Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Swan Thieves - Elizabeth Kostova

Synopsis - Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe has a perfectly ordered life - solitary, perhaps, but full of devotion to his profession and the painting hobby he loves.  This order is destroyed when renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient.

Desperate to understand the secret that torments this genius, Marlowe emarks on a journey that leads him into the lives of the women closest to Oliver and a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism.

Review - What a beautiful story, this book is well written and really captures the essence of the characters, bringing them to life.  You can feel Robert's pain and in turn the pain he causes his wife, destroying his marriage.  The pain he causes his student who falls for him, and to whom Robert turns when his wife throws him out.  It is a story of obsession.  Robert's obsession with the artist Beatrice de Clerval and her love for her husband's uncle Olivier Vignot.  Robert's desire to know why she stopped painting when she was so talented.  In turn, the Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe follows his obsession in getting to understand his patient.  Why Robert attempted to destroy a painting and why he is so tortured by his obsession.

I love stories about art and artists, perhaps it is because they are often complex personalities.  So gifted and yet so tortured.  Although Patrick Gales' Notes from an Exhibition is a completely different book, one can draw similarities through art and depression.  Was Robert a manic depression sufferer like the woman in Gale's book?  He did take lithium, although he did not commit suicide.  Why should the talented be tormented so?  It often seems to be the price they pay.  Excellent and well recommended. 5*

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