‘Improbability of Love’ by Hannah Rothschild

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This book highlights the importance of a good title. In short, I hate this title. It sounds like a gushy Mills and Boons type book but romantic love plays a very small part of this book.

This book is set in London starts with an art auction house getting ready for the sale of the century, an art work that’s caused a worldwide sensation called the ‘Improbability of Love’ painted by Antoine Watteau (who is a real life artist but the actual painting is made up) I found this out after an embarrassingly long google search. You are introduced to the crème de la crème of art society and it’s a great opening. It shows you the glamourous side of the art world.

 It then backtracks to a few years earlier with the protagonist, a young woman called Annie, in a junk shop looking for a present and stumbles across this small, badly damaged painting. At the same time, Annie gets a job as a chef for a successful, yet highly secretive family run art house and soon unsuspectingly becomes a part of  into the tumultuous London art world, populated by exiled Russian expats, desperate auctioneers and unscrupulous dealers, who are all scheming to get their hands on her painting.

 

Rothschild, who has worked in the art world, chose her artist carefully. If she had chosen someone instantly recognisable like Picasso or Monet, it would have set a pretence for the type of people who are associated with those types of work. By using a virtually unknown artist, from the period of Old French Masters, Rothschild can manipulate and exaggerate the type of people who’d be interested in it. For example, there are two experts of Watteau, one an old recluse with yellow teeth and an obsessive nature and we have another, an obese woman who believes in all things French and decadent

 I had mixed feelings while I was book, it grabbed me straight away, dragged on, grabbed me again, dragged on but I did feel that the title doesn’t do it justice, we have changing settings, changing time periods, changing characters and even though that sounds hard to follow and it feels like the you know the end of the story in the first chapter, I still managed to be surprised by some of the twists. I’m surprised at how much I liked it, considering even the painting gets his own voice and I’m not a huge fan of anthropomorphisms

What I felt that this book added to the genre of art fiction is that it feels like a coffee read, something light, that’s the first impression (I actually bought this book in the morning before catching a plane in the afternoon) but actually lets you dig your teeth into the story, be carried away strangeness that art and master pieces can do to people.

This was nominated for the Bailey’s Prize in 2016

Love,
Vanessa

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