“A fascinating novel of a painter's obsession with a woman artist from another century as explored by his psychiatrist, himself a painter, who becomes entangled in the associated relationships. It penetrates the world of the Impressionist painters, life in France in the 1800's, and how absorption can turn into imbalance. Kostova wrote "The Historian," about Vlad the Impaler, and again shows ease in fusing the past with the present.”Dawn G Lennon wrote this review Tuesday, January 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“An interesting insight into the world of art.”John R. Joyner wrote this review Tuesday, January 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Enjoyable book about art, history, psychology and a mystery to be solved. Not a quick book to read (550 pages) but a well-written one.”Martin A. Rubin wrote this review Tuesday, January 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This was an excellent story, very vivid storytelling and mystery and romance all in one.”Tiffany E wrote this review Monday, January 14, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“As a mental health professional, I found the plot disturbing. The psychiatrist seemed as obsessed as his patient. The story was interesting; the author weaves the past life characters with the present.”weradi wrote this review Saturday, December 8, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I was excited to pick this book up, since I enjoyed the authors first novel quite a bit, and I was hoping it would be as rewarding a book as The Historian. After reading it, I can say I have mixed feelings, so I’ll hit my least favorite pieces first.
This is a slow, methodical, and somewhat plodding book at times. We’re presented with the idea of Marlow trying to get to the bottom of Oliver’s illness, but to me it was apparent rather quickly that the illness is just a plot device for Marlow to finally find himself. And all his extra focus into Oliver’s illness, rather than treating him like the other patients or spending as much time on them, really got to me.
To read the rest of my review, please visit [a href="http://www.dorolerium.com/?p=4005"]my blog[/a].”
“The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova is one of those exquisitely satisfying books that leaves you feeling pleasantly full and excited about the topics that it brought to your attention. The writing is lyrical and at times haunting - a sort of verbal representation of how I imagine Kostova’s character Robert Oliver’s paintings would have been. All the mysteries are solved, not always happily, but at least with a sense of closure – you don’t have to keep a lookout for a sequel to answer any lingering questions.
The novel circles around Robert Oliver, a gifted painter who has had a mental breakdown and attempted to attack a painting at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. It is told through a combination of the “recollections” of his psychiatrist, Dr. Andrew Marlow, and the people he interviews throughout the novel, and also through a series of letters written in the 19th century between a talented young painter and her husband’s uncle who is a dear friend and mentor to her. I loved the way Kostova moved fluidly between the two time periods and continuously brought them closer and closer in time as the letters progressed forward and Marlow’s research took him further back.
Kostova considers several themes in this book such as mental illness and obsession and how loved ones perceive and respond to that obsession. You also ask yourself at times if it is possible to be a dedicated artist and also lead a so-called “normal” life with a family and regular job. The book also briefly skirts the hard-core and sometimes cutthroat 19th century art world (possibly today’s art world as well?) And there is, of course, the comparison between Beatrice, Kate, and Mary, three women artists who struggle with their roles as women and artists (unfortunately not always as simply artists who happen to be women.) Not just the question of balancing a family life with the solitary act of painting, but also the prejudices of being a woman in a traditionally male profession.
One of the best aspects of this book is the fact that it has inspired me to go out and learn more about art, in particular the Impressionist movement. To me, one of the things that moves a book out of the “good” category and into the realm of being “great” is its ability to teach and/or inspire, and Kostova manages that with a grace and beauty that is rarely found in today’s novels.
“A man goes crazy at an art museum, stopped by a guard just moments before he knifes a painting. Committed to a mental hospital, he is placed under the care of Dr Marlow, who finds himself increasingly enveloped in unraveling the man's psychosis.
This is a story told in multiple voices, spanning centuries and countries. It is quite beautiful - considering it's prose about painting, it's incredibly well done. Perhaps it's just how my mind is made but I find reading the words about art brought some paintings more to life for me. This is an introspective, bright and moody little book that was perfect for a November read.”
“Like a fuge, the meoires of two women work contrapuntally, their voices offering a hypnotice dsicrptionof a man flirting with madness. Book's structure and them are intricaely interwoves, a work of near genius.”Caroline Miller wrote this review Wednesday, October 24, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Ugh, I think that the moment that I enjoyed this book the most was the moment that I realized it was FINALLY over. Despite its mildly intriguing premise, Kostova’s sophomore novel can best be summarized in just one word: dull. I no longer feel even remotely guilty that it has languished in my to-read pile for nearly two years. In fact, I regret its presence there in the first place - but I bought it long before my more recent (and surprisingly disappointing) re-reading of Kostova’s debut novel, The Historian. With The Historian very fresh in my mind, I picked this novel up with a mix of hope and dismay. My hardcover edition is just as heavy as The Historian, but the premise wrapping around Impressionist art and psychology sounded so promising, so with fingers crossed, I cracked open the spine and began.
Unfortunately, the disappointments quickly unfolded. On page 12, my mental image of Marlow, the main first-person perspective narrator, shifted completely. Marlow sounded like a straight, female woman. On the twelfth page, a wife was mentioned and Marlow became a lesbian. Not until a handful of pages later did it become truly apparent that Kostova intended for Marlow to be a 52-year-old, heterosexual and single male. And scanning other reviews, I felt relieved that I was not the only one who felt seriously confused regarding Marlow’s ambiguous gender. These shaky foundations for a main character only continued to crumble as Marlow’s thoughts and actions destroyed all credibility for him to seem in any way realistic. He never came to life in his career as a psychiatrist with his continually unethical actions; he never even felt like a convincing son in his close relationship with his minister parents as a confirmed atheist from the age of ten. One unrealistic trait shared not only by Marlow, but present in all characters, both minor and major, was the rampant techonophobia. Disdainful of even email, the “romance” of using the US Postal Service (this has not been my experience of using the modern mail carriers... romantic is about the last word for mail in Chicago) provided a common topic and concern for these characters. Perhaps this phobia manifested itself due to a reflection in the author (like her penchant for tall, angular female characters with wrinkled eyes?) - either way, I wished that, like The Historian, she avoided this issue altogether by not setting the book in the present.
The biggest problem with the book was Kostova’s use of perspective and point-of-view. Had the chapters not included headings referring the reader to which character was narrating, it would never have been clear. None of these characters had their own voice - and even when Kostova switched from first- to third-person, the perspective still didn’t feel distinct or consistent. On top of the muddied P.O.V.s, Kostova crammed in plenty of extraneous detail. While an excess of historical detail can enrich a story, most of the detail here felt like pagefiller. Sustaining interest over the food and beverage choices of these characters felt well beyond the scope of my interest. Combined with the lackluster plot, and wildly implausible (and all too similar) characters the book added up to be a complete disappointment.”