Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Review: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe 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 renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient. In response, Marlowe finds himself going beyond his own legal and ethical boundaries to understand the secret that torments this 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. Ranging from American museums to the coast of Normandy, from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth, from young love to last love, THE SWAN THIEVES is a story of obsession, the losses of history, and the power of art to preserve human hope.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have to admit that I was not a huge fan of The Historian so I was a bit hesitant to read Elizabeth Kostova's new novel. However, I'm so glad that I gave it a chance because I enjoyed it MUCH MORE than her first novel! Although this novel had its flaws, I thought it was much better executed than The Historian and I enjoyed reading it. After the Historian, I felt ehhhh, even asking myself why the heck did I stick with that book so long. I felt unsatisfied. But, this book was very satisfying to me. I felt like it was certainly worth the effort and that I left it happy to have spent time in the world she creates in The Swan Thieves.
I thought that the writing in this novel was luscious, some of the passages were truly beautiful. I even wrote a few down to come back to later. That doesn't happen often for me. Some of the writing was repetitious but most of it was just beautiful, in my opinion.
I enjoyed the story itself quite a bit. It was complicated and meandering and yet I loved the journey. I don't know very much about art or painting but I found the description of the craft to be fascinating as presented in this novel. It made me want to head to our local art museum and take an art class. This coming from a girl who cannot draw a stick figure without a ruler!
I though that Kostova's rich language really added to the narrative, giving the characters and places from the novel life to the point that they seemed to float effortlessly off of the page! I loved the interplay of the two stories and trying to figure out as the novel went along how all of the pieces came together. I love how all of the layers came together so effortlessly in the end.
all in all, I found this novel to be rich, deep, and full of life. I enjoyed the mystery, intrigue and suspense. This novel was much quieter than The Historian, more insular and deliberate.
The few flaws for me were not that big of a deal. They did not take away from the experience of the book. I felt that the novel was much longer than it needed to be. Some of the writing was repetitive and unnecessary. The feel of formality that I think is fairly recognizable in The Historian is also here in this novel. It made it feel very cold at times when I think it could have used a tiny bit more warmth.
Overall, however, I was pleasantly surprised with this book and recommend it!
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