Friday, April 16, 2010

Swan Thieves

The Swan Thieves: A NovelThe Swan Thieves Elizabeth Kostova

This sprawling book encompasses three story lines. Robert Oliver is a gifted artist who is arrested for trying to attack a painting at the National Gallery. He is checked into a psychiatric residential center under the care of Dr. Marlow. Robert only says "I did it for her" and gives permission for the doctor to talk to anybody, and then says nothing else for months. He does however, read and reread a packet of old letters and draws and paints the same face over and over again.

So, first storyline is Marlow telling to story of trying to solve this mystery that Robert presents. The second storyline is that of the letters-- letters written between a French housewife and her husband's uncle in the 1870s. Eventually, these interspersed letters switch over to full chapters, to give the reader information not contained in the letters. The third storyline is that of Robert's life before the attack. Marlow visits the women Robert has loved, and who loved him, who fill Marlow in on the details of what led up to the event.

As far as the mystery goes, the book fails. It was painfully obvious what was going on hundreds of pages before Marlow figures anything out, but I didn't mind, because Kostova is such a gifted writer and storyteller, I had to keep reading. The basic plot is a basic mystery that's easily solved by the reader, but the book is actually a portrait of many people and how their lives touch, or don't. It's not as "OMG AWESOME" (or complicated) as The Historian, but I still loved it dearly. I would only recommend it, however, to patient readers.

Book Provided by... my local library

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