Nicola’s Books to Host Elizabeth Kostova

Bestselling author Elizabeth Kostova will return to Ann Arbor on Wednesday night for a reading and signing of her new novel The Swan Thieves. No stranger to the area, Ms. Kostova holds an MFA from the University of Michigan where she won a 2003 Hopwood Award for her novel-in-progress.

The Swan Thieves, Kostova’s second novel, was released on January 12th with great anticipation after her widely embraced first work, The Historian. “It was a huge risk, but it was also very exciting,” Kostova shared on NPR’s Weekend Edition. “My first novel was heavily plotted, and although it’s a deeply felt novel for me, it’s kind of an intricate puzzle that I had to work out ahead of time. And this book I really wrote imagining the scenes almost the way you would stand in front of a painting. And it was a moving experience to be sort of there with the reader, not knowing exactly how this would turn out.”

Besides penning two novels, it’s important to note Elizabeth Kostova’s literary activities off the page as well. Through her Foundation for Creative Writing, which was created to “provide further opportunities for Bulgarian writers to foster their own work”, Kostova uses her considerable talents and opportunities to encourage and connect aspiring writers around the globe.

Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor will present bestselling author Elizabeth Kostova this Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 7 PM. Nicola’s is considered one of the premier independent bookstore in the area and a proud member of IndieBound. Please remember to call and confirm all details prior to the event.

*Support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

NLR’s review of The Swan Thieves

Kostova’s intro to The Swan Thieves on YouTube

NPR’s Weekend Edition: Kostova’s ‘Swan Thieves’: Art, Love and Crime

Kostova’s Swan Thieves a Bit Too Thick

564 pages is a lot to ask of a reader, and unfortunately, ask turns to beg in Elizabeth Kostova’s latest novel The Swan Thieves. Known for her bestselling debut work The Historian, I’m afraid Ms.Kostova won’t win any converts from those introduced to her work through this latest doorstopper.

Using voice as her palette, Kostova employs alternating narratives and their respective dialogue to frame the mystery surrounding famed painter and tortured artist Robert Oliver. Having recently attacked a painting at the The National Gallery of Art, the renowned Oliver finds himself placed under the residential care of psychiatrist Andrew Marlow. Arriving with little more than a stack of letters among his things, it is this mysterious bundle of antiquated correspondence that ultimately serves to nudge the story.

With its drawn-out detail and long-winded narrative, I’m afraid The Swan Thieves overextends. As it fluctuates between the voice of Dr. Marlow and that of 19th century artist Beatrice de Clerval, the reader is pulled along a flat and plodding journey covering both continent and coast. Sadly, Kostova’s attempts at eloquence collapse under the weight of her own words, and eventually move to kick out the legs of the story.

Despite such reader frustration, Ms. Kostova’s considerable passages on French Impressionism, art history, color subtleties and portrait execution are nuanced and informative. As they weave through the novel’s entirety, Thieves will at the very least put those not versed in the finer arts of portraiture and art genre upon higher ground.

Nonetheless, as readers well know what works for one book doesn’t always work for another, and I suspect the literary devices used to bring The Historian such acclaim simply didn’t work this time around. Though The Swan Thieves has heart, its pulse would have beat more with much less.

*Support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

Post by Megan Shaffer