Wednesday, April 10, 2024

"The Improbability of Love" by Hannah Rothschild

"The Improbability of Love" by Hannah Rothschild (who is, apparently, one of THE Rothschilds), is the April pick for the Nomo Book Club within the Childless Collective private online community

The heroine is Annie McDee, a 31-year-old chef who lives in a small flat in London, recovering from a broken heart after splitting up with her longtime partner. (Warning:  Do NOT try reading this book on an empty stomach! ;)  ) She buys a painting in a junk store for $75 (that she can't really afford) as a gift for a new love interest  -- who ghosts her before she can give it to him. She decides to return it, only to find the store -- and the man who sold it to her -- went up in flames in a suspicious fire, just hours after she left. 

At a London art gallery, trying to learn more about her painting, Annie meets Jesse, a tour guide and artist himself.  As they investigate the mysterious painting's origins together, they are drawn into the murky, cut-throat world of art collectors, dealers and thieves -- many of whom would love to get their hands on the painting, for various reasons. Unbeknown to Annie, this includes the father of her current employer -- an elderly Holocaust survivor and ultra-wealthy art dealer, who rules both his family and his company with an iron fist. 

The story picked up for me midway through the book, when Annie's boss, the old man's daughter, Rebecca, discovers her late brother's hidden notebook, setting off a chain of unexpected events... 

I don't want to give too many spoilers away, but here's one:  "The Improbability of Love" is not only the title of the book, it's the name of the painting itself. (I had to check:  the artist is real;  the painting is not.)   The painting is actually a character in the book who narrates some chapters (!), where we gradually learn more about its history, who painted it and who its previous owners were. (Over time, the painting was often given as a token of love to wives, lovers and beloved mistresses.)  When I started reading the first chapter where this happens, I was hearing a certain voice in my head, and I couldn't figure out where this was coming from?  Then I realized...! I was thinking of an episode of The Simpsons (lol!) -- "Moe Goes From Rags to Riches" -- where Jeremy Irons provides the voice of an ancient tapestry that winds up as a rag at Moe's bar, and then gets adopted by Santa's Little Helper -- i.e., the dog, lol.  

As I read, I was also reminded of a couple of other art-related books I've read in the past -- "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt, for one, as well as certain scenes in "Killers of a Certain Age" by Deanna Raybourn. 

Overall, I wound up enjoying this book more than I thought I would.  It's a little long, and the multiple characters are hard to keep track of (albeit colourfully rendered).  It took a while to pick up some momentum -- but I absolutely tore through the last third of the book. 

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. 

ALI alert:  Annie reflects on her longing for a child versus her partner's complete lack of interest in fatherhood... and her grief when she learns he's had a child with his new partner (and has now become a doting father, of course...!) Sound familiar?  

This was Book #10 read to date in 2024 (and Book #1 finished in April), bringing me to 22% of my 2024 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books behind schedule to meet my goal.  :(   You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2024 tagged as "2024 books." 

1 comment:

  1. Oooh, sounds interesting! I love books that have great food. Where ugh, the ALI subplot... That reminds me of When Harry Met Sally (Sally's ex Joe meeting his paralegal after her).