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The Improbability of Love

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  9,676 Ratings  ·  1,356 Reviews
A dazzling, witty and tenderly savage satire of London life and the art world that is also a surprising and wonderful love story.

When lovelorn Annie McDee stumbles across a dirty painting in a junk shop while looking for a present for an unsuitable man, she has no idea what she has discovered. Soon she finds herself drawn unwillingly into the tumultuous London art world, p
...more
Paperback, 479 pages
Published March 31st 2016 by Bloomsbury (first published April 22nd 2015)
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Virginia Wolf I'm not in a book club, however do pass along good reads to family members. There are six of us, all avid readers. I am waiting for a review from…moreI'm not in a book club, however do pass along good reads to family members. There are six of us, all avid readers. I am waiting for a review from little bro' Dave. I just found the book in New Releases at the library, liked the title, read the front insert and thought it might be okay. I was pleasantly delighted with every aspect of the book. The characters were appealing, especially the painting itself. And I was on pins towards the ending wondering and worrying about the fate of the heroine. I think when I picked it up, I was hoping for another "The Goldfinch" which was very near to monumental. "Improbability" wasn't nearly that great, but I gave it 4 stars for being fun, well-written, good plot, excellent characters and a good dose of suspense.(less)
Candace I am watching her in an interview now with Charlie Rose and they are showing the cover of her book which is slightly different than pictured here;…moreI am watching her in an interview now with Charlie Rose and they are showing the cover of her book which is slightly different than pictured here; however her name is spelled the same on both covers so I don't think there is a misspelling.(less)

Community Reviews

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Elyse
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Improbability of Love", by Hannah Rothschild is not only the title of this Historical
Fiction novel, but it's one of the characters, narrating part of the story.
It's a famous masterpiece....a painting that 'has-a-history'. It's been around for centuries --
It's a very valuable - expensive- desirable- painting that has been lost....
then later found by 31 year old Annie McDee. She has come to London to work as a chef
while at the same time begin to mend her crushed heart from a broken love-
...more
Emma
This novel is an advertisement for how to try too hard with style and plot. It feels false and is consistently overdone. The voice of the painting is an intriguing idea, if only because it would be thrilling to be able to access the past through this means, but its voice was entirely contemporary and ridiculous because of it. Even accounting for the fact that it has experienced much change over a three hundred year 'lifespan' and explains this chatty modernisation by saying it has had to convers ...more
Andrew Smith
Hannah Mary Rothschild was born into British nobility. As daughter of the 4th Baron Rothschild, himself a member of a renowned banking family, she was surrounded by wealth and privilege from birth. And art too, lots of art. In 1985, she became chair of the London National Gallery's Board of Trustees, so it's no surprise that her debut novel is centred in this world. It’s the story of a painting and also of the people who covet it.

As the tale commences we witness a vast collection of art collect
...more
Laura Spira
Jul 01, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am astonished by all those rave reviews because, my goodness, this is an awful book. It reminded me of those Pollock's toy theatres with cardboard figures which you could manipulate across the stage. Two dimensional characters and a creaky plot. It contains some truly bad writing and some weirdly inaccurate details that a good editor might have dealt with. For example, Delia "settled down to watch a daily show, Pointless. It started at 5 p.m. and at 4.50 exactly, with everything 'just so', Del ...more
Hugh
Oct 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2016, modern-lit
This is not an easy book to review, since I have very mixed feelings about it. It is a fast-moving thriller/rom-com/satire of the art world that centres on a lost painting by Watteau (also called The Improbability of Love) and its tangled history. This is combined with the story of the woman who buys it in a junk shop and her new life as a chef specialising in themed events for the artistic establishment. Some of the chapters are narrated by the painting, which is a convenient omniscient device ...more
Mac
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Wanted: An editor to transform an excellent premise into a good novel. Your task:

Leave the Prologue (mostly) untouched; it's a good beginning, setting the stage and stimulating the reader's curiosity. A record breaking auction with multiple competing interests foreshadows that drama, suspense, and intrigue will be coming as the story unfolds. There's sure to be some unethical behavior and double dealing. There's sure to be a send up of the wealthy and their foibles. But then the editor should go
...more
Connie
Delightful and satirical, The Improbability of Love takes us deep into London's art world. Annie McDee, a young chef, buys a painting at a junk shop as a birthday present for a guy who never shows up for the romantic dinner she has prepared. Her mother thinks the painting resembles one of the Old Masters so they lug it to a museum for a comparison. Could it be a lost 18th Century painting by Antoine Watteau called "The Improbability of Love"?

There is a powerful art dealer with a dark past who is
...more
Maxwell
May 15, 2016 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, kindle
DNF @ 52%

This is probably my least favorite kind of book to review because it's a book that I was really, really enjoying at first. And while I can tell it is a good book, it just may not be good for me. Even though it has a lot of elements I enjoy--unique narrative structure, the art world, multiple perspectives, descriptive writing--it just wasn't working after the initial intrigue. The novelty wore off by about 40% or so, but I pushed through to see if maybe it would turn around. This novel
...more
Paromjit
This is a book that cannot fail to entrance a reader. Hannah Mary Rothschild is a truly gifted writer who can weave vibrant worlds artfully. The novel moves effortlessly between the past and present. Art is clearly a passion for the author and you cannot help but get hooked into the story. It begins with Annie, a chef, having suffered heartbreak, buying a painting at a junk shop for her new boyfriend. However, it does not work out and so it belongs to Annie.

You know what? The painting talks to u
...more
Rebecca Foster
May 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Readers of Crazy Rich Asians, Gorsky and Number 11
From the Baileys Prize longlist, an enchanting debut novel that blends art and cooking, mystery and romance. Annie McDee, a heartbroken PA and amateur chef, pays £75 for a painting from a junk shop, not realizing it’s a lost Antoine Watteau that will spark bidding wars and uncover a sordid chapter of history. In a triumph of playful narration, we mostly learn about the artwork’s history from the painting ‘herself’. She recounts her turbulent 300-year-history and lists her many illustrious owners ...more
Jennie
Mar 11, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-fiction
After 4 years of living in Japan I am still perpetually gobsmacked by the idiotic assumptions westerners make about Japanese people. One of the key moments in this novel, where our heroine meets the love interest, occurs at an art museum. During this meet cute a group of Japanese tourists in a British museum are presented as befuddled foreigners, unfamiliar with a reference to the Mona Lisa.

“Mona Lisa?” one lady questioned.

The guide clapped his hand to his forehead. “I’m sorry. What a dolt. Yo
...more
Jane
Jun 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a veritable chocolate box of a novel.

It’s it looks gorgeous, it’s full of lots of different lovely things, it’s almost too much, but its completely irresistible.

I thought for the first time in years – of a particular box of chocolates that my father bought for my mother when I was a very small girl. I remember that it was large, it was casket shaped, and it was covered with pictures of ladies in long dresses. I was smitten with that box, and my mother gave it to me in the end, to use as
...more
Robert Blumenthal
If you love art and cooking, you can't do much better than this novel. With a clever, very British sense of humor, the author weaves the tale of lovely Annie who stumbles upon and buys a painting by the 18th century French/Flemish painter Watteau called The Improbability of Love (real painter, fictionalized painting) at an Antique Store for 90 pounds. She is thrust into an adventure that nearly ruins her life that has to do with the recent history of this painting and how it was obtained. She me ...more
Resh (The Book Satchel)
When Annie McDee comes in possession of a painting bought from a junk shop, little does she know that the elite circle of London’s art world is trying to track it down. Set in contemporary London, this book is a charming read.

Read a detailed review here - http://www.thebooksatchel.com/five-re...

What to expect?
- Colourful cast of characters including unscrupulous art dealers, elite class of the art world, exiled Russian oligarchs, struggling artists, fixer who helps rich newbies settle down into
...more
Bianca
This novel suffers from a severe case of ADD/ADHD. It's like the author had all these ideas and decided to fit them all in one novel.

We have art, lots, and lots of art -which I love. I also enjoy learning about painters; I enjoy history and art history; I enjoy learning new words and jargon. While all these aspects were plentiful, at times, it became too much. I can't believe I'm saying this, but there was way too much information dumping, so much so, at times, it reminded me of school, when I p
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
There have been quite a few novels about art in the last few years that have made it onto award lists: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt, and How to Be Both by Ali Smith. It is impossible to read this novel without making comparisons to those and others. I read this partly because it is on the Bailey's shortlist, but also because the chef character interested me.

It is clear the author knows the art world, and even glancing at her bio gives evidence of major credent
...more
Anmiryam
All I can say is, meh. There were moments that held promise of a smart satire, but they were only moments. Rothschild couldn't decide between writing a light romance, a send-up of the super-rich and the art world, a haunting novel the power of art to send those in power into frenzies of collecting, or a book about the continuing legacy of the holocaust. In the end it succeeds at being none of these things by trying too hard to be all of them.

The bits I liked the best were those narrated by the
...more
Taryn
Exploration into the meaning of art and the ephemeral nature of love + a satirical look at the business of art, with a colorful cast of characters and a relatable heroine. (I received this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.)
For someone else, it could be a great life: interesting, exciting and relatively free of worry. The problem is that it doesn’t happen to be the life I want. It isn’t the way I planned it. Somehow the scripts got muddled up. I, Annie, am supposed
...more
Sylvie Brandt
May 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rip roaring rollicking unputdownable read.
The suspense starts on page 1- a crowd gathers to witness the sale of the most expensive painting ever sold at auction. The picture was a lost masterpiece by Antoine Watteau which has the power to inspire immense love and overpowering greed. A fascinating cast of characters are desperate to possess it- enter sheiks, oligarchs, society hostesses, scholars, politicians, the great, the good, the informed, the ignorant and the downright ugly.
Rothschild take
...more
Ferdy
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adored all the art/museum talk, it was written in an entertaining and accessible way. Also, loved all the absurdities and personalities of the various rich and privileged characters. Best of all though was the POV of the painting, it was so snobby, hilarious, and in love with itself. The only thing that bothered me was the main character, who in comparison to all the other vibrant characters was a complete bore.
Cian O hAnnrachainn
Overhead in an office at Penguin Random House:


---So this Hannah Rothschild, she's one of the Rothschilds, the bankers?


---She is indeed. Powerful family, and they lost a great deal of their art collection to the Nazis. So she writes from what she knows. And it's more than that. People are intrigued by the art world because it's foreign to them, and they know they'll never be part of it because it's such an exclusive club filled with the super-rich. I liked her Russian oligarch character, having t
...more
Krista
May 16, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
All that matters is that artists keep reminding mortals about what really matters: the wonder, the glory, the madness, the importance and the improbability of love.

The Improbability of Love begins with an intriguing prologue: the fabulously wealthy – from an Emir and his Sheikha, to a rapper, museum curators, and billionaire Russian exiles – gather for an art auction at which a recently recovered lost masterpiece is expected to shatter all previous sales records. The story then rewinds to six
...more
Morana Mazor
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Londonski svijet umjetnosti; plejada osebujnih likova (uključujući jednu sliku), povijesne ličnosti, slike starih majstora, kuhanje, drugi svjetski rat i nacisti, obiteljske tajne, ubojstva i (malo) ljubavi... a sve skupa izvrsno ukomponirano.
Victoria
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It’s a layered, vivid satire, an inventive romp through the art world and I was sucked in from the start. The centerpiece of this novel is a lost, fictional masterpiece painted by a very real artist, one who is credited with inventing a genre, fetes galantes, that theatrically features pastoral scenes. And it is this work of art, a character in the story, one who speaks of its history and all it has seen, that is the most imaginative element and what made me love this book all ...more
Elaine
May 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Highly entertaining but too too wordy. A fun (if quite silly) romp through the lives of the .001% spiced up with lashings of art history, banquets of food porn, the obligatory WW2 connection, a murder or two and a talking painting! What starts off as delightful fluff gets bogged down in an utter lack of editing. At the 15th repetitive disquisition on the madness of love, art's peculiar role as moral cleanser for the rich, or (really) detailed instructions on making a homemade mayonnaise while ou ...more
Roger Brunyate
Layers of Paint

On July 8, 2008, the London auction house Christies auctioned off a recently-discovered early painting by the French rococo artist Antoine Watteau. The estimated price was as high as 5 million pounds. In fact, the sale realized over 12 million pounds ($24.4 million), a record for a French 18th-century artist. This was surely the inspiration for Hannah Rothschild's novel, which begins on the day of the sale of just such a rediscovered Watteau (improbably called "The Improbability o
...more
Debra
Nov 20, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm amazed that this book was generally so well liked by other readers on this site, and it has confirmed me in my growing belief that my taste in books is significantly out of step with that of the majority!

I would go so far as to say that there were a couple of elements in the novel which showed promise, such as the character of Annie and the scholarly yet readable sections on artists and art history, but the plot leaked, many characters barely made it to even two-dimensional status and the ed
...more
Elizabeth Wix
May 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this erudite, lively and amusing take on the place of art, love, money (and even food) in modern London.
So many good things. A really excellent read which I have handed on to a curator friend who is loving it too.
So very much better than the very overrated ( I thought!) Goldfinch which took itself far too seriously.
Noelia Alonso
May 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2016
The chapters from the painting's point of view were probably the only thing I enjoyed about this. The story as a whole was boring and the writing style not my cup of tea; I felt the writer was trying to too hard.
Reyes
Aug 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
So this was going to be my original review:

I’ll start by saying that I did like this, but I think I would have loved this book instead of barely enjoying it if only the author would have kept things simpler. The story about the missing picture is good and enthralling, but then you get lost in a sea of characters that for the most part don’t bring anything interesting to the story.
I can honestly say that there was not a single character that I truly liked. At first I was happy to read about a fl
...more
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Around the Year i...: The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Mary Rothschild 1 25 Jul 23, 2016 12:33PM  
Characters 2 25 Mar 16, 2016 06:42PM  
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Hannah Mary Rothschild is a British writer, philanthropist and documentary filmmaker. She also serves on the boards of various philanthropic trusts and museums. In August 2015, she became chair of the London National Gallery's Board of Trustees.
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“All that matters is that artists keep reminding mortals about what really matters: the wonder, the glory, the madness, the importance and the improbability of love.” 5 likes
“...the value of a work of art is set by desire: who wants to own it and how badly” 4 likes
More quotes…