Author(s): Hannah Rothschild
Annie McDee, alone after the disintegration of her long-term relationship and trapped in a dead-end job, is searching for a present for her unsuitable lover in a neglected second-hand shop. Within the jumble of junk and tack, a grimy painting catches her eye. Leaving the store with the picture after spending her meagre savings, she prepares an elaborate dinner for two, only to be stood up, the gift gathering dust on her mantelpiece. But every painting has a story - and if it could speak, what would it tell us? For Annie has stumbled across 'The Improbability of Love', a lost masterpiece by Antoine Watteau, one of the most influential French painters of the eighteenth century. Soon Annie is drawn unwillingly into the art world, and finds herself pursued by a host of interested parties that would do anything to possess her picture. For an exiled Russian oligarch, an avaricious Sheika, a desperate auctioneer, an unscrupulous dealer and several others, the painting symbolises their greatest hopes and fears. In her search for the painting's true identity, Annie will uncover the darkest secrets of European history - and in doing so, she will learn more about herself, opening up to the possibility of falling in love again. Irreverent, witty and sharply sweet, The Improbability of Love explores the confusion and turmoil of life and the complexities of love, loss and hurt - revealing the lows to which human nature can stoop and the heights to which the soul can soar.
A dazzling, witty and tenderly savage satire of London life and the art world that is also a surprising and wonderful love story
Baileys Longlist 2016
A deliciously wicked satire ... It's exquisitely written, shimmering with eye-catching detail, whether describing works of art or the dishes on display at an extravagant banquet. Beneath all that, there's a serious debate about the value we put on things - whether it's art or relationships - and the prices we're prepared to pay. A masterpiece Daily Mail Novel of the week ... It all adds up to an ingenious meditation on the true value of art - timely indeed at a moment when paintings and sculpture seem to have become just another currency Mail on Sunday Though this novel goes into the darkest of dark places, the overall tone is totally delicious; conspicuous consumption on this scale hasn't been seen since the Eighties -- Kate Saunders The Times Part of the novel's charm is that its characters, rich or poor, are all a mixture of frailties. Like a Rococo painting, this clever, funny, beguiling and wholly humane romance is a treat worthy of its subject -- Amanda Craig Independent This frothy confection works on many levels, combining a touching love story with an exciting whodunit sat in a hazardous, thrilling world. The story unfolds slowly at first, building up the tension until towards the end the chapters shorten and the pace quickens with staccato satire worthy of the pen of Evelyn Waugh. A real crowd pleaser **** Daily Express Hannah Rothschild is finally coming into her own. Soon to be head of the National Gallery, her novel about the art world is bound to be a bestseller -- Lynn Barber Sunday Times Her writing shows brain as well as a heart Economist The Improbability of Love is a romp, a joy, and an inspired feast of clever delights. Reading this book is like a raid on a high-end pastry shop - you marvel at the expertise and cunning of the creations, while never wanting the deliciousness to end Elizabeth Gilbert Every page is a joy. It's funny, sad, profound. The writing dances. It has panache. It's beautifully structured. It wears its scholarship with a balletic lightness and grace that shadows the Rococo painting at its heart. Its many and varied characters are an exquisite joy. Her range and emotional grasp is wonderful. What more can I say? It's my Book of the Year already Barbara Trapido Impishly wicked, ruthlessly frank, touchingly percipient and sometimes laugh aloud funny to boot. Hannah Rothschild captures the contradiction between art as money and art as the soul of humanity really well Rachel Campbell-Johnston, Art Critic for The Times Both a satire of the art world and a romance ... It's mischievous, fun and on the money Tatler A timely reflection on art's true value Observer What a delightful read - a satirical look at the world of art with some love, mystery and comedy thrown in for good measure. There is a darker element to the plot which I won't spoil here, but it is tempered by a wonderful cast of characters and has the unusual addition of the painting as an occasional narrator. It's certainly a clever way of weaving the provenance of the painting into the story Radio 2 Book Club Part detective story, part romance, the gripping narrative moves between contemporary London and Nazi Germany, examining along the way the meaning of love and loss, morality and greed, sacrifice and decadence ... the central theme of Nazi art theft is deftly handled. An excellent and very funny debut The Lady Absorbing ... Rothschild cleverly has the painting itself tell part of the story and beautifully marshals a wealth of historical detail Metro A novel that is so pleasurable I've read it twice, and will read it again Glasgow Sunday Herald A bittersweet and highly enjoyable satire Woman & Home If you did not know much about the passion and power behind the doors of the great auction houses and art dealers, you will by the end of this enchanting tale ... Part well-crafted mystery, part thriller, part love story, Rothschild's The Improbability of Love takes its readers on a wonderful journey into a rarefied world usually only experienced by the wealthy few Jewish Chronicle A capacious and fluently knowledgeable tale that excoriates with mischievously satirical intent the viciously competitive world of high-stakes art collecting ... Captivating ... Rothschild, the first woman to chair London's National Gallery, is a dazzling omniscient narrator giving voice to an irresistible cast of reprobates and heroes ... An opulently detailed, suspensefully plotted, shrewdly witty novel of decadence, crimes ordinary and genocidal, and improbable love Booklist
Hannah Rothschild is a writer and film director. Her documentary feature films have appeared on the BBC and HBO and at international film festivals. She has written film scripts for Ridley Scott and Working Title and articles for Vanity Fair, New York Times, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and others. Her first book, The Baroness, was published in 2012 and has been translated into six languages. She will become the Chair of the National Gallery Board in August 2014, and is currently a trustee of the Tate Gallery and Waddesdon Manor, and a Vice President of the Hay Literary Festival. She lives in London. www.hannahrothschild.com / @jazzybaroness