How you feel about The Improbability of Love (November 2015) may come down to your thoughts about a sentient and snobby three-hundred-year-old painting willing to tell you its secrets. The painting is but one of many narrators in this witty, satirical, and scathing look at the international art market.
Annie McDee is the babe-in-the-woods protagonist—heartbroken, woefully underemployed, and determined to live an independent life. She manages to do what every Antiques Roadshow viewer dreams of—finding a potentially important painting in a junk shop. She makes a piddling effort to discover the painting’s authenticity. Instead, she is focused on getting her deadbeat mother out of her life and creating a masterpiece of a dining experience for her wealthy employers and their friends. Success here may provide the ticket out of her lonely life.
Rothschild skewers the machinations of the art world through London auction house owner Memling Winkleman and his over-the-top pandering to the wealthy. His targets are easy, collectors for whom art is a commodity, proof of their wavering self-esteem and social standing. When Annie’s painting goes up for auction, all of the world’s crème de la crème intend to secure the winning bid, even it means bankrupting a country. But it goes missing before the hammer drops.
There is an underlying seriousness as Memling’s daughter, Rebecca, discovers secrets about her father and must decide whether he and the family’s reputation are more important than truth and justice.
At one point, the painting refers to itself as a high-class first degree romp. That’s a wonderful description of this enjoyable book. Having spent decades involved in the art world, I could only nod my head in agreement at the insanity Rothschild has portrayed. This is a fun one.
Reviewed by Carol Malkin
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