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.
Kostova's masterful new novel travels from American cities to the coast of Normandy, from the late 19th century to the late 20th, from young love to last love. The Swan Thieves is a story of obsession, history's losses, and the power of art to preserve human hope.
The Swan Thieves
Outside the village there is a fire ring, blackening the thawing snow. Next to the fire ring is a basket that has sat there for months and is beginning to weather to the color of ash. There are benches where the old men huddle to warm their hands too cold even for that now, too close to twilight, too dreary. This is not Paris. The air smells of smoke and night sky; there is a hopeless amber sinking beyond the woods, almost a sunset. The dark is coming down so quickly that someone has already lit a lantern in the window of the house nearest the deserted fire. It is January or February, or perhaps a grim March, 1895 the year will be marked in rough black numbers against the shadows in one corner. The roofs of the village are slate, stained with melting snow, which slides off them in heaps. Some of the lanes are walled, others open to the fields and muddy gardens. The doors to the houses are closed, the scent of cooking rising above the chimneys.
Elizabeth Kostova's second novel will delight some readers and disappoint others... despite the odd handling of the characters' back-stories and a certain flatness to those characters, I came away feeling moved. Among the many pleasures found in The Swan Thieves are Kostova's exquisite descriptions of paintings and the window she gives the reader into the world of painting, including all of its grueling physical labors along with the exhilaration that results when inspiration and execution create great works of art. Her historical detail of the Impressionist period is beautifully done. Finally, she left me with much to ponder - rather in the way a painting can keep you looking and finding more the longer you look.
(Reviewed by Judy Krueger).
Full Review (885 words).
Fiction about Women, Artists and Mad Genius
One of the key themes in The Swan Thieves is the challenge of male and female artists who form relationships and must navigate the storms of artistic temperament and genius. The theme could be looked at as a genre or perhaps a subgenre of novels about art/romance.
We present for your reading pleasure some favorites of the genre:
Clara, by Janice Galloway
The torturous love affair and marriage of two musical geniuses: Clara and Robert Schumann. Clara maintains her talent and drive despite her husband's fame and depression, but sacrifices her own fame for him.
The Painted Kiss, by Elizabeth Hickey
A fictional account of the woman who ...
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