The Swan Thieves
By Elizabeth Kostova
Little, Brown and Company
I wanted so much to love this book. I really did and I really tried. It took me ten days of trying and, in the end, I just didn’t find the chemistry that I was so hoping for. I won’t say that I was disappointed, but I was not won over either. I think the word I’m looking for is meh.
At the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, a renowned painter named Robert Oliver attacks a painting in the gallery’s collection. Arrested and confined to a mental hospital, he refuses to speak about the incident or say anything at all for that matter. His doctor, Andrew Marlow, is known as the man who can get anyone to talk. Unfortunately, his reputation fails him with Robert. A painter as well, Marlow’s determination to find out what happened and a general personal and professional curiosity drives him to figure out the mystery behind Robert’s actions and the painting he attacked. He ends up on a strange journey that leads him to all the women in Robert’s life to find answers to a mystery he didn’t even know existed.
Kostova’s first book, The Historian, is one of my favorite books but here, I didn’t find that same adoration. The book was slow, lacked drama, and the characters where underwhelming. The descriptions of the paintings and the actual acts of painting where interesting but not enough to really hold my attention. There are flashbacks to the late 19th Century and I found these sections captivating but they felt too few and far between for me to get attached to the people involved. And when the twist comes (Yes, there’s a twist and, no, I’m not giving anything away here.), it fell flat for me because I felt I already knew it. I didn’t think there was anywhere else to go with it and it wasn’t enough for me to really feel anything about it at the point.
I will say this, Kostova has a wonderful way with words and I found myself being lulled into the story even if I didn’t feel compelled by what was happening. I know that may sound contradictory, but it’s the truth. I may not have fallen for this book, but I still enjoyed her use of the language.
Many people loved this book and I bought it the day it come out and waited to read it until now. I read numerous reviews extolling it’s qualities and wanted to wait until the hype died down so that I could enjoy this book without the words and thoughts of others floating around in my head. I’m glad I did that but I’m also sad I didn’t enjoy it more. Sometimes these things happen. I’ll still be eagerly waiting for Kostova’s next book though.