Monday, November 4, 2013

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

NOTE: November is National Reading Month here in the Philippines; and in order to commemorate this great and enjoyable pastime, I've decided to showcase book reviews, and other related items, this whole month.  We'll return to my regular hodge podge of post-able topics after.  So sit back, relax, and let the reviews begin!  J

I read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova years before.  The short summary at back instantly grabbed my attention, which so eventually lead to my purchasing a second-hand copy from an seller a few days after my knowledge of its existence.  It held so much promise!  Vampire lore (NOTE: It is NOT like Twilight, folks!), a missing father, mystery and intrigue galore -- it was enough to make me drool in anticipation.

My love affair, however, was short lived as my enthusiasm and interest slowly waned at each passing chapter.  I just could not stomach where events were leading to.  And the ending?  Unexpected, but personally, not to my liking.  I guess I had a different idea where it was supposed to be headed.  I admit, I also had a hard time accepting a love scene between the novel's teenage heroine (as in a less than 18-year-old KID!  My goodness golly gracious me!) and a college student (pfft!).

So why I picked up a copy of her The Swan Thieves a year after my disastrous bout with the first novel, I cannot fully comprehend and explain.  I am glad I did, though.

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Andrew Marlow, a psychiatrist, lives a normal, albeit solitary life.  His peace is shattered, however, when famous painter, Robert Oliver, violently attacks a painting at the National Gallery of Art.  The artist stays silent for months after the incident, which eventually leads to him being referred to Marlow as a patient.

Trying to make sense of this unusual behavior, Marlow talks to the people in Oliver's life, slowly piecing together the pieces of a shattered life-long obsession.  (Read the full summary here at

The thing you'll have to know before reading an Elizabeth Kostova novel is that this author lives for the details.  Each book she has is, in fact, wonderfully researched and so full of interesting historical tidbits (if relevant).  This is the same with The Swan Thieves.  You'll be enthralled with the rich descriptions and depth of meaningful research done.

Although I have to admit, there are a few scenes that left me a little confused, the final chapters did make it all worth the wait.  You'll even come to understand why a "level-headed" artist like Robert Oliver would suddenly turn violent (and who hasn't, at one time or another, wished to lash out because of broken obsessions and shattered expectations.)  Definitely a good read.  J

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