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The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Elizabeth Kostova

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2,3831802,624 (3.48)1 / 156
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)
  3. 00
    Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand (FFortuna)
  4. 00
    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 (174)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (180)
Showing 1-5 of 174 (next | show all)
Andrew Marlow, a psychiatrist and amateur painter, is asked to take on as a patient Robert Oliver, a fairly renowned painter, who has been sectioned after trying to attack a painting in a gallery. Marlow is fascinated with the question of why Oliver would try to destroy a work of art and goes far beyond his professional duty (and ethics) to interview Oliver's ex-wife and ex-lover and various other people to try to get to the bottom of things. (Oliver has spoken only on the first day of his 12 month in-patient stay, to give Marlow permission to do this, but does not speak again). It emerges that Oliver has been painting over and over portraits of a lesser-known Impressionist painter called Beatrice de Clerval, and the modern day story is interspersed with letters written by Beatrice to her husband's uncle and later to scenes that Marlow presumably imagines from her life.

I found this story engrossing, especially (surprisingly to me) the 19th century parts. I grew to like Marlow and Mary and found the solution to the mystery at the end very satisfactory. However, there were sections in the first half of the book when I wished Kate or Mary had summarized a bit more - Kate's section of narrative in particular was quite repetitive. I also found the question of Oliver's mental health a bit opaque - Marlow telling him that he understands why he did what he did seems to be enough to magically restore him to sound enough mental health to be released...? I never really felt we got to the bottom of Oliver - was he selfish or did he really love his children? One minute he is an open book, the next he is lying to Mary or keeping a PO Box unbeknownst to his wife.

Highly recommended. ( )
  pgchuis | Aug 16, 2016 |
A summer read, it a nice story, lots of art history, a refection on the creative process and of course a love story, a tv movie sprcial ( )
  michaelbartley | Jul 30, 2016 |
I expected to like it because I loved The Historian so much. I didn't like the characters, didn't care what happened to them, didn't see the point of the long, drawn-out back-stories . . . overall a disaster of a read for me. I read about 400 pages then skiiiiiiiiiiiiiimmed the last couple hundred. Glad I didn't wast more time on it. I should have quit much sooner and spent my time on a different book. ( )
  aclaybasket13 | Jul 29, 2016 |
This is becoming the book that doesn't end.
I loved it at first, but when I hit the 400s, I started to lose interest. It's not the story that's losing me; I think it's more the long, drawn-out way the story is being told. Do I need every last detail about a meeting in a museum? Maybe, but I don't see it right now. Fingers crossed it all comes together in the end.

ETA: It turned out not so bad after all. No, the ending didn't make up for the looong drawn-out descriptions of certain things, but I felt satisfied with the conclusion. It's not a story that will stick with me - I was able to pick up another book right away - and I won't be rereading this, but I can give it a solid rating of Good. ( )
  imahorcrux | Jun 22, 2016 |
Made it to Chapter 32, and it just didn't grab me. Not because it's poorly written or plotted, but I'm just not in the mood for it. Well written, with intriguing characters, but make sure you're ready for a quiet, slow paced mystery. ( )
  acf151 | Jun 18, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 174 (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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