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The Swan Thieves
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The Swan Thieves
A Novel
Creators: Elizabeth Kostova
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pub. date: 04/01/2010
Lib. SRP: 81.00 USD
Ret. SRP: 0.00 USD
Format: Adobe EPUB eBook
Lib. ISBN: 9780316172233
Ret. ISBN: 9780316071642
DRM Level: Adobe Content Server 4
Min. Version: Adobe Digital Editions
File size: 779 KB
Languages:
   English
Subjects:
   Fiction, Literature, Historical Fiction
Awards:
  The New York Times Best Seller List (The New York Times)
Short Description:
   Psychiatrist Andrew Marlow, devoted to his profession and the painting hobby he loves, has a solitary but ordered life. When renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient, Marlow finds that order destroyed. Desperate to understand the secret that torments the genius, he 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 19th century to the late 20th, from young love to last love. THE SWAN THIEVES is a story of obsession, history's losses, and the power of art to preserve human hope.
Full Description:
   Psychiatrist Andrew Marlow, devoted to his profession and the painting hobby he loves, has a solitary but ordered life. When renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient, Marlow finds that order destroyed. Desperate to understand the secret that torments the genius, he 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 19th century to the late 20th, from young love to last love. THE SWAN THIEVES is a story of obsession, history's losses, and the power of art to preserve human hope.
Reviews:
  Publisher's Weekly
     

November 30, 2009


Reviewed by
Katharine Weber
Elizabeth Kostova made a dramatic debut in 2005 with her megabestselling The Historian
. The first debut novel to hit the New York Times
bestseller list at #1, The Historian
has been published in 44 languages, has more than 1.5 million copies in print, and there's a Sony film in the works. A hefty, quirky, historical vampire thriller that took 10 years to write and for which a reported $2 million advance was paid, The Historian
has managed through sheer bulk and majestic grandeur to confer upon itself the literary weight of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose
, even as it offers up some of the easy delights and generic writing skimps that put it on the Da Vinci Code
shelf.
The Swan Thieves
revisits certain themes and strategies of The Historian
, chief among them an academic hero who is drawn into a quest for knowledge about the central mystery, only to develop an obsession that becomes the driving force of the plot. Each chapter marks a point of view shift from the previous one, with the narrative shared among a variety of characters telling the story in a variety of ways. The events range from the present moment back to the 19th century of the painters Beatrice de Clerval and her uncle Olivier Vignot, whose intertwined lives, letters, and paintings are at the heart of the story.
This time out, Kostova's central character, Andrew Marlow, has a license to ask prying questions as he unravels the secrets and pursues the truth, because he is a psychiatrist. (Before Freud, genre quest novels depended on sleuths like Sherlock Holmes to play this role.) Even though Marlow comes across as a sensible, trained therapist, after only the briefest of encounters with his newly hospitalized patient, the renowned painter Robert Oliver, Marlow develops an obsessive desire to solve the mystery of why Oliver attempted to slash a painting in the National Gallery. Marlow is himself a painter, and the Oliver case has been given to him because of his knowledge of art. But Oliver is uncooperative and mute, though he conveniently gives Marlow permission to talk to anyone in his life before falling silent. Oliver's inexplicable behavior, which includes poring over a stolen cache of old letters written in French, triggers what I can only call a rampant countertransference response in Marlow, whose overwhelming obsession becomes a strange and frequently far-fetched journey of discovery as he persists to the point of trespass and invasion. Is this the crossing of the “ultimate border” promised by the ARC's jacket copy, the enactment of the fantasy of one's therapist developing an obsessive fascination that blots out all other reality?
Less urgent in its events than The Historian
, The Swan Thieves
makes clear that Kostova's abiding subject is obsession. Legions of fans of the first book have been waiting impatiently, or perhaps even obsessively, for this novel. The Swan Thieves
succeeds both in its echoes of The Historian
and as it maps new territory for this canny and successful writer.
Katharine Weber's fifth novel,
True Confections, will be published by Shaye Areheart Books in January.

  Kirkus
     

November 9, 2009
Kostova follows up her blockbuster debut about the undead (The Historian, 2005) with a romance about a contemporary painter's obsession with an undiscovered 19th-century Impressionist.

After he attempts to slash the painting Leda at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., respected artist Robert Oliver is committed to a mental hospital under the care of psychiatrist Andrew Marlow (think Heart of Darkness). A painter himself, Marlow is fascinated by his patient, who refuses to speak and paints the same dark-haired woman over and over."When I asked him whether he was sketching from imagination or drawing a real person," Marlow remembers,"he ignored me more pointedly than ever." Then Robert lends Marlow a package of letters written in the late 1870s by aspiring painter Batrice de Clerval Vignot to her husband's uncle Olivier Vignot, an established artist at the Paris Salon. Knowing he is stretching professional boundaries, Marlow goes to North Carolina to visit Robert's charming, pragmatic ex-wife and tracks down the spirited painter Mary Bertison, with whom Robert later lived in D.C. Both women loved the artist and felt they lost him to the woman in the painting. Marlow himself falls increasingly under Batrice's spell as he reads letters tracing her growing feelings for Uncle Olivier. The psychiatrist, a 52-year-old bachelor, is also drawn to Mary despite the questionable professional ethics of dating a patient's ex-girlfriend. With Robert tucked away painting his Batrice in silence, Marlow travels to Mexico with Mary, then alone to Paris to trace the life of the real Batrice and track down her secret paintings of swans; short chapters set in 1879 reveal what happened to her and her work. Kostova's theme is creative obsession and what everyday boundaries can be broken in its name; the novel seems to favor the most romantic answer.

Neither Robert's decisions nor Marlow's make a lot of sense, but lush prose and abundant drama will render logic beside the point for most readers.

(COPYRIGHT (2009) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  Library Journal
     

Starred review from November 1, 2009
A painting has been attacked at the National Gallery of Art, and the assailantRobert Oliver, a painter of notoriety in his own rightisn't speaking. It is left to psychiatrist Andrew Marlowa hobbyist painter himselfto unravel the puzzle of Robert's manic behavior. With a mysterious packet of letters and the testimony of Robert's ex-wife and ex-girlfriend as guides, Marlow dives into a mystery of romance and impressionist art dating back to late 19th-century France. Love and obsession are the primary themes of Kostova's long-awaited second novel (after "The Historian"), which stretches across three centuries and renders just the right amount of drama. The luxurious artistic detail and richly drawn characters will pull in readers, who will be hard-pressed to stop turning pages. VERDICT Fans of Richard Matheson's "What Dreams May Come" and "Somewhere in Time", both explorations of love across time and space, and readers of Tracy Chevalier and Audrey Niffenegger will enjoy Kostova's strong sophomore effort, which is sure to be a best seller and a suitable choice for book clubs. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, "LJ" 9/15/09; nine-city author tour.]Leigh Wright, Bridgewater, NJ

Copyright 2009 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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