Wickedly funny, this totally engaging, richly observed first novel by Hannah Rothschild is a tour de force. Its sweeping narrative and cast of wildly colorful characters takes you behind the scenes of a London auction house, into the secret operations of a powerful art dealer, to a flamboyant eighteenth-century-style dinner party, and into a modest living room in Berlin, among many other unexpected settings.Read more...
Wickedly funny, this totally engaging, richly observed first novel by Hannah Rothschild is a tour de force. Its sweeping narrative and cast of wildly colorful characters takes you behind the scenes of a London auction house, into the secret operations of a powerful art dealer, to a flamboyant eighteenth-century-style dinner party, and into a modest living room in Berlin, among many other unexpected settings.In The Improbability of Love we meet Annie McDee, thirty-one, who is working as a chef for two rather sinister art dealers. Recovering from the end of a long-term relationship, she is searching in a neglected secondhand shop for a birthday present for her unsuitable new lover. Hidden behind a rubber plant on top of a file cabinet, a grimy painting catches her eye. After spending her meager savings on the picture, Annie prepares an elaborate birthday dinner for two, only to be stood up. The painting becomes hers, and as it turns out, Annie has stumbled across a lost masterpiece by one of the most important French painters of the eighteenth century. But who painted this masterpiece is not clear at first. Soon Annie finds herself pursued by interested parties who would do anything to possess her picture. For a gloomy, exiled Russian oligarch, an avaricious sheikha, a desperate auctioneer, and an unscrupulous dealer, among others, the painting embodies their greatest hopes and fears. In her search for the painting's identity, Annie will unwittingly uncover some of the darkest secrets of European history--as well as the possibility of falling in love again. Irreverent, witty, bittersweet, The Improbability of Love draws an unforgettable portrait of the London art scene, but it is also an exuberant and unexpected journey through life's highs and lows and the complexities of love and loss.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-09-21
- Reviewer: Staff
Rothschilds clever follow-up to The Baroness follows brokenhearted Londoner Annie McDee. Her attempts to begin a new life are complicated by a junk-shop painting that, unbeknownst to her, is an 18th-century masterpiece by Antoine Watteau. Rothschild gives the title painting its own point-of-view chapters, admirably managing not to get too cutesy. Having been owned by royalty, the Watteau is initially dismayed by Annies lack of funds and poor fashion sense. Annie finds work as a chef for Rebecca Winkleman, the daughter of a prominent art dealer, and yet Annie never shows them the painting, despite talking to other experts. Coincidentally, Rebecca has been tasked by her father, Memling, to find this very same artwork for devious reasons that he doesnt share. Once Rebecca links Annie with the painting, she suspects her of being a spy. The weakest part of Rothschilds plot involves would-be love interest Jesse, an innocuous painter/museum guide who is head over heels for Annie and pursues her despite her aloof lack of interest. Despite some plot holes, its rewarding to see Rebecca viciously come into her own once she divulges Memlings dark secret. Additionally, Rothschild packs the narrative with vivid details, especially about art and food. The book is at its best when delving into the lives of the many people affected by the Watteau. (Nov.)