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The Swan Thieves (2010)

by Elizabeth Kostova

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,3461984,011 (3.46)1 / 172
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)
  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 Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary (kraaivrouw)
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    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.
  4. 00
    The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa (Johanna11)
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    Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand (FFortuna)
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    The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber (FFortuna)
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 Girlybooks: Swan Thieves5 unread / 5alceinwdld, October 2012

» See also 172 mentions

English (191)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (1)  All languages (198)
Showing 1-5 of 191 (next | show all)
I disliked this book. The plot may have been OK, but the writing just went on and on and I didn't have the patience or interest to follow it any longer. Two hundred pages was more than enough. I am no longer reading it, but there seems to be no way to get rid of that tag. ( )
  dvoratreis | May 22, 2024 |
This book had a nice air of mystery and I enjoyed the dual story lines. It made me want to wander in art galleries and linger over coffee and croissants. ( )
  ivylathan | Mar 7, 2024 |
The reviews that write this up as over fraught are not wrong, in my opinion it just lends tone to the personalities of the characters who are none of them mentally well and all having their own crisis. My main criticism is the ending felt rushed and less rich then the rest of the story. ( )
  Blanket_Dragon | Jan 23, 2024 |
This novel is long. Too long. So much tension and detail which should be riveting and was early in the novel, was boring by half way through. It does pick up again at the end.
What I did enjoy was all the references / history of famous artworks.
The mystery of Robert Oliver obsession with a little known 18th century artist never really gets explained and the ending didn’t satisfy this for me.
There were some good parts ( like Andrew Morrow the psychiatrist)that allowed me to finish this novel. ( )
  Smits | Oct 12, 2023 |
Artistic genius and insanity often go hand in hand. And in The Swan Thieves, the reader is presented with a character who definitely has this condition. The character Robert Oliver, a gifted artist develops an obsessive and twisted love for a 19th century French artist and while I enjoyed the artistic aspects of this novel I was completely unsympathetic to any of the characters that had the misfortune to fall under the sway of Oliver. Be they his wife, his mistress, his psychiatrist; I found them all to be downright silly to allow themselves to be caught up, mired in, and dragged down by Oliver's silly obsessions. ( )
  kevinkevbo | Jul 14, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 191 (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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
For my mother
la bonne mere
First words
Outside the village there is a fire ring, blackening the thawing snow.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.

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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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Average: (3.46)
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1.5 6
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