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The Improbability of Love
416 pages; Knopf
An extraordinary chain of events is set in motion by the purchase of an old painting in a London thrift shop, which an aspiring chef named Annie intends to give to her boyfriend for Valentine's Day. Although it's covered in dust, there's something compelling about the shimmering image of a dancer being regarded by an admiring man. Could this neglected artwork possibly be a long-lost masterpiece by Jean-Antoine Watteau? Not everyone who wants to know has good intentions. Rothschild takes us into the wild world of big-money art auctions and introduces us to the oligarchs, sheiks philanthropists and, sometimes, unsavory dealers desperate to get their hands on a work of enduring beauty. The novel masterfully orchestrates a huge cast of characters, including none more endearing than Annie, who is unprepared for the scheming machinations of her new acquaintances. But the most indelible personality belongs to the painting itself. Several chapters are narrated from its point of view: "Imagine being stuffed away in a bric-a-brac shop in the company of a lot of rattan furniture, cheap china and reproduction pictures. I would not call myself a snob but there are limits. I will not converse with pisspots or faux pearl necklaces. Non!" Interweaving humor, suspense, social commentary, moral treachery and art history, Rothschild manages to land her thrilling caper with improbable grace. A captivating romp for those who like their entertainment saucy and smart.
— Dawn Raffel