Title: The Swan Thieves
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Release Date: January 12, 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.25 out of 5
When artist Robert Olivier attacks a painting in the National Gallery in Washington, DC, psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe is asked to take Olivier on as a patient. Marlowe himself is a painter, and it is believed that he can connect with Olivier and comprehend why he took such a drastic action. But what Marlowe doesn’t expect is that he will become personally involved in Olivier’s story, and that his need to understand will become an obsession.
I absolutely loved The Historian. It’s one of my favorite novels of all time, one I hand sell to anyone who will listen. Therefore, you can probably imagine how ridiculously high my expectations were when it came to Kostova’s second novel. I had heard some mixed things about it before I picked it up, so my hopes were high but I didn’t want to expect too much and thus ruin the novel for myself.
Elizabeth Kostova proves The Historian wasn’t a fluke in The Swan Thieves. Her prose is beautiful and deliberate. I can’t praise her writing highly enough. She weaves a tangled web through her language, drawing the reader in. Her words tie together with the overall story of the novel – she manages to create suspense and a sense of urgency, yet convey beauty and tranquility simply through her words.
The story of The Swan Thieves is intriguing and very well-written. As I got deeper into the story, I couldn’t put the book down – I had to know what was happening, to figure out what was coming and how it all connected together. Kostova is a master at revealing information; she shows just enough to satisfy the reader, yet holds enough back to keep you hooked on the story. It’s a delicate balance, yet Kostova seems to be a natural at it.
The Swan Thieves is divided between multiple voices, which can be tricky. It’s difficult to write different, distinct voices that all have something worthwhile to say, yet Kostova does it well. However, there is one narrator from the past, and transitions to her voice are jarring. They didn’t mesh well with the novel for me, and I found myself hurrying through them in order to get back to the main story. Luckily, they occur rarely in the novel, so it wasn’t too much of an issue. Additionally, the twist at the ending wasn’t nearly satisfying enough for me. My expectations were simply too high after The Historian.
Still, The Swan Thieves is a solid novel that I really enjoyed reading. I found the writing to be simply delicious and looked forward to each page. I was sad when I put it down because Kostova’s writing makes me want more. It would be incredibly difficult to follow The Historian up with an equally amazing novel, yet Kostova manages to hold her own with The Swan Thieves. I definitely recommend it, and if you haven’t read either of Kostova’s books, I’d recommend starting with The Swan Thieves. It’s a great taste of amazing literary fiction.