The Swan Thieves
A NoveleBook - 2010
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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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