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The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

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Joint Winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize 2016.

Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016.

Irreverent, witty and sharply sweet, The Improbability of Love explores the confusion and turmoil of life and the complexities of love, loss and hurt - revealing the lows to which human nature can stoop and the heights to which the soul can soar.

If you like Hannah Rothschild you might also like to read books by Ruth Gilligan.

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Following the breakup of a long-term relationship, Annie has lost all faith in men. While despondently browsing in a junk shop for a present, she plumps for a dusty old painting and finds herself inadvertently purchasing a long-lost, world-famous work by Watteau titled ‘The Improbability of Love’. All hell breaks loose when news of her purchase leaks out, and she finds herself being pursued by art dealers and collectors, all desperate to get their hands on her possession. Like the painting at its centre, this multi-faceted tale is a gorgeous rich confection of beauty, combining humour and sorrow, lavish culinary feasts, convoluted art history, tales of provenance, love lost and found, family breakups and cut-throat wheeler dealing. We are kept on the edge of our seats throughout as the life of the Watteau hangs precariously; but finally all ends are neatly tied, and heartbroken Annie realises love is still possible for her. A masterpiece!
~ Caroline White


The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

Annie McDee, alone after the disintegration of her long-term relationship and trapped in a dead-end job, is searching for a present for her unsuitable lover in a neglected second-hand shop. Within the jumble of junk and tack, a grimy painting catches her eye. Leaving the store with the picture after spending her meagre savings, she prepares an elaborate dinner for two, only to be stood up, the gift gathering dust on her mantelpiece. But every painting has a story - and if it could speak, what would it tell us? For Annie has stumbled across 'The Improbability of Love', a lost masterpiece by Antoine Watteau, one of the most influential French painters of the eighteenth century. Soon Annie is drawn unwillingly into the art world, and finds herself pursued by a host of interested parties that would do anything to possess her picture. For an exiled Russian oligarch, an avaricious Sheika, a desperate auctioneer, an unscrupulous dealer and several others, the painting symbolises their greatest hopes and fears. In her search for the painting's true identity, Annie will uncover the darkest secrets of European history - and in doing so, she will learn more about herself, opening up to the possibility of falling in love again.


'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

About the Author

Hannah Rothschild is a writer and film director. Her documentary feature films have appeared on the BBC and HBO and at international film festivals. She has written film scripts for Ridley Scott and Working Title, and articles forVanity Fair, the New York Times, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and others. Her first book, The Baroness, was published in 2012 and has been translated into six languages. She is the Chair of the National Gallery, a trustee of the Tate Gallery and Waddesdon Manor, and a Vice President of the Hay Literary Festival. The Improbability of Love, her first novel, was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick and one of the Guardian's Best Books of 2015. She lives in London. / @RothschildHan

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999


Hannah Rothschild

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