Publication Date: September 6, 2016
In The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild, Annie McDee is a chef that has had a hard time with love. Still heartbroken by the end of her long-term relationship, she takes a lover for whom she plans an elaborate birthday dinner and buys a painting. When he stands her up, she’s left with the gift which turns out to be worth a lot and sought after by some unsavory and dangerous folks. The painting takes Annie on a path leading through European history and possibly to love. The Improbability of Love was suggested for review by a member of the Rabid Reader’s Facebook page.
We know from the start that The Improbability of Love is a significant work of art. The novel opens with a very well-attended auction filled with interesting characters waiting to bid on a work of art considered significant and, for many years, lost to history. Many of the more eccentric characters found in the course of the story are placed in the prolog salivating after a masterpiece found accidentally by Annie in a thrift shop when searching for a gift for her runaway lover. The painting, of course, has a complicated provenance tied to Nazi theft of artwork during World War II.
Something is immediately clear when the reader cracks the cover of The Improbability of Love — it’s that the author knows A LOT about art and its restoration and authentication. Unusually, the more interesting parts of the story are narrated by the painting itself. If you’re not someone who has read about Hitler’s art squads and how they targeted wealthy collectors for the camps and the subsequent efforts of its heirs to retrieve their family treasures, the history in The Improbability of Love is well laid out in an interesting fashion that may lead readers to further research the topic. The novel is heavily detail-oriented so the portions that delve into the past were the draw for this history lover. Where much of Annie’s story is half-hearted, the provenance substory is clear in its direction. When Annie acquires the painting, it’s in bad shape and Jesse, an artist in love with Annie, helps her research. Annie has been traumatized by love and is in no hurry to dip her foot in those waters again and if she were ready, she’s not looking at Jesse in that way.
The weakness of The Improbability of Love is the weighty narrative. There are a lot of characters and a lot of details and much of the story feels as though it could have taken a lot of red pen without losing any of its overall impacts. The characters seeking the painting and willing to do anything to acquire it are expected. The Russian, the British peer, the American art collector and the rap artist are all the worst of their stereotypes, and while well described by the author, offer few surprises. It took a long time for this reader to become involved with the story and that’s excusing the art parties and day-to-day stuff. The Improbability of Love is a dual-story novel with one good story and another story that was significantly less interesting. It is an investment. The Improbability of Love is a novel that you’ll either love or not feel anything for as there’s really nothing to hate. In the end, I don’t care about Annie or who gets the painting. I’m not all that invested in anything but the history.
Readers picking up this novel because it’s classified as a romance will be disappointed. It does not fit the direct formula of romance and probably fits better in the literary fiction genre. It isn’t the “thinky” fiction you’d expect, but it does endeavor to make some important points in edifying the reader. There are several unlikely twists and unrealistic plot pushing turns and all culminating in an ending that was always going to happen but seems really rushed. I do realize that it sounds as though I hated the book but, honestly, it’s not a book that inspires feelings as strong as hate.
The Improbability of Love does have a number of very positive reviews on Amazon though, but if it wasn’t necessary for this reader, it filled the bill for others. Check out the blurb and if it works for you, give it a shot and let me know what you thought.
Read an excerpt and buy The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild on