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The Improbability of Love: SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016 Paperback – 31 Mar 2016

3.8 out of 5 stars 284 customer reviews

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Frequently bought together

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks; 01 edition (31 Mar. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408862476
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408862476
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 3.3 x 13.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (284 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

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 )

A frolicsome art-world caper . Ms. Rothschild writes with such exuberance and spins such a propulsive yarn . Her erudition - about restoration, authentication, art history in general - comes through on page after page, and it's one of the incidental pleasures of reading The Improbability of Love, as are her mouthwatering descriptions of the feasts Annie makes (New York Times)

Review

'A frolicsome art-world caper. Ms. Rothschild writes with such exuberance and spins such a propulsive yarn. Her erudition comes through on page after page, and it's one of the incidental pleasures of reading The Improbability of Love.' (The New York Times)

'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.' (The Daily Mail)

'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.' (The Times) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The novel begins in 2014 with the impending sale at a London auction house of a small painting by Watteau which is expected to break all records. We find that this painting had been bought from a junk shop for £75 by Annie McDee; and much of the story is about how the painting got to the junkshop and then from there to the auction house – a journey that, in its later stages, involves ruthless wickedness, deceptions, a suicide and two murders. Its earlier stages - how it had passed through many owners, from the famous to the obscure and from the 18th century through to the Second World War - are revealed by the painting itself, for there are several chapters in which the painting addresses us directly.

Annie had moved from Devon to London after the break-up of a fourteen-year-long relationship and is desperately lonely. She is also temporarily putting up her alcoholic mother whom, not for the first time, she has rescued from a police station; but when she is sober, she is a shrewd and perceptive woman.

Annie’s hobby is inventive cooking and she has a temporary job as a cook for a couple at an art gallery. When the gallery is giving a large dinner party in connection with its attempt to sell a Caravaggio, Annie researches and prepares the kind of meal that would have been served in Caravaggio’s time; this in turn will lead her to be invited to do the same for an art historian whose speciality is Watteau, and it involves her in creating a menu such as would have been served at Louis XIV’s court.

The novel is something of a potpourri: though well written, many of its scenes are well away from the main plot.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was bound to be a popular best-seller featuring as it does all the most glamorous passions of popular media: rich titled people, fashion,celebrities,cooking,art sleuthing, movies, unbelievably rich Russians, power, threat,love conquering adversity,London property, mystery,rags to riches,who dunnit, WW2, and so on.
It set out to tick all these boxes and does it with gusto.That it is written by someone with the name of Rothschild gives it an instant seal of authenticity. I really enjoyed it!
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I read this book as part of my book club. The mixture of art world, gourmet food with crime and World War II makes this book appealing to everyone. I am looking forward to reading more books by Hannah Rothschild.
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Only at 13% and am afraid I've already lost interest; I think I lost interest a while ago... Too many characters introduced all at once. Predictable descriptions and poor dialogue. How it made the shortlist of this prize is beyond me. Wish I could return it - I only tried it because I was going to go to a book club and that was their book for the month. Couldn't get there in the end; I wonder what they all made of it?
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The art market shenanigans are laid open in this book which is in turn funny and sad. It is a real page turner and the characters are larger than life. It is slightly surreal though I was not entirely convinced by the painting's own voice - you will have to rad it to see what I mean!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A lively book with inside knowledge about the art world. Did not like the moi device - the picture talking. I found that rather annoying though I understood that it served a purpose. The book could have been pared down a bit in places. Enjoyable without being memorable.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
bought this for my daughter she loved it
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A wonderful book..on so many levels,and very amusing at times,with dark undercurrents of the art world.
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