“The Improbability of Love” by Hannah Rothschild, Alfred A. Knopf, $27.95, hardcover
First-time novel writing takes a herculean effort in order to be successful. Many novelists bomb on their first try. Hannah Rothschild’s book is better than most ambitiously written inceptional novels, but it still shows signs that it is a first-time work.
Rothschild’s “The Improbability of Love” introduces readers to Annie McDee, who is working as a chef for two rather sinister art dealers. Recovering from the end of a long-term relationship, McDee finds herself searching in a neglected second-hand shop for a birthday present for her unsuitable new boyfriend. She finds a grimy painting that is hidden behind a rubber plant on top of a file cabinet.
McDee plans to present the painting to her boyfriend over dinner, but he’s a no-show. The drama begins here. McDee learns that the painting is a lost masterpiece by one of the most important French painters of the 18th century. Soon McDee finds herself pursued by interested parties who would do anything to get her picture. As McDee searches for the painting’s identity, she uncovers some of the darkest secrets of European history. Also, she sees the possibility of falling in love again.
I mentioned earlier that this work was a first-time novel; however, I did not mean it in a disparaging manner.
First, the book has more than four subplots which is a lot for a novice.
The result is a novel which seems too busy. Another factor that worked against Rothschild was her use of multiple points of view. Making the painting a first-person character just didn’t seem to work to me.
As Rothschild is accomplished at other types of writing, I didn’t feel this was her best novel. I hope she stays at it, as she has much talent. Watch for her next book.