The Swan Thieves, a new novel by Elizabeth Kostova, may be somewhat hard to classify. With a rotating set of narrators, much of this reads like a character study, as one central character searches to discover the secrets of another. A significant mystery component is at work, right alongside a century-old love story. While my odd descriptions may sound confusing, Kostova definitely pulls all of these pieces together to create a novel of interesting layers.
At the onset of the story, psychiatrist Andrew Marlow agrees to see a patient referred by a colleague who has always told him he could make even a stone talk. The patient, Robert Oliver, has attempted to attack a painting in Washington, DC’s National Gallery of Art, and no one knows why. The mystery is intact as Oliver himself won’t explain but is clearly in need of psychiatric care. As Marlow attempts to understand his new patient by delving into his past, he begins to put together the pieces of the puzzle, slowly revealing layers to the story that transport the plot in time and place. This tale of love, art, obsession, loss and devotion unveils itself eventually, assembling a full picture with unique connections.
An important thing to know about this book is the emphasis on the slow pace. While I haven’t read Kostova’s first novel, The Historian, I have heard it said that it shares aspects of length and storytelling style. No doubt that this is a weighty novel, coming in at almost 600 pages, with much of it told in vivid detail and in a tone that takes its time sharing its story. I’m of the opinion that it’s better to know this ahead of time, so that you can get into the frame of mind that the reading will take some time. Be assured that the experience is worth the time commitment, and that a unique story is richly told in the beautifully written and intriguing new novel, The Swan Thieves.
Dawn is thankful for any spare moment she can grab to read, with blogging at my thoughts exactly coming in as a close second on her hobby list.