Thursday, 12 August 2010

Book Review - The Swan Thieves Elizabeth Kostova

Now this is funny I've decided to write this review a little prematurely as I've not yet finished the book. I probably will later today and add a post script to this review via the comments. Why am I writing this now then? Well in case the climax isn't a whizzbang ending I don't want that to detract from how I feel about this book already. It is brilliant!

This is an amazing book about love, madness and obsession. It intertwines the lives of some French impressionists back in the 19th century with the lives of modern day Americans - namely an artist, his wife and his lover with the doctor helping him after he is arrested and sectioned after he attacks a painting in a gallery with a knife. Now the doctor, who is an amateur painter himself, wants to know why he attacked the painting, why he always paints the same woman over and over again, why his wife ended up finishing their marriage over the woman in the paintings (who may be fictional, maybe real, maybe dead) and why the artist won't speak at all once he is in the hospital and in the care of the doctor.

What a story line! The writing is superb - in particular the reference to little gestures and settings that really pull you in. I am now living these peoples lives! It hasn't been a quick read and you need a break regularly to allow the scenes and the narrative to settle in your head. Throughout the book you are building to a climax - some bits of which become obvious really to you early before they are fully revealed but others are hidden like I say I'm a few pages off the end and the finale is still awaiting me.

As I say the writing is excellent with largely it written in the first person from several points of view - you are guided at the beginning of each chapter as to which character is now talking to you. And new characters are introduced as others go away in this style. There is some third party observation as well but interestingly only of the 19th century portion of the tale. So cleverly written as well as beautifully descriptive.

The best book I've read in probably a year or so. Completely recommended.

I'm confident that the climax will make me recommend this even more but like I say I'm so transfixed with this work already I had to write this review now.


I read the ending last night. It wasn't a cataclysmic type of ending but more one that would ideally fit the use of denouement to describe it. Some of the threads you've guessed at by then are answer - well some brilliantly left just to you to draw the obvious conclusion and finally you are left somewhat resolved but actually caring what does happen to the main characters after the book.

1 comment:

  1. It's always good to have a book recommended and this looks good as it has the art influence. thankyou...hope the ending is O.K.!