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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Swan Thieves: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova

Wow! What a story! I absolutely LOVED The Swan Thieves!

Robert Oliver is a famous artist, who can make a landscape leap off the canvas.  He is extremely talented.  So, its a shock to find out that he took a knife to a painting at the National Gallery of Art.  WTF!? Why would he do such a thing? What drove him to it? What had Leda (the painting) done to him? So many questions to be answered.  Thankfully, Robert's therapist is determined to find out who Robert Oliver is and what happened to him.  Yep, Robert is now residing in a psychiatric facility since his arrest over the painting stabbing. His new doctor is also an artist who can appreciate Robert's talent, but is confounded by his silence.  Robert refuses to talk with anyone.  So, Marlow (Robert's shrink) sets out to figure out what happened to Robert.  He brings him some art supplies so that he can continue drawing and painting - hopefully this will open him up.  Instead, the subject of his paintings catches Marlow's eye - its the same woman over and over.  Who is she? Why is Robert obsessed with her? Determined to make some progress on his patient's condition, Marlow contacts Robert's ex-wife, Kate.  He travels to her home and learns about a man who is talented, was loved, is selfish, and has suffered from bouts of depression and manic behavior for quite some time. He learns about a man who did not seem to even care about his wife or children enough to remember them - he was too consumed by his desire to paint the mystery woman.  In the end, his lack of presence (mentally and physically) led to the dissolution of his marriage. However, Robert was not alone for long.  He cheated on his wife with a student of his named Mary.  Upon leaving Kate, he moves in with Mary and the two begin a passionate affair that soon fizzles.  Mary learns that Robert is completely self-absorbed and she finds herself questioning how much he truly cares for her.  Marlow learns about all of this through Mary, who he soon finds himself falling in love with.  Yes, the therapist goes there.  Talk about crossing the line!  Anyhow, the more Marlow learns (basically, the more involved he gets in Robert's life), the more he realizes that there is a story behind the woman in Robert's paintings.  So, he travels to Acapulco and Paris to get his answers - turns out that  that the painting, Leda, was not Robert's intended target.  Say what?!

Talk about a mystery with such a fascinating history.  I loved the way Kostova brought the past into the present through art, letters, and obsession - it was fantastic! She wrote with such descriptive detail, that provided a deep richness to the story.  I found myself easily imagining the characters, the cities, and the artwork. There was color, passion, and such vibrancy radiating from the pages.  Learning about the art and its artist was so interesting - their dedication to their work was inspiring. I really enjoyed reading this book so much - in fact, its still haunting me days later. 

8 comments:

Terra Hangen said...

Your review makes this book sound compelling. I do love the world of art and mysteries and this has both.

Nadia A said...

Terra, it really is quite a compelling read. I think you'd enjoy it. Art and mystery - two of the best hand in hand!

bermudaonion said...

I read that book several years ago and loved it too. Did you know she's got a new book coming out?

Nadia A said...

Kathy, I really enjoyed it :) I'm glad you loved it, too! I had no idea that she has a new book coming out - how exciting!! Thanks for letting me know :)

Lory said...

Sounds very intriguing. I just read Girl in the Afternoon which is also a dramatic story of love and loss set in the art world. I'll have to look this one up too.

Bellezza said...

I bought this book after absolutely loving The Historian, but you are the first person who has loved The Swan Thieves that I know (and trust). Others have not liked it so much, so I refrained from reading it, but now I look forward to it again. Thanks, Nadia.

Vintage Reading said...

I like books about the art world and I enjoyed your review so I'll add this to my tbr.

Nadia A said...

Lory, definitely check this one out. And now I have to look up Girl in the Afternoon :)

M, I loved The Historian. I have to admit that it took me a while to fall in love with this book, but once I did, I couldn't stop reading. I think you will appreciate it.

Nicola, me too! I loved Steve Martins' book, An Object of Beauty. I loved this one so much, too. Definitely check it out.