The Swan Thieves

I've been looking forward to reading this book for some time. I read Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel The Historian, a novel take on the Dracula story, last year, and loved it. Unfortunately I first ordered her new novel Swan thieves on the Borders website, on the day that Borders went bust (bad timing or what??), and have only recently got round to getting the book.

It's wonderful, every bit as good as her first novel. It has a similar layout with parallel narrators in the present, plus a strand of narration from the past - in the same way that archives and libraries were vitally important in The historian, archive correspondence and art galleries run throughout the novel. It's a tale of love, obsession, madness and art, specifically the art of the French Impressionists. The novel explores the place of women in a man's world both in the sense of a woman trying to take her place among the mainly male enclave of the Impressionist movement, and of how a woman copes in modern times being the adjunct of a gifted man - how does she maintain her place in the world and in other peoples' eyes - does she need to?

It's lyrical, sometimes sad, moving, and a wonderful evocation of nineteenth-century France. It's also a very interesting exploration of the borderline between genius and insanity. Well worth reading.


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