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Book Review: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

This is a truly a remarkable book that is pitch perfect in its story, setting and characters. Elizabeth Kostova is well-known for her popular and critically acclaimed novel, The Historian, but I am sure that her second book will win her even more fans.

The Swan Thieves opens shortly after renowned painter Robert Oliver has attacked a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and he is now in psychiatric care. Psychiatrist Andrew Marlow is determined to help his new patient – but after an initial discussion the painter retreats behind a self-imposed wall of silence, so Andrew turns to the women in Robert’s life in an attempt to unravel the clues to his tortured behaviour. Why does Robert paint the same woman over and over? Is this woman a figment of his imagination, or is she real, even a lover? At the heart of all these mysteries is the worn letters that Robert compulsively reads over and over – and an extraordinary painting entitled The Swan Thieves, painted by a woman in the 1890s.

This is a fantastic novel, one that grips from the opening page. It is a tale of obsession, art and tragedy. Against a backdrop of French Impressionism, this is also a story of passion and secrets, and love in its many forms – young, passionate love, last love, and the fragile seeds of new love. The Swan Thieves is a masterful book that I would highly recommend.

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