Hannah Rothschild’s tale of art, love and deception

Written by admin on 05/07/2018 Categories: 南京夜网

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild.
Nanjing Night Net

La Surprise 1718 , by Jean-Antoine Watteau (French, 1684-1721).

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild.

La Surprise 1718 , by Jean-Antoine Watteau (French, 1684-1721).

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild.

La Surprise 1718 , by Jean-Antoine Watteau (French, 1684-1721).

THE IMPROBABILITY OF LOVE Hannah Rothschild Bloomsbury, $29.99. Buy now on Booktopia

Hannah Rothschild’s debut novel is a savage satire on the art world and she is about to become the first woman to chair London’s National Gallery, so her reputation is on the line. She must get it right.

This is a tale of love and deception, which opens when Annie, dumped by a long-term lover, comes to London to start a fresh life. She buys a grimy painting from a junk shop for her new boyfriend, who stands her up and, in despair, she takes on the job of cook to the most powerful family in the British art world. And it’s here the expose begins, with Annie tracing the provenance of 18th-century Antoine Watteau’s The Improbability of Love (the title is invented, the author confesses).

Rothschild uses her own experiences as art trustee, biographer, screenwriter and film director to reveal the skulduggery going on in the top end of art auction houses and galleries, riddled with crooked dealers, fakes, dodgy attributions, and so on. This opens the door to a cartload  of dangerous characters – exiled Russian oligarchs, avaricious sheikhs, English aristocracy (Rothschild comes from a rich European dynasty and has personal input). It makes a zippy story and one Annie is embroiled in with various blood-curdling moments. As well, she has an alcoholic mother, Evie, who has problems with the law, and a romantic pursuer, Jesse, to whom she shows little interest.

Rothschild juggles the chaotic plot superbly, except for irritating moments when the painting is allowed to speak (“if it could, what would it tell us?”); but that grows on the reader, so don’t despair. Her revelations of the art world are scary and enough to put anyone off buying a piece of art ever again. Who knew auctioneers bid against themselves? And telephone bidding is rigged? I’ll reveal no more.

The result is compelling reading, driven by the desire to know what happens next and along the way there are some hearty laughs at people’s terrible behaviour. Rothschild brings together the loose threads in what can only be described as a James Bond ending, as one critic put it and I have nicked, with grovelling thanks.

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