The Improbability of Love: SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016 by Hannah Rothschild

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By Hannah Rothschild

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9 reviews


24 Jan 2018


Almost all the book group members finished this book but many felt that it was a tough one to get through with so many different characters and some confusion as to the actual story at the heart of the book. We felt that the beginning of the book was quite slow and there were a lot of unnecessary characters that caused confusion.

Many of the book group members enjoyed the bits in the book that were written from the point of view of the painting. We felt that these sections added a lot of interest to the book. We also really enjoyed the bits about painting restoration and how just five little dabs of paint can produce a whole person. We wanted more about this!

We enjoyed comparing the characters to see which was the most unlikeable amongst the "baddies" we felt that some of them were simply impassively, they just went along with things rather than tried to make things better. Whereas some of the characters were very actively bad and went about things very forcefully doing particularly bad things.

We wondered about some of the other characters like Barty. Do people like him really exist? He felt kind of like a caricature rather than a real person. We felt that although Delia and Morris were likeable they were also a little caricature like as well.

We also had a bit of a discussion about art and what it means and why it's sometimes so expensive.

Overall we gave this book 6 out of 10.

13 Mar 2017

This is a romp through the contemporary art world. I enjoyed the passages where Rothschild gives a voice to the painting - she gives a voice to history. While Rothschild obviously has an extensive knowledge of the art world and the London art scene, I felt this book fell short of its potential; the characters were more caricatures and I felt it lacked any sort of bite.

15 Jan 2017


Most enjoyed this book thoroughly and liked the painting having it's own voice. Perhaps too many characters introduced who were not developed so could be a little confusing at times. On the whole a good read Score 7 out of 10

10 Jun 2016

I read this book as part of a book group shadowing the Bailey's Fiction Prize and was a bit sceptical before reading. Despite this, I found the start of the book intriguing and I enjoyed the idea reading from the painting's point of view. Being a lover of art (I went to art school and still love visiting galleries) I was really excited to read about the history of paintings, the fictional lives of collectors and the goings on behind gallery doors. However, three weeks later and I still have not finished the book. For me this is very telling, I keep skipping chapters and mixing characters up. Unfortunately it's just not held my attention.

I think that this is due to the slow pace of the book. I have found that I only really cared about the character of Annie for much of the book and have only just begun to care about Rebecca (and I'm about 100 pages from the end). The chapters from the point of view of the painting have begun to irritate me, and I have started to just skim through them. It's a shame, I thought I was going to love this book. I will finish, I want to know what happens, but unfortunately I found it a bit of a disappointment.

On the upside, I loved the way Annie explored food and the descriptions of her meals made my mouth water!

I don't think this is a bad book. I just prefer something with a bit more pace.

Rosie, Hillingdon Library Staff Reading Group

02 Jun 2016

Ugh. This book had so much potential and there were elements I really liked but what a wind up. I wonder if people like to read books with so many peripheral characters? With so many players? I don't. I like books that hone in on a few characters closely so I can get to know them and care about them deeply. This books was too much of a romp through the high-end London art world. It read like a smarter (though just as stereotypical) Dan Brown novel. I liked the idea of the painting as a character and Annie was great - but the rest? Meh.

23 May 2016

Becky U

Tatler meets Masterchef meets Art Detective! This was a fun read but didn't believe the characters somehow - apart from the picture itself who was a brilliantly believable grumpy old snob!

Ironically for me the 'love story' between Annie and Jesse was the most improbable part of the book!

From Caroline - Houghton Book Club

17 May 2016

A well paced examination of the concept of the attribution of value. I found the ending to be a predictably tidy, happy ever after one which spoiled the book for me.

06 May 2016

St Regulus AJ

I really struggled to finish this book. The gushing cover reviews probably contributed to my difficulties as I had unrealistic expectations before even opening the book. The fictitious characters had extraordinary names, mirroring their lives, and were more cardboard cutouts than well rounded characters. The only passages that read well for me featured Annie. I was very disappointed. Perhaps Hannah Rothschild could give us a factual offering next time? Her positions as chair of revered institutions surely give her a unique position that I feel she has yet to exploit.

17 Mar 2016


I thought this was a great read - the history of the painting itself was fascinating (and that the painting was allowed a voice of its own!), but the modern story and the history of the people in the painting's life was also fascinating. Not like anything I've read before, very good!

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