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 secondhand 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 18th 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.
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.
©2015 Hannah Rothschild (P)2016 Audible, Ltd
"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." (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." (Independent)
Bookworm, librarian, chocaholic. Give me a good book, a bar of chocolate and a glass of fine wine and I'm a happy lady.
This funny, moving, satirical story of love, food and good versus evil in the world of art history, art dealers, auctioneers, oligarchs, politicians and crooks is a real tonic. I laughed out loud at various points,seethed at various injustices, empathised with the love-lorn Jesse, cheered for the heroine as she found a new life and romance after the betrayal of her long-term partner and fumed about the duplicity of 'the great and the good.'
A surviving Nazi turned multi-millionaire art dealer hunts for a lost Watteau masterpiece, the Improbability of Love, which has personal importance and and social/moral implications for him. Its discovery in a very unexpected place triggers a story that is glorious in its complex and rich cast of characters, back stories and motivations for possessing the painting that is rumoured to bring love and happiness to its owner.
I really enjoyed the chapters narrated in the voice of the painting itself. That was a clever and unusual piece of storytelling.
The two narrators do an excellent job and make the story come alive, highlighting the comedy and the more serious elements of the plot very ably.
One of my favourite books of 2016 so far and I shall definitely listen to it again at some point.
I actually would listen to the book again as there was so many characters that perhaps I missed a few bits. To be honest I just thoroughly enjoyed it and feel slightly bereft without it.
Difficult one as the way Hannah Rothschild had written it each character had flaws and enough redeeming factors to make them your favourite.
I liked having two narrators and I found each of them brilliant. Definitely enhanced the book. Having it read to me meant that I could cook, wash up (oh the exciting life I lead) whilst still enjoy the story, not something you can do when trying to read a book.
There was a couple of times that I found that I had stopped what I was doing as I had teared up. I don't want to spoil it for anyone by saying when.
I followed recommendations by others on Audible by getting this book and I was very pleased that I did. I look forward to more books by Ms Rothschild and will definitely be more inclined to try other books people have recommended.
I'm sorry to say that this was an indulgence by the author to pass on her knowledge of artists and the art world for the unsuspecting public. It became dull, boring and over long with masses of padding so in the end it lost any baring of excitement or purpose . It was clear what would happen so there we're no surprises at all.
Articulate and well read by the narrator's is the main reason I have scored this book so highly.
May I please point out that this is only one person's opinion,mine, a dit could be the right book for somebody who wishes to indulge in name dropping past art masters .
I'd listen to this book again in a year or two. I wouldn't be keen to listen again too soon, because it felt like a bit of a marathon (it's long and quite complicated in parts) but it might be better second time around when I'd pick up on things I missed on the first listen. There's lots of detail given about lots of characters' backstories, and it would benefit me to know who I need to pay attention to and who's just an 'extra' in the story.
The scene in the shed - so tense I almost shouted!
The shared narration was effective, I've not listened to this type of audio before and it worked well. Jilly Bond narrated most of the characters' speech, and her voice shifted well between them so it was easy to follow who was talking.
No emotional reaction. Perhaps that's why this isn't a five star review - it was good, I enjoyed it, but it didn't affect me in a deep way. It was just a story to pass the time with.
The ending was a bit of a let-down for me, I felt like I didn't need all the information that was given (so many years into the future, presented as though they were bullet points being read) and it diluted the effect of the denouement of the main plot.
I loved this book. It has everything. A story about Art and love and some WW2 history thrown in.
Never read anything like this.
Barnaby Edwards as the painting was superb, Jilly Bond was also very good.
I will be looking for more books by this author and narrations by Barnaby Edwards
Found the speaking painting annoying but at the end could see the relevance to the main message behind the story. Went on too long with too many characters. Still glad I stuck it out.
"A good read but a terrible female narrator"
The story line is interesting. Light, but interesting. There is a lot of background information about art and the art world as well. The author, a member of the famous banking family, is the chair of the National Gallery and a trustee of the Tate in London, so she knows whereof she speaks. I found it an enjoyable read with a bit of an educational bonus. Win-win.
Barnaby Edwards was excellent.
Jilly Bond was so terrible that I almost returned the book within the first hour of listening. Her reading voice is fine, but when she speaks for the characters, it's so grating (especially Annie's mother and the Lifestyle Sylist) to the ear that I had to turn the volume way down. Harsh and cartoonish all at once. At first I thought she was kidding, affecting some of those voices. Sadly she was not. She ruined what otherwise would have been a good audiobook experience.
I never write reviews; this is my first one, but I felt duty bound to give fellow listeners a heads up about that awful female narrator. I hate to be mean, but I wish someone had warned me before I spent a credit on the book. I would have bought the Kindle edition instead.
"Entertaining, Educational, Endless Characters"
I was a little overwhelmed at first with the number of players in this book but was quickly pulled into each person and painting's back story and relationship to one another.
Read this book if you have an interest in history, painting, art dealers, trust fund babies, crooks, the working poor, fine cooking and love.
"Storytelling at its Finest"
From the very first word to the last I devoured this wonderful 'romp'. Quite apart from the first-class writing, the fantastic vocabulary and the feeling I was actually there; the narrators chosen were simply perfect. Discovering the Improbability of Love was a character made me laugh out loud. Brilliant. Please download - you'll feel better!!
"a superb exciting Historical art journey"
this book had me riveted from the first line.. a brilliant plot using art as the link through history . absolutely brilliant. a must for any art historian, WW2 enthusiasts and romantics!
"Desperate to Like this Book!"
I have invested 1 precious credit and quite a number of hours and want to love this book...actually simply liking it would be fine. I typically enjoy tales about art and the "world" of art and the premise of the story is relatively interesting - although too much time is spent by the author pointing out the characters' natures and peccadillos rather than simply letting them come alive. But what is becoming an impossible hurdle is the female narrator who infuses every word, every syllable with her own commentary through an obnoxiously "knowing" inflection and unwelcome archness that spoils all possibility for Ms. Rothschild's story unfolding in the minds and hearts of her readers. I am not entirely sure my need to discover how the tale resolves is strong enough to continue to listen to what might have been an enjoyable experience being spoiled with every spoken word.
Perhaps - with a well chosen narrator. Susan Lyons or Jill Tanner might have lent the right tone and been able to provide vocal variations for the characters without getting in between the listener and the author.
More than detracted, sorry to say! Got entirely in the way!
It may well have...hard to know unless I try it in print!
My sympathies go to Ms. Rothschild
"Art cooking and sculduggery - what could be better"
This book was performed beautifully. I was captured from the beginning. The long list of characters was a bit confusing but it didn't matter as the story kept me enthralled. Loved it.
Very enjoyable story but the reader varied the volume of her voice so much that I had to keep turning the volume up and down. Some parts were impossible to hear with background noise, like while driving. It's a great story, especially for art lovers, just listen in a quiet place.
"Good book - no so good reader"
The female reader's vocal choices were foolish for many of the characters. It distracted from the story. I had to rewind in order to understand what was being said. I wonder if my opinion of the story would be greater if the reader was different.
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