we are in a position to take to heart Casanova’s – and Swan’s – insights into travel, and the treasures it has in store for those with the openness to otherness it demands. Casanova is Swan’s The Volcano Lover.”
— Centre for Feminist Research, York University
“This bawdy, fun, intelligent novel combines the feel of a trashy historical romance with the sophistication of novels such as The Hours and Possession…. What Casanova Told Me is a natural for its own feature film.”
— Flare, September 2004
“Part travelogue, part bodice-ripper, there is something both titillating and fantastical about this type of historical fiction, and Swan is adept at spinning facts into vividly imagined scenes and characters.”
— Quill & Quire

American Praise

“Alluring. The stories (of the two protagonists) weave together well, and Asked For, in particular, has a bright, engaging voice.” Read the entire review.
—Publishers Weekly
“Rich in interesting digressions into subjects as diverse as Minoan goddess worship and Western Orientalist stereotypes. Swan …has much to say about the emotional risks required to live a fulfilled life.”
—The Washington Post
“Swan writes with thoughtful, inviting prose that promises intrigue for all  fiction readers, and she fills the story with the historical and cultural details that will surely give fans of historical fiction the experience they desire.”
“This is an elegant, thoughtful, and classy novel: complex, leisurely, and wonderfully romantic.” Read the entire review.
—Grumpy Old Bookman (a top ten literary blog)

The Reading Guide for
What Casanova Told Me
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