This month in the Inspired by Reading Book Club and challenge our book was The Swan Thives: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova. It was a big book but surprisingly readable for all that, with a dash of intrigue, a psychological element and a good dose of art history. In any case I enjoyed it!
The premise of the story is a psychiatrist trying to understand his patient — renowned painter Rob Oliver — who has attacked a painting purported to be by a particular artist of the French impressionist school. Oliver’s story is told largely to Dr Marlow by his wife and his ex-lover, and gradually uncovers an obsession with a young French woman, an impressionist painter torn between her respectable marriage and her passion for art. Ultimately the mystery is solved by the psychiatrist.
Although I sometimes found the jumping between the characters confusing, I thought that the author painted a good picture of Oliver and the obsession that overtakes his art. And I loved the author’s vivid imagery, which suited a book about painters.
There were two elements of the book that I wanted to explore with my Jewellery but unfortunately I only had time this month for one. The angle I didn’t have time to take was to look at some of the impressionist paintings mentioned in the book, including those by Alfred Sisley, who painted a number of streetscapes in the towns of Louveciennes and Moret-sur-Loing, both mentioned in the course of the story. I even picked out a set of boro lampwork beads in the colours of a winter streetscape that I wanted to use, but I realized I need to figure out the best way to highlight the beautiful beads.
But the other scene that grabbed my attention was from early in the book, when the psychiatrist Andrew Marlow was visiting the scene of his patient’s crime at the National Gallery of Art. He meets a young woman (who unbeknownst to him will become crucial to the story) and it is his description of the Jewellery she wore that got my attention:
… on her collarbone she wore a necklace if knotted leather strung with long ceramic beads that looked as if they could have had prayer parchments rolled up inside them. (Chapter 6, The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova)
I came across a polymer clay bead made by local artisan Jenny Church (she doesn’t have a website but she sells through the Facebook group Australian Art Beads), that was long and covered in mysterious writing. I asked Jenny if she would make me some matching beads, and knotted them all together on leather with some Greek ceramic beads with a grey and gold look. I used more of the Greek ceramics to make a button and loop closure to the necklace.
For more about the challenge, and to see what others have been inspired to make by the book, visit the Inspired by Reading Facebook page.