This book has a little bit of everything: Murder, romance, mystery, art history, and a lot of new vocab words (Inamorata? Capacious? Bacchanalian? Prurient?). It’s not a book you can breeze through, but I still couldn’t put it down!
Title – The Improbability of Love
Author – Hannah Rothschild
Page count – 406
“The Improbability of Love” is the name of what I would classify as our main character – a painting found in a London junk shop by a young woman named Annie. The narrative structure of this book was interesting. It opens with a scene that, chronologically, belongs toward the end, and we spend the first three quarters or so of the book watching the pieces fall into place. With each chapter (and sometimes at breaks within a chapter) we get a different character’s perspective. What’s really interesting is when we see the same scene repeated, but from someone else’s point of view. It almost felt like I was watching a movie with the various perspectives and tension building at just the right pace.
My favorite narrator was the painting itself. We get to learn about its history and the intrigue of its previous owners. The painting’s voice is dignified, snide, and self-important. Here are the painting’s thoughts on its namesake:
“[Love] obliterates common sense: look back through history and consider the downright foolishness and acts of moral depravity committed in love’s name. It is destructive and a waste of time. I should know, I have witnessed enough of it.
Love can, for limited periods of time, stave off boredom and hunger but let’s not get carried away. Death is the only thing humans have to look forward to with any certainty.” (p. 230)
The author does a great job creating a sense of place throughout the story. Here’s another scene from just after Annie buys the painting (also from the painting’s perspective):
“After ten minutes of weaving through traffic, bumping into watery holes, horns bleating, men shouting, dogs barking, an endless cacophony, we arrived at a market set in a lane about thirty feet long lined with wooden tables covered with stripy awnings, glittering in the damp air and piled high with produce. Some stalls still had the remnants of Christmas lights and decorations. The air of fake cheer hung over the place like a cheap perfume.” (p. 28)