Monday, March 1, 2010

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Dr. Andrew Marlowe receives a patient recommendation from a friend of his on a painter named Robert Oliver. Oliver was recently arrested for trying to stab a painting entitled The Swan Thieves. Oliver speaks to Marlowe only once, upon his first admittance to the psych hospital where he will be treated and refuses to speak again. Marlowe goes above and beyond, talking to Oliver's ex-wife, ex-lover, ex-colleagues and ex-acquaintances to try to get to the root of his problems. In the meantime, Oliver stays in his room at the hospital, being the perfect patient, painting the same woman over and over and over again. Who is this woman? Why does she have such a profound affect on Robert? And is she what drove him to the attack on the painting? Marlowe goes off in search of all of these answers to help his troubled patient, and the answers are not at all what he expected.

I listened to the audio version of this. I found the story a little hard to follow. The narrators of the letters from Paris in the late 1800's reminded me so much of Antonio Banderas' voice I would giggle when they came on. The reading was very well done; Treat Williams as the lead Andrew Marlowe. However the narration and performance of one of the characters was so poignant, so strong, and so heartbreaking, that it garnered this review another star. Anne Heche as the voice of Kate Oliver, Robert's ex-wife. Her appearance is fairly brief, but her reading was the icing on the cake for me. I was almost in tears by the end of her section. I think if I would have read the book instead of listening to it I would not have finished it.

3 stars

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