Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Published: January 2010
Paperback, 561 pages
My Rating: 2.5 stars

Synopsis (from's masterful new novel travels from American cities to the coast of Normandy, from the late 19th century to the late 20th, from young love to last love, to create a story of obsession, history's losses, and the power of art to preserve human hope.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.

My Thoughts: This is a chunkster of a book, and about half way through, I was beginning to wonder, "Is there an end in sight?" This book was so long, with so much detail, much of which I think could have been edited down. The book really started to drag and go into a lot of detail, with most of it not helping to move the story along.

Kostova uses very descriptive language, as if she is a painter, along with Robert Oliver. While at times it was beautiful, this contributed to making the book move at a slow pace. I won't put any spoilers in here, but it was a very interesting story. I would classify it as an art mystery, which is very intriguing to me, but with all of the flowery sentences, it just became a drag and something that had me counting down to the last pages (and I hate doing that).

One of the few things that I enjoyed about this book were the characters. Dr. Andrew Marlow served as the narrator, with the loves of Robert's life coming and letting Marlow know about their relationship with Robert Oliver. Kostova fully develops each character, allowing them to grow. I also enjoyed the flashbacks to 1879, where we learn about Beatrice de Clerval and her life. I thought the flashbacks really helped to break up the story and present that storyline in an interesting manner.

If you enjoy incredibly descriptive novels and have an interest in art, then you would probably enjoy this book. For me, though, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

No comments:

Post a Comment