Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Three stories set in the present, the recent past and the late 1870’s intertwine in this novel by Elizabeth Kostova which captures the conflict between life and art. Obsession and its consequences form its core.

Robert Oliver, an artist, is sent to a mental health facility after attacking a painting in the National Gallery with a knife. Robert remains silent, spends hours pouring over old letters in French and draws sketch after sketch of a dark-haired women dressed in 19th centruy clothes. Andrew Marlow, his psychiatrist and a painter himself, becomes very involved, interviews both the former wife and lover of the painter, and travels to Paris, North Carolina and New York to solve the puzzle of his patient.

This is a long novel but I did not tire of the characters and long descriptive passages. The sections on painting techniques and the artists in France during the Impressionistic movement were fascinating. There are several tender love stories to capture the reader’s interest and move the novel to a satisfying conclusion.