Tuesday, August 26, 2014
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
Published January 2010 by Little, Brown, and Company
Source: I bought my audiobook at my local library book sale
Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe, 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.
To put it bluntly...that's it??? I listened to over 500 pages of book waiting, waiting for something to happen. After all, Kostova had taken readers all over Europe, chasing Dracula in an action-packed tale in The Historian. I went into The Swan Thieves expecting something along that same vein, perhaps something otherworldly, certainly some action. I even thought, at one point, that I had figured out "the twist." Because surely there was a twist, right. Nope. Nothing, Nada. Well, sort of, but no "big" twist, rather something quiet, a mystery solved. You've been warned - do not expect The Historian. If you don't, you're far more likely to enjoy this book. Reviews on the Barnes and Noble web site are highly favorable.
Even so, The Swan Thieves is much. Too. Long. Kostova does love her descriptions and her details. In her defense, she's really great at writing them. But when you're already tying together two tales of obsession with all that's entailed in working through those, it's not necessarily important that readers know exactly how each character is dressed.
I liked the story, even though it doesn't sound like it. I just wish it hadn't gotten lost in so much detail and so many unnecessary side trips.