I enjoyed The Swan Thieves, by Elizabeth Kostova, but I cannot call it anything better than “good”. The main thing that bothered me about it is that it has a very long build-up to… not much of anything. For the first half I was completely engrossed (and read a third to half in one day), but then it started to get a little tedious with a lot more detail (and somewhat repetitive) detail than seemed necessary or interesting. However, there continued to be this sense of build-up and mystery that intensified, and thus I was hoping for a really superb ending to tie it all off. Instead, the ending was mainly predictable, short compared to the rest of the book, and didn’t really explain the things I most wanted explained.
To go in to slightly more detail on my disappointment with the ending (note: this paragraph may contain spoilers), what I really wanted the book to explain was the artist Robert’s obsession. Ok, so there was a historical mystery of sorts and he had a hunch about it that disturbed him. But, that doesn’t justify his behavior to me. Why was it so difficult for him to explain to his wife what was going on? Why did he behave in such thoughtless ways towards her? These things were explained in the end simply by both him and the psychiatrist accepting that he was mentally unstable and would likely be on drugs for the rest of his life. I had been expecting a big denouement that explained his behavior more thoroughly, showing that he wasn’t really crazy/mentally unstable after all; we just didn’t have all the pieces. But no, instead they all just quietly accept that he is unstable and that’s that.
On the plus side, I really enjoyed all the discussion of art and painting in the book. It made me both want to paint and go look at good art (especially impressionist paintings, which I love and was a big focus of the book). It is also a fairly quick read for such a long book and mostly does keep moving (although as I mentioned above, I thought it got a bit bogged down in the middle). So overall, mildly enjoyable but not what I would call great.