Review: The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

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Read: The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

Stars: Five

Drinking: Lavazza Prontissimo! Intenso

The Improbability of Love is a sprawling novel full of intrigue featuring the seedy underbelly of London’s high art world.  At first glance, it seems like the usual contemporary fiction, but Rothschild has crafted the story so well that the reader is immersed. I only put it down with regret for work and sleep. This book has everything: Nazis, dysfunctional parent-child relationships, a sweet love story, and MI5.

What made the novel so unique from others in its class was the characters, particularly the titular painting. Found – rescued – from a junk shop by Annie, a broken-hearted chef, the painting tells us its story interwoven with Annie’s and that of Rebecca, Annie’s boss and heir to an art auction house. From the painter’s short and tragic life to Nazi looters, and royal hijinks all over Europe in between, the painting represented love to all who owned it.

She has the eye. The heart. She may be bog poor but she knows, doesn’t she? She can feel and sense my greatness. Like anyone, I need to be loved and admired.

Jesse was another character that I loved. He knew that Annie was struggling with both herself, her past relationship, and her mother. Instead of pushing her into a relationship or whining about being “friendzoned,” he accepted that Annie did not want a romantic relationship and instead was actually a friend. As an artist, he was fascinated by the painting and its mystery. He was able to put aside his unrequited romance to support Annie in solving the puzzle, even when it

The mystery part of the book was gripping as well, especially in the last twists and turns of the painting’s history. I honestly did not see the twists and turns of the last quarter of the book coming.

The Improbability of Love is a fun, lighthearted mystery. I highly recommend it.

 

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Review: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

A review of The Glorious Heresies, the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winner.

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Read: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

Stars: Four

Drinking: Raspberry Leaf Tea, Clipper

Three weeks ago, The Glorious Heresies  won the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Last week, it won the Desmond Elliot Prize for new fiction. I was unsurprised. It’s a well-written, quirky novel of the seedy underbelly of Cork. The characters are vivid, funny, and tragic all at once. However, it wasn’t “fiendishly hilarious,” as The Times claimed. The novel is dotted with funny moments, but overall it just felt more depressing than anything else.

Ryan, his father Tony, Maureen, and her son Jimmy, Tara the creep, and Georgie the prostitute are all connected by murder and the drug trade. The Glorious Heresies traces the consequences to all the characters of Jimmy’s decision to cover up Maureen’s “accident.”

I liked Maureen the best. Inside her head is a funny place to be, whether she’s accidentally killing men or intentionally setting fires. Her lack of self-awareness, despite being in her late 50s, is amusing. She finds herself back in Cork after 40 years when her illegitimate son, and now head gangster in the city, retrieves her from exile in London and puts her up in one of his former brothels. I loved her narration. She was sent away after getting pregnant unmarried, just a bit too young for the Magdalene Laundries.

Ryan, on the other hand, is the most tragic of a cast of tragic characters. His arc starts out promising, with young love. But the dark side of his life is quickly revealed – child abuse, drug dealing, rape.

McInerney handles all these heavy topics deftly. Even an astute reader might not immediately catch some of the subtle events. While it is a dark novel, it certainly is lighter than most. Even the lowest points have a grim humor. It’s not always to my taste, but I certainly appreciated the irony.

The book certainly deserved its Baileys Prize win. It didn’t hold me the way that some other novels do, but it made me think, it was well-written, and it was definitely irreverent and a bit heretical. The Church, though it guides life in Cork, is secondary to the worship of drugs and self.

I’m looking forward to McInerney’s follow up to this strong debut. Meanwhile, go pick up The Glorious Heresies.