The Swan Thieves

The Swan Thieves

A Novel

Book - 2010
Average Rating:
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Psychiatrist Andrew Marlow, devoted to his profession and the painting hobby he loves, has a solitary but ordered life. When renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient, Marlow finds that order destroyed. Desperate to understand the secret that torments the genius, he embarks on a journey that leads him into the lives of the women closest to Oliver and a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism. Kostova'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. THE SWAN THIEVES is a story of obsession, history's losses, and the power of art to preserve human hope.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2010
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780316065788
0316065781
Branch Call Number: FIC Kosto 3558ad 1
Characteristics: 564 p

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s
stewstealth
Nov 21, 2015

A look at artist's motivations couched as a time travelling love story. A decent story if a bit predictable without much of a denouement. Written in a bit of an old fashioned way, perhaps on purpose.(A dear reader way) The characterizations were okay and the prose and narrative was well done. Worth it if you are interested.

j
joalo
Oct 15, 2014

Shaggy dog story or not, this story was absorbing and enjoyable, the glimpse of art technique an added bonus.

Aside from its brief treatment of art appreciation, I wholly agree with comments by Shancock on Oct 2011. The book is rambling and not a satisfying read.

n
neeka131
Apr 12, 2013

I was so happy with this book. The story is mysterious and romantic and the language of the writer impressed me so much as I was reading. I hadn't ever heard of this author; I grabbed the book from the library shelf because it was very heavy and big and I thought that was funny for some reason. I was in a rush :) But I am so lucky this is the book I grabbed! I will be reading more of this author for sure.

j
JudithNappa
Mar 15, 2013

A different plot than The Historian but I did enjoy reading this book. I enjoyed the art history and the story plot going back and forth in time. Looking forward to more from Ms.Kostova.

shancock4 Oct 22, 2011

Kostova's "The Historian" was one of those rare "perfect" books. It was gripping, the characters were well-rounded, I was invested in every moment of the book. It's supernatural tone and the sweeping historical searches and locales was fantastic. "The Swan Thieves" feels like it's going to be more of the same, except it never seems to launch past a sense of anticipation. I was getting close to the last 30 pages when I realized that nothing was happening in the book - it was all build-up. To what? To nothing. They wrapped up the central "mystery" in one page, and the central "plot" in one quick line of dialogue and that was it. It was over. Who was the protagonist of this book? The artist or the psychiatrist? Was it about obsession? Or was about not knowing people's real stories? Or was it about creating art? Or was it about how history bleeds into the present without our knowledge? Or was it about being true to yourself? I'm not sure what this book was about, and I'm still sort of unsure if I actually liked this book. The characters were well-drawn, and like I said, it has one heck of a build-up (to nothing, don't forget!) Definitely a disappointing follow-up to "The Historian." I have a feeling this book will linger in my mind as I try to puzzle out what I came away with from reading it. Read it, if you liked her first book, but don't expect anything as spectacularly good as that first novel.

w
wozebooks
Jul 22, 2011

Best book I've read in a long time. Anyone interested in Art , or being an artist will enjoy this book, as i did and so have several of my friends. The art history and the switching back & forth in time and weaving the two stories together is just great. Really engrossing and entertaining.

sadiearivera May 27, 2011

This book was great. I really liked the Historian, so I picked this one up and was surprised that the two books had nothing in common except that they were both great reads. Very long and detailed, but it was enveloping and worth every minute.

s
snaptin
Feb 13, 2011

I bought this book at Montreal workshop on our way back home from the February 2011 workshop. Purchased it on the strength of reading "The Historian". I'm a couple of hundred pages into the story and like it; the way she's integrated the past and present and the strength of description of the characters. . .

c
charlie2009
Dec 16, 2010

I really liked the mystery of this book

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snaptin
Mar 07, 2011

From Book Review at: http://www.suite101.com

The Swan Thieves tells the story of Robert Oliver, a renowned, troubled painter who comes into the care of psychiatrist Andrew Marlow – himself an artist – after a violent outburst at a local museum. Oliver, motivated by secret compulsions he is unwilling to share with his doctor, violently attacked a painting that hung on the gallery’s walls: a portrait of the infamous Leda of legends, who falls prey to the god Zeus when he comes to her in the form of a swan. This classic work of art, it seems, had been haunting Robert Oliver for some time, and contributed to his downfall.

When the painter becomes a patient at the Goldengrove institute, Doctor Marlow does everything in his power to draw the sombre artist out of his shell. Sketchpads, pens, paints and an easel are supplied for Oliver to feel at home and eventually open up to the man who has his welfare and well-being in mind. This is a large, frustrating task and Doctor Marlow makes very little progress until the painter shares with him a stack of old letters from another century, letters that seem to hold the key to the mystery of Oliver’s erratic behaviour.

In The Swan Thieves, the author herself paints a lovely picture the details of which readers are only allowed to see slowly, piece by piece, one precise, painterly bit of prose at a time. Kostova’s novel abounds with elaborate descriptions that set the mood and bring the reader on Doctor Marlow’s journey through time and space, and into the mind of his subject. Those who enjoy fast-paced thrillers will be disappointed, but readers who take as much pleasure in painterly details as they do in the bulk of a story will be delighted by Elizabeth Kostova’s latest effort.

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