“The Swan Thieves” by Elizabeth Kostova
“The Swan Thieves” follows the lives of, essentially, three people.
Beatrice de Clerval, an incredibly talented Impressionist artist who lived in the late 1800’s. Her love affair with an older man (her uncle), Olivier Vignot, and her love of painting are chronicled in a series of letters between Beatrice and Olivier.
Robert Oliver is a talented modern day artist who is arrested and placed in a psychiatric hospital after attacking a painting in the National Gallery of Art. The painting “Leda” depicts Zeus as a swan essentially raping a woman. Oliver has an unnatural obsession with a woman whom he paints. This obsession effects his work, marriage, and life, and, eventually, compels him to attack “Leda”.
Andrew Marlow is Robert’s psychiatrist at the hospital.
Robert has decided not to talk, and, being a painter himself, Marlow decides to learn as much as he can about Oliver, and his obsession with the beautiful woman in his paintings by interviewing the women in Robert’s life.
Reading “The Swan Thieves” is like taking a slow thoughtful walk through a beautiful park on a beautiful day. It is refreshing to stroll through the lives and loves of Oliver, Marlow, and de Clerval and to.. ever so slowly.. connect the pieces that are the puzzle of Robert Oliver.
That said…..please understand that “The Swan Thieves” is NOT “The Historian”. That book is a once in a lifetime masterpiece that, unfortunately, came as Kostova’s first book. It is not fair to compare any books that follow to it. Enjoy “The Swan Thieves” on it’s own and you will not be disappointed. It is superb in every respect.