Synopsis (from Amazon)
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.
Having read and loved The Historian I was eager to read this one, but trying not to get my hopes up too high. I was not disappointed. Although it doesn’t have the same pace and urgency of The Historian it had just as much mystery, and in some places the mystery in the Swan Thieves was, maybe not better, but cleverer. There were so many time when something which had previously seemed to be a throwaway comment of little importance became a great clue, and it wasn’t until a mystery was solved that you realised how vital that comment was. At some points you had even forgotten about what was said until it was put into a new context.
The Swan Thieves was slower than The Historian, and stuck with me less between reading, (However I didn’t miss the funny dreams that The Historian gave me…or the having to get up in the middle of the night to check there was nobody in my cupboards!). At the end though I felt much more satisfied, and kind of thoughtful. I suppose maybe because The Swan Thieves is more realistic, or just because the overwhelming feeling from finishing The Historian was one of safety. I can’t say this one hooked me in the same way- most of the way through I had little trouble putting down the book (it was only in the last 100 or so pages that I really felt I couldn’t not read The Swan Thieves) whereas I often staying up reading The Historian late into the night.
If you’ve not read an Elizabeth Kostova before I would recommend The Historian over The Swan Thieves but this was still an extremely enjoyable, and very clever book.