Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Recommendation: The Swan Thieves

I just finished a terrific book:  The Swan Thieves, by Elizabeth Kostova. It is about a renowned (fictional) painter, Robert Oliver, who attacked a canvas in a national art gallery.  The question is why he would destroy something that he valued beyond all else?  Here's what the jacket leaf says about the plot:
From the confines of his hospital room, Oliver maintains a stubborn silence, offering only the briefest explanation before he stops speaking altogether:  'I did it for her.'  But who is she? Psychiatrist Andrew Marlow prides himself on his ability to make even a stone talk, but he gets nowhere with Oliver.  Driven at first by professional curiosity, and then by a determination that disrupts his ordered, careful world, Marlow embarks on an unconventional pursuit of the answers his patient won't provide, and on a journey into the lives of the women Oliver left behind.  As these women paint a portrait of love, betrayal, and artistic obsession, Marlow is pulled deeper within the mind of a trouble genius.  Carefully braiding the strands of a life undone, he finds surprising possibilities in a package of century-old love letters.  The voices in these letters soon tell their own story, one of secret passions and heartbreaking treachery, and they bring France o the late 1800s blazingly alive.
Kostova writes deftly about a painter's universe: passion, creativity, secrets, madness. She has an amazing gift for story-telling, and she kept me rapt from page one to page five hundred sixty-one.  Her writing was thoughtful and creative, and she is gifted in using new ways to describe things that are common to all.  I would really recommend this book as a unique and captivating story.

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