The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

The Swan Thieves
By Elizabeth Kostova
576 pages; Little, Brown


Once again marrying history with mystery, Elizabeth Kostova ( The Historian ) tells a tale of obsessive love in her second novel, The Swan Thieves . Holed up in a mental hospital, a depressed, charismatic artist named Robert Oliver frantically turns out portrait after portrait of a beautiful woman whose identity nobody knows—least of all, his rejected ex-wife. Discovering what Oliver's compulsion has to do with an exchange of love letters in Impressionist-era rural France becomes the mission of Dr. Marlow, Oliver's aging, love-starved psychiatrist (who also happens to be an artist, like nearly everyone else in the story). Painterly descriptions of canvases and country roads, as well as anatomies of marital malaise, make for an engrossing read.

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