The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rotshchild
To be published: Nov 3, 2015
This book starts out at the end, then goes back six months to tell the entire story. It starts out at the auction of The Improbability of Love, a lost painting by Antoine Watteau, which may have launched the Rococo movement. It is predicted to break all kinds of art auction records with its sale. Everybody from rappers to Russian billionaires, a desperate art dealer and an American wealthy art collector are awaiting the sale. The actual story starts with Annie McDee, a brilliant but desperately unhappy chef who has come to London to forget about her failed relationship. She becomes the chef for two unscrupulous art dealers named Rebecca and Memling Winkleman, but wants more from her job. She buys the painting at a junk shop on a whim for a guy she’s been dating, but after he doesn’t show up for their date, she ends up stuck with it. Annie has to bail her drunkard mother out of jail, and ends up living with her for a while, but their relationship is less than friendly given past circumstances. While visiting the Wallace Collection with her mother, she brings the painting and it is looked at by Jesse, a tour guide, who thinks it might be more than it appears. The more she and others learn about it, the more people try to take it from her. Will Annie be able to find out the truth about the painting? Will she be able to pursue her dream of opening a historical catering company? Will the painting finally get the recognition it deserves? To find out, check out this intriguing glimpse into the London art world. 3 stars.
I originally picked this book up because I love a good book about art (being an art history major), and this one was different as it spoke through the voice of the painting itself. Just think about what a painting could tell you about its former owners, especially this fictional one as it included Madame de Pompadour, Louis XIV, Catherine the Great and the painter himself. It would make art history so much more fascinating and interactive. After the painting itself, I think my favorite character was Jesse, the painter/tour guide who really pushed Annie to do something about cleaning up the painting and getting it recognized. Annie’s character really annoyed me. She is obviously a talented chef, but completely clueless when it comes to love (i.e. the whole situation with Jesse). The double-dealing nature of the London art world, especially in relation to the Winklemans, was riveting, although I was glad they got their comeuppances in the end. I do have a bit of experience, at least from the curator point of view, as to how the art world can work as I did my first postgraduate degree in Museum and Gallery Studies. The beginning of this book was super slow and it took awhile for me to care about the main character Annie or what happened to her. The middle was much better, but I hated the tidiness of the ending.