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The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Elizabeth Kostova

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2,2291642,890 (3.49)1 / 148
Title:The Swan Thieves
Authors:Elizabeth Kostova
Info:Back Bay Books (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 592 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova (2010)

  1. 10
    The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier (generalkala)
    generalkala: A similar art novel that also alternates between a present-day plot and a past plot.
  2. 00
    The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber (FFortuna)
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    Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand (FFortuna)
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    The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa (Johanna11)
  5. 00
    The Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary (kraaivrouw)
  6. 00
    The Echo Maker by Richard Powers (alalba)
    alalba: In both books the mental illness of one of the characters is linked to a mystery that a medical practitioner tries to resolve.

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English (158)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (164)
Showing 1-5 of 158 (next | show all)
While I enjoyed this book, I found it to be lagging in some areas. I liked the fact that the story was told from different points of view. And I liked having an insight into the world of art and the impressionist artists they explored. However I didn't think the characters were completely believable. Some of the actions of the doctor didn't seem like they would be something that would ever happen. I found the book to be good but not great. ( )
  tinkerbellkk | Oct 18, 2015 |
Told by several different points of view, this story begins when a somewhat well-known modern day artist, Robert Oliver, attacks a painting in the National Gallery of Art. He then comes under the care of psychiatrist and main protagonist Andrew Marlow, who basically spends the rest of the story trying to discover what prompted Oliver to do such a thing, which is complicated by the fact that Oliver refuses to speak after the incident.

There's more to the story than this, although not as much as you'd perhaps expect, given the length of this book. It's a monster. Kostova's previous novel, The Historian, was also a large tome and full of lengthy detail, and though some readers found that it was bogged down with too much detail, I enjoyed it quite a lot. This one, like her previous title, was well written and filled with detail, but fell short of engaging the reader. It really just dragged on much longer than it needed to, filled with characters that weren't particularly likeable. I think my biggest issue with the story was the fact that Marlow, as a psychiatrist, was too unbelievable in that role. He spent months tracking down acquaintances of Oliver's in order to figure out the so-called puzzle of his life, traveling the U.S. and abroad. What psychiatrist would actually do that? There were lots of things about the plot that I could knit-pick, but I won't. I do for the most part enjoy Kostova's writing style, but the tempo and plot of this book just weren't enough to really hook me this time. I'm hoping her third novel, assuming there is one, will restore my faith in her. ( )
  indygo88 | Oct 11, 2015 |
This is the second book by the author of THE HISTORIAN. If you are looking for another suspenseful page turner with a supernatural element then you might be a little disappointed by this effort. This book moves along at a more languid pace, told through narratives by the three principal characters and through old love letters. The book combines the themes of overpowering obsession and personal quest. Both finally explained and resolved in the last few pages. I enjoyed this book because the story backdrop was art and the impressionists. For someone not as intrigued with the subject matter I could see this as being perceived as a boring read. ( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
This is a tome. A beautifully written book, but the story is sooooo slow. The good: it is unusual to find such wonderful descriptive passages about art which are an integral part of a fictional narrative. The bad: if I really wanted to read about the Impressionists or late 19th century French art, there are numerous excellent monographs which would serve the purpose, without the hokiness. The characters are interesting enough, but one of the seemingly central issues of the book (a bizarre obsession which Robert Oliver, a contemporary American painter, develops for a 19th century French female painter) remains--after literally hundreds of pages!--shrouded in mystery. In turn, the fascination which Robert Oliver holds for the other major characters (his psychiatrist, his former wife, and ex-lover) started to strain my credulity. I was very tempted to abandon the whole book about halfway through but did forge on because I enjoyed the writing, but on the whole, came away disappointed. ( )
  LizHD | Mar 25, 2015 |
Artist Robert Oliver attacks a painting in the National Gallery of Art but what was it about the painting that set him off?

Robert Oliver voluntarily commits himself to Goldengrove under the care of residential psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe but he will not speak about what prompted him to want to do damage to the 120 year old work of art, in fact he will not speak at all. What is it about the painting and what, if any, is its connection to a stack of letters dating from that time period doing in Oliver’s possession?

I do not mind long books, at 562 pages the book is anything but short however I thought it was too long and drawn out. While the interweaving storylines kept my attention, I was hoping for a bigger reveal and was kind of let down with the connection between the present and the past. Robert Oliver’s selective mutism and maniacal fixation with the painting is never fully brought to light. Yes, the truth about the painting is interesting but Robert Oliver’s obsession falls a bit flat with me. Good story, great writing but weakly realized. As a art lover and history buff—three stars but should have been four. ( )
  Shuffy2 | Mar 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 158 (next | show all)
"She has worked hard to construct an elaborate fiction of intertwining lives, but the whole situation in which the characters intertwine feels contrived, and they cross as the result of too much coincidence."

"But Kostova's new book, set partly in Washington, tells a rather simple story, and its characters, although they sometimes insist otherwise, don't change radically over time."
Kostova clearly did her research, richly painting images of famous and lesser-known works of art, and the settings that inspired them. But overall, the story just isn’t gripping. It feels overstuffed with description and underdeveloped in terms of plot. It’s a mystery without suspense.
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You would hardly believe how difficult it is to place a figure alone on a canvas, and to concentrate all the interest on this single and universal figure and still keep it living and real. --Edouard Manet, 1880
For my mother
la bonne mere
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Outside the village there is a fire ring, blackening the thawing snow.
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Book description
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. Desperate to understand the secret that torments this genius, Marlowe 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 nineteenth century to the late twentieth, from young love to last love. The Swan Thieves is a story of obsession, history's losses, and the power of art to preserve hope.
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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.… (more)

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