A renowned painter named Robert Oliver, attacks a painting at the National Gallery of Art and is sent to a private psychiatric hospital for treatment. Dr. Andrew Marlow takes his case when he is asked by a fellow colleague. Dr. Marlow leads a quiet life and paints as a hobby. He is intrigued by Robert Oliver's case as Robert barely speaks when they meet and then stops speaking completely. He provides Robert with paint supplies and notices that Robert is only sketching and painting the same mysterious woman. He also finds a packet of old letters, written in french that Robert is found repeatedly reading. Dr. Marlow copies the letters and has an old friend translate them for him. He is compelled to put the pieces together to help Robert. Dr. Marlow becomes obsessed with Robert's case and is drawn to the mystery and intrigue it presents. He goes above and beyond his own legal and ethical boundaries to try and find the secret that appears to be tormenting Robert Oliver. This leads Dr. Marlow to the women closest to Robert, his former wife and former girlfriend as well as into the world of French Impressionism.
There are three narratives in The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova. The first is told through Dr Marlow's perspective and experiences as he tries to find out more about Robert and the meaning behind the letters and paintings. There is the narrative from Robert's former wife Kate and Robert's former girlfriend Mary with their stories of how they met Robert and their lives with him. The third narrative is from the letters written in the late 1800's and the two characters who wrote them. These narratives alternate throughout the book to reveal two mysteries that relate to two parallel stories that are not revealed until the end of the book. This is a story of obsession, love, passion and the power of art.
I listened to this as an audiobook which is an unabridged, 17 CD set and I understand the book is close to 600 pages. The reading of the novel is excellent with a cast of incredible narrators that held my interest and made this an engaging book to listen to. Treat Williams had the perfect smooth and gentle voice of Dr Marlow. Anne Heche had the concerned but yet strong voice of Kate. Erin Cottrell was Mary, who had a young but self assured strength to her voice. The narrators who read the voices from the past were perfect fits with their strong french accents which were fitting for the time period.
Elizabeth Kostova has a great level of skill, detail and depth to her writing. In this novel The Swan Thieves, my attention was held throughout the reading of the story in the audiobook edition. I am unsure if reading the book would have been the same experience and if it would have held my attention in the same way the audiobook version did.
Visit Elizabeth Kostova's website, here.
You can listen to an excerpt from the book, here.
Watch a video with the author, here.
Disclosure: Thanks to Hachette for sending me an audiobook for review. I am an Amazon Associate.