The Improbability of Love * * * is film director and documentarian Hannah Rothschild's debut novel, spinning "a dazzling tale--both irreverent and entertaining--of a many-layered, devious world where, in the end, love triumphs."
The novel opens on a blistering July day when all of London (and the world) turn out at the auction of THE painting - "the first time that a painting has been marketed with a world tour, a biography, an app, its own website, a motion picture and a documentary film", a painting rescued from a junk shop only 6 months before, after languishing behind a rubber plant for 50 years. 300-years ago, an unheralded Antoine Watteau created an homage to his unrequited love, entitled The Improbability of Love. Along the way, it passed through the hands of emperors, popes, and kings before finding its way to Nazi Germany.
Annie McDee, recovering from a long-term relationship, relocates to London and works as a chef for owners of Winkleman Fine Art. On impulse she buys a lovely little painting as a gift for a new and unsuitable boyfriend, and innocently sets off an art-world and geopolitical cataclysm.
"An opulently detailed, suspensefully plotted, shrewdly witty novel of decadence, crimes ordinary and genocidal... the book is at its best when delving into the lives of the many people affected by the Watteau."
"Rothschild packs the narrative with vivid details, especially about art and food (she is a Trustee of the Tate, and in 2015 became the first woman to chair the National Gallery, London). For readers who particularly enjoy the blend of art, mystery and intrigue, as in Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch; Nicole Kruass' The History of Love ; and B.A. Shapiro's The Art Forger.
* * * = 3 starred reviews