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Publisher's Summary

Annie McDee, alone after the disintegration of her long-term relationship and trapped in a dead-end job, is searching for a present for her unsuitable lover in a neglected secondhand shop. Within the jumble of junk and tack, a grimy painting catches her eye. Leaving the store with the picture after spending her meagre savings, she prepares an elaborate dinner for two - only to be stood up, the gift gathering dust on her mantelpiece.

But every painting has a story - and if it could speak, what would it tell us? For Annie has stumbled across The Improbability of Love, a lost masterpiece by Antoine Watteau, one of the most influential French painters of the 18th century. Soon Annie is drawn unwillingly into the art world and finds herself pursued by a host of interested parties that would do anything to possess her picture. For an exiled Russian oligarch, an avaricious Sheika, a desperate auctioneer, an unscrupulous dealer and several others, the painting symbolises their greatest hopes and fears.

In her search for the painting's true identity, Annie will uncover the darkest secrets of European history - and in doing so she will learn more about herself, opening up to the possibility of falling in love again.

Irreverent, witty and sharply sweet, The Improbability of Love explores the confusion and turmoil of life and the complexities of love, loss and hurt - revealing the lows to which human nature can stoop and the heights to which the soul can soar.

©2015 Hannah Rothschild (P)2016 Audible, Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Novel of the week. It all adds up to an ingenious meditation on the true value of art - timely indeed at a moment when paintings and sculpture seem to have become just another currency." (Mail on Sunday)
"Though this novel goes into the darkest of dark places, the overall tone is totally delicious; conspicuous consumption on this scale hasn't been seen since the Eighties." (The Times)
"Part of the novel's charm is that its characters, rich or poor, are all a mixture of frailties. Like a Rococo painting, this clever, funny, beguiling and wholly humane romance is a treat worthy of its subject." (Independent)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Entertaining, Educational, Endless Characters

I was a little overwhelmed at first with the number of players in this book but was quickly pulled into each person and painting's back story and relationship to one another.
Read this book if you have an interest in history, painting, art dealers, trust fund babies, crooks, the working poor, fine cooking and love.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Sharon
  • West Bloomfield, MI, United States
  • 02-15-17

Fun Art Story

Fun to listen bro while working. Made my day go by quickly. Loved having the picture talk to me. He was quite entertaining.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Engaging story and memorable characters

A masterpiece. It is not only the story of a beautiful painting, but also the journey of the young woman who stumbled upon it, and its effect on those around the painting. The painting is the link to all of the characters.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Storytelling at its Finest

From the very first word to the last I devoured this wonderful 'romp'. Quite apart from the first-class writing, the fantastic vocabulary and the feeling I was actually there; the narrators chosen were simply perfect. Discovering the Improbability of Love was a character made me laugh out loud. Brilliant. Please download - you'll feel better!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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a superb exciting Historical art journey

this book had me riveted from the first line.. a brilliant plot using art as the link through history . absolutely brilliant. a must for any art historian, WW2 enthusiasts and romantics!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Simply Brilliant

Masterfully painted plot - engaging, suspenseful and unpredictable with fascinating twists. Interesting array of characters with murky past on the facade of false, immaculately build perfection. Everything wrapped up in a great sense of British black humor bordering with cynicism ... Last, but not least ... the idea behind giving the painting a voice to narrate the story in the background, was simply brilliant ...

As for Love ... read the book ... well worth your time ...

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Amazing!

Omg of the best books I have listened to in a long time. I'm so sad it came to an end! Fabulous!

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Highly recommended

If you could sum up The Improbability of Love in three words, what would they be?

Mesmerizing Intriguing Artful

Who was your favorite character and why?

Dont want to spoil it. My favorite was the piece of art, lets say it lime that

Which scene was your favorite?

The banquets

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It surprised me wit the characters, I was in awe

Any additional comments?

Read it, not m typical book but I will recommend it

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Didn't like it

The premise sounded great. But boring and over the top characters. I had higher expectations.

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Weird

the narrator is good. I just really couldn't get into it. I really did, I thought maybe it will get better. I just thought the story line was strange.

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  • bookylady
  • 04-02-16

I Loved Every Minute of It. Great Characters.

Any additional comments?

This funny, moving, satirical story of love, food and good versus evil in the world of art history, art dealers, auctioneers, oligarchs, politicians and crooks is a real tonic. I laughed out loud at various points,seethed at various injustices, empathised with the love-lorn Jesse, cheered for the heroine as she found a new life and romance after the betrayal of her long-term partner and fumed about the duplicity of 'the great and the good.' <br/><br/>A surviving Nazi turned multi-millionaire art dealer hunts for a lost Watteau masterpiece, the Improbability of Love, which has personal importance and and social/moral implications for him. Its discovery in a very unexpected place triggers a story that is glorious in its complex and rich cast of characters, back stories and motivations for possessing the painting that is rumoured to bring love and happiness to its owner. <br/><br/>I really enjoyed the chapters narrated in the voice of the painting itself. That was a clever and unusual piece of storytelling.<br/><br/>The two narrators do an excellent job and make the story come alive, highlighting the comedy and the more serious elements of the plot very ably.<br/><br/>One of my favourite books of 2016 so far and I shall definitely listen to it again at some point.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Emily
  • 05-12-16

Great fun!

Page-turning story and great voice acting! I would definitely recommend if you like your fun mysteries with a dose of history and culture.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • louisa cook
  • 04-29-16

Addictive

Would you listen to The Improbability of Love again? Why?

I actually would listen to the book again as there was so many characters that perhaps I missed a few bits. To be honest I just thoroughly enjoyed it and feel slightly bereft without it.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Difficult one as the way Hannah Rothschild had written it each character had flaws and enough redeeming factors to make them your favourite.

What does Barnaby Edwards and Jilly Bond bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

I liked having two narrators and I found each of them brilliant. Definitely enhanced the book. Having it read to me meant that I could cook, wash up (oh the exciting life I lead) whilst still enjoy the story, not something you can do when trying to read a book.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There was a couple of times that I found that I had stopped what I was doing as I had teared up. I don't want to spoil it for anyone by saying when.

Any additional comments?

I followed recommendations by others on Audible by getting this book and I was very pleased that I did. I look forward to more books by Ms Rothschild and will definitely be more inclined to try other books people have recommended.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Mrs L
  • 08-13-16

Not the easiest listen, but worth it

Would you listen to The Improbability of Love again? Why?

I'd listen to this book again in a year or two. I wouldn't be keen to listen again too soon, because it felt like a bit of a marathon (it's long and quite complicated in parts) but it might be better second time around when I'd pick up on things I missed on the first listen. There's lots of detail given about lots of characters' backstories, and it would benefit me to know who I need to pay attention to and who's just an 'extra' in the story.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Improbability of Love?

The scene in the shed - so tense I almost shouted!

What about Barnaby Edwards and Jilly Bond ’s performance did you like?

The shared narration was effective, I've not listened to this type of audio before and it worked well. Jilly Bond narrated most of the characters' speech, and her voice shifted well between them so it was easy to follow who was talking.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No emotional reaction. Perhaps that's why this isn't a five star review - it was good, I enjoyed it, but it didn't affect me in a deep way. It was just a story to pass the time with.

Any additional comments?

The ending was a bit of a let-down for me, I felt like I didn't need all the information that was given (so many years into the future, presented as though they were bullet points being read) and it diluted the effect of the denouement of the main plot.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Fleetwoodboy
  • 04-28-16

artist of the other kind !!

I'm sorry to say that this was an indulgence by the author to pass on her knowledge of artists and the art world for the unsuspecting public. It became dull, boring and over long with masses of padding so in the end it lost any baring of excitement or purpose . It was clear what would happen so there we're no surprises at all.
Articulate and well read by the narrator's is the main reason I have scored this book so highly.
May I please point out that this is only one person's opinion,mine, a dit could be the right book for somebody who wishes to indulge in name dropping past art masters .

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • library
  • 04-23-16

delightful

absolutely loved this book. amazing hannah rothschild. could not put it down. very highly recommended.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Kaggy
  • 06-13-17

I know nothing about art but I liked this

I normally have a self imposed time limit tolerance of about 12 hours for my audible books so at 17 hours I thought this might be too heavy going for me. Fortunately this skipped along at a merry pace and I found myself fascinated by this convoluted tale about skulduggery in the world of art and the super-rich. Hannah Rothschild certainly seems to know what she is talking about, (which is reassuring since she is the chair of the London National Gallery Trustees) and I did actually feel I had learned a little about art and the people who make their money from it. There are many characters in the story and not all of them have much involvement in the plot, but this can be forgiven as they are so well drawn and a delight to read about. My only quibble is the ending, which drew a satisfactory conclusion but felt it was a little rushed and out of balance with a story that is so rich in detail.

Both narrators were good but I did flinch a little at some of Jilly Bond's male voices, particularly the Russian who sounded like he was struggling to speak with a mouthful of marbles. Given that Barnaby Edwards only narrated the voice of the picture, I wonder why he wasn't utilised more.

I have heard this as being likened to Dickens. In my view, with its vivid descriptions of lashings of food, I thought it was a little more like Enid Blyton for adults. There is nothing wrong with that of course!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Cynthia Curran
  • 04-04-16

This book deserves all the prizes!

This is the sort of book I revel in reading. It is intelligent entertainment of the highest order. Well-written with a compelling narrative, the novel gives the reader a peak into the rarefied world of million pound art. Along with the presentation of timeless human themes such as moral integrity, family loyalties and--of course--love, the author sheds a bit of attention on issues such as the value of art and how publicity can influence artistic significance. What a delicious pleasure this audio book is.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Lyn
  • 10-02-16

Wonderful

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I loved this book. It has everything. A story about Art and love and some WW2 history thrown in.

What other book might you compare The Improbability of Love to, and why?

Never read anything like this.

What about Barnaby Edwards and Jilly Bond ’s performance did you like?

Barnaby Edwards as the painting was superb, Jilly Bond was also very good.

Any additional comments?

I will be looking for more books by this author and narrations by Barnaby Edwards

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • A. Squire
  • 06-14-16

Improbably enjoyable

A very entertaining story, read well and engaging until the end. A perfect end-of-day read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • chris
  • 05-05-16

thought provoking

I have never been interested in art particularly, now I look at it with a whole new perspective.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-09-17

Totally enjoyable sweet escape

Rather than my usual way of using audible whilst driving or relaxing in a bath, I found myself finding time to listen to just one more chapter. The waves of historical recollection from the painting's point of view gave an added delight to the backdrop of the modern artistic perspective.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - a sweet combination of romance fiction, thriller and historical memoir.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-21-16

Good story disappointing narration

Would you try another book written by Hannah Rothschild or narrated by Barnaby Edwards and Jilly Bond ?

Hannah Rothschild yes, Barnaby Edwards yes. Jilly Bond no.<br/>

What did you like best about this story?

The many varied characters and the knowledge of the author.

Would you be willing to try another one of Barnaby Edwards and Jilly Bond ’s performances?

I didn't enjoy Jilly Bonds narration. I felt as if it would be more fitting in a comedy, she did not suit this story. For Barnaby Edwards I would be willing to listen again.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-04-16

so disappointed

Was great story being built up. then dreadful cop out ending. what waste of time

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  • Karon West
  • 09-25-16

Awesome read

Loved the concept of this entertaining book. One for historians and art lovers alike.
The performances were outstanding making the characters come alive.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful