Friday, April 29, 2011

The Swan Thieves

Elizabeth Kostova's second novel "The Swan Thieves" (561 pages) is a wonderful sophomore effort after her acclaimed first work, "The Historian." From the cover of the book:

"This richly told, beautifully imagined novel takes us on a journey into the lives of the woman left behind by the renowned painter Robert Oliver.

After attacking a canvas in the National Gallery of Art, Oliver maintains a stubborn silence, prompting his psychiatrist, Andrew Marlow, to embark on an unconventional pursuit of the answers his patient won't provide. As Marlow is pulled deeper within Oliver's troubled mind, he uncovers a tale of love, betrayal, and artistic obsession, and finds surprising possibilities in a package of nineteenth-century lover letters. Does the key to unlocking Robert Oliver's mystery lie in a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism?

Across centuries and continents, from young love to last love, Elizabeth Kostova deftly explores the painter's universe - passion, creativity, secrets, madness - and conjures a world that lingers long after the final page has turned."

An absolutely beautiful read and at two bucks, one of the best values in a book that I've ever ran across (RIP Borders, you will be missed). Kostova weaves four stories of love and sometimes loss that all come together magically toward the heartfelt conclusion of the story. The final pieces of the puzzle coming together as the novel unfolds truly left a little lump in my throat.

Beyond the compelling story is Kostova's ability to bring her love of art to a level that I, knowing very little of art and less of Impressionism, could understand and appreciate just through her gift of description. After reading the rich novel I'm compelled to view works by Manet, Monet, Pissarro, or Sisley. Unfortunately living in Oklahoma does not give me this option on a day to day basis.

The best work of fiction I've read so far this year. Highly recommended.

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