Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Swan Thieves

It's been a while since I reviewed a book. Heck, it's been a while since I read a book. Fall and winter got crazy. But getting lost in a book is good for my soul sometimes, and I was excited to read this second book from the Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian, The Swan Thieves. So excited that I had no idea it was available until I happened on it at the dreaded WalMart. This is my life now. Our library is closed because of a flood, I have a shelf full of overdue books, and I am getting my reading material from the evil empire because I can sometimes disingenuously squeeze it in with the laundry detergent budget.

I have told numerous people that if they want a vampire novel that will not make them resent the time they spend on it, they should read The Historian. Still true.

The Swan Thieves was engaging all through. Kostova has created a nice group of flawed but likable characters - even the main artist, Robert Oliver, is sympathetic in his mental illness. The book has a lot to say about the cost of loving a genius, specifically a genius who is kind of imbalanced in the brain, and the sacrifices made by women in terms of art and career when they love men and become mothers. I liked that.

It did remind me a lot of Possession, in that it traced a dual story - modern people studying about predecessors in their fields and discovering a hidden romance.  And Possession was so amazing, I wouldn't blame any writer for taking a shot at imitating the structure. Kostova did a pretty good job, I would say.

Maybe because I kept thinking about the Byatt book, The Swan Thieves didn't have the same wow factor for me that I felt with The Historian. But it was still a great read.

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