THE IMPROBABILITY OF LOVE is a big, bold, rich canvas of a novel, a cross genre goliath about art and the art world, about food and culinary art, and about love and the improbability of love.
It’s also a thriller, a mystery, an historical romance and a satire, transcending mass market and literary fiction whilst straddling both.
The novel takes its title from a painting attributed to Watteau, the most significant piece of art to be auctioned this century, the value of which is set by desire: who wants to own it and how badly.
Just who does want it and how badly presents a cavalcade of colourful and unforgettable characters from Russian gangsters, rap artists, sheiks, to old money billionaires.
Into that heady mix, throw in Annie McDee, serially jilted, eking out a subsistence salary working for an Italian film director married to a much monied London art dealer.
There are skeletons in closets but the bones are suited from Saville Row via treasures buried by Nazi party pirates.
Through confluence of coincidence and catastrophe, she and the painting become inextricably entwined in an adventure that seethes with situation and subterfuge.
Quite early in the book, the self-aware Annie says “Somehow, the scripts got muddled up…somehow or other I got ejected out of my story half way through and ended up in another person’s life.. a life meant for a younger, braver kind of person.”
Annie certainly becomes a braver kind of person and matures into quite a capable multi-tasker, not the least being a killer in cuisine creation and the object of desire on multiple fronts, romantic and gourmand.
One of the neat devices in this big, fat, nourishing read that flourishes, in flourishes, is having the painting, The Improbability of Love, comment on the story, giving the catalyst of the tale its own narrative.
It’s a genius take on “if these walls could talk” having observations from something that hung on various walls through many centuries, with a language and longevity far greater than the proverbial fly on the wall.
“Let me guess what you’re thinking”, voices the painting, maybe midway through the manuscript, “Girl finds picture, picture turns out to be worth a fortune. Girl (finally) finds boy with a heart. Girl sells picture, makes millions, marries boy, all live happily ever after. Piss off. Life is not that simple.”
And neither is this compulsively clever and readable narrative with its cliff hangers, appetisers, teasers, tensions and laugh out loud laughs.
Author Hannah Rothschild navigates the art world like a ship in full sale and her consummate story telling skills are sure to attract a flotilla of fans with a book that will certainly cast a huge conversational net over its readers.
Impossibly unputdownable, THE IMPROBABILITY OF LOVE by Hannah Rothschild is published by Bloomsbury.