When lovelorn Annie McDee stumbles across a dirty painting in a junk shop while looking for a present for an unstable man, she had no idea what she has discovered. Soon she finds herself drawn unwillingly into the tumultuous London art world, populated by exiles Russian oligarchs, avaricious Sheikas, desperate auctioneers and unscrupulous dealers, all scheming to get their hands on her painting - a lost eighteenth-century masterpiece called 'The Improbability of Love'. Delving into the painting's past, Annie will uncover not just an illustrious list of former owners, but some of the darkest secrets of European history - a in doing so she might just learn to open up to the possibility of falling in love again.
Apart from reading ‘The Girl with the Pearl Ear-ring’ many years ago I have not read many novels about art. Where this one differs from the aforementioned, this novel is about the mad, mad world of art acquisitions and auctions.
The improbability of love does not merely refer to artwork itself but how we find love in the most improbable of places, how it or the lack of it influences our actions and affects our lives for good or ill.
Throughout the novel we meet many interesting characters who although well written and researched but due to the sheer number of them many felt rather two dimensional. The novel had quite a few points of view which could be rather confusion but each POV was written in a different way. Interestingly enough we also get the POV of the artwork itself which was original and fascinating.
The POVs include those of wealthy society types, gallery owners, Russian oligarchs, politicians, scholar, restorers, and ‘ordinary everyday’ people. Their lives are both fascinating and on occasion heart-breaking … the lengths people will go to, to acquire an important piece of art. However, instead of being a major part of the plot; many could have merely been supporting characters as is befitting their station.
The plot was reasonably paced and suspenseful. Without giving too much away there was a mention of Holocaust/Nazi history. Although a literary work of fiction the descriptions of the art and the food draw you in and make you want to be a part of the action.
One of the main characters and the unwitting owner of the artwork was Annie who had a very dysfunctional relationship with life, love and her alcoholic mother. Yet through the novel Annie grows and develops her love of life, work and another.
This book is good albeit there were, in places large gaps in the story; and the ending felt rather rushed. There seemed to be huge gaps between some significant events near the end, as if the author had been given a page count and had to cut a lot of the novel out to achieve it.
Sometimes the novel cannot decide whether it wants to be a modern or even archaic romance, a satire of the London art scene, a cooking book, a mystery, a history of the lives who owned the painting or of art theft in Nazi Germany. Perhaps the author was trying to cover too much ground in her debut novel. All that taken together with the rather archaic/literary and foreign words used could put quite a few readers off. Thank goodness for the build in dictionary feature of my Kindle.
I think the most interesting part of the novel was the restoration and researching the history of the artwork (proving is provenance); and what this painting meant to its creator and each of its owners.
As a first novel this work is reasonably well polished although some more editing would have given it more of a gleam. I will definitely be looking for more works by this author.
Thank you Netgalley for allowing me to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Netgalley review 4 stars, Goodreads and Amazon review 4 stars