Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova started out wonderfully. But then, about half way through, I got a sinking feeling that, as interesting and good as this book was, it was not the one I signed up for. Robert Oliver is an esteemed artist who takes a turn for the worse, psychologically, and we want to know why. So, in steps Dr. Marlow to uncover this complex patient's history for some clues into what made Robert snap. Okay, fine. We get lots of sleuthing through interviews with an ex wife, an ex mistress, and some old letters. But what I wasn't expecting, and what it ultimately turned into, was a romance novel, which is -ehn- not really my bag. So.

*spoilers*

It didn't really go wrong -I would still consider it a good read- it's just that I was expecting more of an art history based mystery instead of a romance between the psychiatrist and his patient's ex mistress (no conflict of interest there, I'm sure) The end didn't do the story any favors either. It was a tidy, predictable wrap-up with the patient suddenly recovering enough to be released and, hopefully, leaving the new happy couple -his Dr. and ex mistress- alone, and with the actual mystery of the painting and muse being hastily concluded as an afterthought.

But it wasn't all *ehn* I did enjoy Kostova's writing. She has a great sense of place and human emotion, and an impressive knowledge of of her subject, in this case art and history. There are simultaneous story lines, from the 1870s and the present day, that work remarkably well too. I was just as interested in Beatrice and Olivier's relationship as I grudgingly was to Dr. Marlow's and Mary's, and even Kate's and Robert's. The characters and the settings were alive and real. If only I had known this was not that much of an historical mystery I could have wrapped my head around the romance more and perhaps appreciated it better. But then again, given my ambivalence toward romance, I might not have read it.

6 comments:

Tracy said...

I know what you mean - I'm not fond of romance either, not pure romance, certainly not anything that would be filed solely under that category - even though I love Jane Austen's novels.

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I like romance novels but I this one doesn't sound as if it fits this particular storyline. Thanks for the honest review.

Trish said...

The romance here didn't seem to fit. It could have been a perfectly good story at half the length and without the romance.

Heidi'sbooks said...

The Historian was slow in the middle. But, I loved the setting. Now this one seems like a complete departure from her previous book....no libraries, monasteries, or dank cellars it sounds like!

It is an intriguing premise with the artist and art history. I've looked at this book, but read several bad reviews of it.

Trish said...

Yes, it's too bad, really. It had the potential to be good. And it did read well. I was just disappointed in the direction it ended up taking.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I meant to read this, but just got intimidated by the size....LOL