What Casanova Told Me


324 pages
ISBN 0-676-97576-3
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Naomi Brun

Naomi Brun is a freelance writer and a book reviewer for The Hamilton


Over the course of time, the name Casanova has become synonymous with
seduction. Even people who don’t know the story behind this
18th-century libertine are aware that he was tremendously successful
with women, and assume that he was able to talk his way into anything he
wanted. There is so much myth built up around Casanova that it can
become difficult to sort through the realities of his life, but it is
generally understood that he lived up to his reputation as the most
successful flirt of all time, and in consequence, spent the last part of
his life hiding from the authorities.

In What Casanova Told Me, two female protagonists sort through the very
meaning of seduction. Luce Adams, a 20-something archivist living in
modern-day Toronto, is on her way to deliver an old family diary to the
Sansovini Museum in Venice and later attend her mother’s memorial
service in northern Crete. Asked For Adams, her 18th-century ancestor,
is also about the same age when she visits Venice with her ailing father
and her thickheaded and unsympathetic fiancé. Asked For meets Casanova,
who opens her eyes to unforeseen possibilities, and as Luce reads the
journal of her forbear, she, too, finds herself entranced by the lessons
learned at the hands of Casanova.

Swan’s intelligence shines throughout the book. What Casanova Told Me
employs a wide array of writing forms, including journal entries,
letters, dialogue, and literary prose; Swan manages to handle each with
enviable mastery. The language is always appropriate to the time, and
often exquisite in its beauty. In fact, Swan’s poetic style wraps an
enchantment around her story, serving to captivate the reader in a
parallel experience to the seductions of Luce and Asked For Adams.

What Casanova Told Me is a brilliant work of modern fiction.


Swan, Susan., “What Casanova Told Me,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/16313.