The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

This is going to sound super dramatic, but The Swan Thieves is the perfect example of what I love about reading books. I loved it!

Andrew Marlow is a psychiatrist living and working in DC. He’s practicing medicine for practical reasons, but his passion is painting. He gets a call from a fellow psychiatrist with a referral – a famous painter, Robert Oliver, was recently arrested at the National Gallery after trying to attack a painting with his pocketknife.

That’s all I needed to hear to know that I would have to read it right away!

When Robert is transferred to the residential treatment center where Dr. Marlow works, he refuses to speak. He has brought a packet of old, french letters with him and won’t let anyone touch them. He won’t explain why he felt that he needed to vandalize a precious painting and he won’t provide any information that would be helpful to his treatment. As Dr. Marlow tries to put the pieces of his life together, he gets to know Robert’s old lovers and acquaintances and sometimes pushes the edge of his ethical boundaries.

With time, Dr. Marlow learns that Robert has been obsessed with a painting he saw at the Met. He has been drawing portraits featuring the same woman for years and it has completely taken over his life, ruined relationships, and distracted him from his promising career.

While trying to uncover the root of his obsession, we go to the Maine seaside, a tiny apartment in New York City, a small liberal arts college in the Carolinas, Paris, and Acapulco. We explore the National Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We flash back in time to the 1800s and meet a young artist and are voyeurs to her love affair with a much older man. We see things through the eyes of artists, who describe the world based on how light hits objects and how colors blend together to make a unique spectrum for our eyes. Oh, this was a beautiful book – beautiful both in its scope and its descriptions. I don’t tend to be one that falls for descriptions in novels – pace and plot are typically what I’m drawn to – but atmosphere is also important to me. And this was another book that had so many similarities to The Goldfinch, including its atmosphere.

I gobbled this book up so quickly without even realizing that it qualified for #tometopple! I read it during the first full week of the read-a-thon, so CHECK! That’s one novel completed for that challenge! Now I’m on the hunt for some good old fashioned literary and art adventures, like The Swan Thieves, The Goldfinch, and The Historian. Any suggestions?!


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