I’ve decided that there is a type of book that I like more than any other. It is a book that explores art/literature and artists/writers and that jumps back and forth between time. It is a book that includes old letters that somehow inform the present day of the characters. It is a book that is smart, but romantic, deep, but fun and gripping. I’m not sure that I’m describing it well, but perhaps with a few examples you’ll see what I mean.
Right now, I’m reading (and can’t put down) Elizabeth Kostova’s The Swan Thieves (2010). (Thank you to blog reader Dale Robards who recommended this book to me!) It is about Robert Oliver, a famous painter who seems to have gone mad and who tries to attack a picture in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. He is institutionalized, and his therapist is seeking answers, but Robert won’t talk. The narrative is told from the perspectives of his therapist and the women connected to Robert that the therapist interviews. Intertwined in these moments of research and discovery are letters from Paris in the 1870s between a married woman and her husband’s uncle. They are letters that Robert has been reading and rereading in his room, and it seems as if those letters are the key to his madness. I still don’t know what the outcome will be, but I’m starting to assume that Robert is (or thinks he is) a reincarnated version of the man who writes the letters.
As I’ve read this book, I keep thinking about other books that are similar and that I have thoroughly enjoyed.
There was Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (2013).
There was What I Loved (2003) by Siri Hustvedt.
There was Possession (1990) by A. S. Byatt.
All of these books have some element of art/literature, old mysterious letters, and troubled characters who try to make sense of the world through both. And I have absolutely loved reading each one of these novels.
What is your book type?