TITLE: THE SWAN THIEVES
AUTHOR: ELIZABETH KOSTOVA
Andrew Marlow is a psychiatrist, in his fifties, single and a competent painter, living a quiet and orderly life., when a collegue persuades him to take on a patient. The patient, Robert Oliver is a painter who got himself arrested and committed after trying to attack a painting called "Leda" in a museum with a knive. Oliver proves to be a very difficult and frustrating patient because he refuses to talk.
Intrigued Marlow pushes professional boundaries in order to find out more and talkes to Oliver's ex-wife and ex-lover. Initially the informatin he gathers only confuses Marlow more. Who is the woman Oliver has been obsessively painting for years? How do the French letters from the late 19th century tie in? And why did Oliver try to attack the painting.
I found this an intriguing story, if at times a bit contrived. I'm not convinced any doctor would go to these lengths for any patient, or that any wife or lover would provide the sort and depth of information the woman in this story give.
But, I loved the way the story unfolded. The French story is beautiful and heart-wrenching. And I enjoyed that the story was written in such a way that the reader could come to suspicions and conclusions together with Marlow or a short while ahead of him.
The ending of the book though was a bit sudden and unrealistic. In a way that didn't really matter because for me that particular strand of the story had become very much secondary.
This book has been getting very varied reviews, ranging from complete dislike to absolutely wonderful, and probably isn't for everyone. The in depth descriptions of painting, techniques, works of art and related matters might put some people of, although I found the writing of such quality that just the flow of the words kept me reading, even though I'm not overly interested in or knowledgable about painting and painters. This definitely was a book for me, and I'm very glad that I've read it.