The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

The Improbability of Love was shortlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction, 2016.

    I found The Improbability of Love to be very entertaining, with a rich and colourful palette of characters and an over the top satirical look at the 'Art World'. This is Art with a capital A and summed up completely through the painting itself which is a first person narrator throughout the book and the most entertaining voice of all. Referring to herself as 'moi', the pretentious painting takes us back through her history and her previous owners, some of whom were illustrious. We know from the opening pages that the painting is about to be the star lot of an uber prestigious auction. We then go back in time to when Annie, a rather lonely young woman, finds the painting in a junk shop and buys it on an impulse, so starting off a chain of events.

    I did find it hard to connect with the story at first. There is a large cast of characters, all eccentric in their own ways, representing different parts of society. The author belongs to the wealthy Rothschild family and you do wonder if insiders within this super rich world recognise any of the characters depicted in the book. Nevertheless, it is an amusing read and a tongue in cheek look at the Art World and how paintings, as a commodity, acquire value. As we learn more about the painting as a 'lost masterpiece', we are given lots of information on social history, historical figures, food and art, but it all flows from the story. 

    This is a story which teems with detail and appropriately given the subject matter, it is strikingly visual. Despite its satirical tone and humorous look at culture and human nature, dark elements emerge as the plot develops and the painting as a reflection of civilisation suddenly becomes a symbol of something much darker. The story came alive for me at this point and although the first half of the novel was a little confusing as all the characters were introduced, I did find that as the story became more and more focussed on the twentieth century, I was totally hooked. 

In short: an entertaining world which dazzles but contains a black heart.

Thanks to the publishers, Bloomsbury, who sent me an e-copy of the book via NetGalley.



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