After an attempted attack on a painting in the National Gallery of Art, Robert Oliver, a middle aged artist, is admitted to a psychiatric hospital under the care of Dr. Marlowe. Oliver speaks little at their first meeting, and then not at all for a full year afterward. During that year, it is up to Dr. Marlowe to investigate why Oliver is there, what provoked his attack, and how he can help Oliver overcome his suffering. What Marlowe fails to realize is that he is about uncover a century old secret that drove Oliver to madness. Will it do the same to him as well?
Elizabeth Kostova, critically acclaimed writer of debut novel, The Historian, delicately weaves a story together that spans centuries and continents, all held together by the common thread of art. Kostova's descriptions of several works of art leap off the page. I was afraid that I would miss something of this novel because I am no expert in art history. With her guidance, the author walks us through the National Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and works from small towns in France, all the while giving the reader exactly the images we need without the desire to run to the internet for actual photos. Her words are art in and of themselves.
This is not a quick read, I warn you. It may take Kostova several pages to set a scene, but she moves the plot along by switching narrators and transporting us to and from the 19th century. About half way through the novel, I knew where the story would end up, but I wasn't completely sure of how Marlowe was going to find his way there. It was somewhat predictable, which made it difficult to turn the pages at times. As long as I held onto my patience and appreciated the beautiful writing, I was engrossed.
In a word, this novel is about obsession. I may not have been flying through the pages, and at one point was disappointed by the predictability, but after I finished The Swan Thieves, I found myself thinking about the novel in the car, at the gym, while cooking dinner, and picking up toys. In the end, I think I might be the one obsessed.
About the Author:
Also the author of The Historian (2005) Elizabeth Kostova graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress. Become a fan on Facebook.
FTC Statement: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.