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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Library Love

Libraries are magical places.

The renovated branch of my hometown library [source]

Drinking: Royal Breakfast, The East India Company

The local library was my favorite place as a kid. I got my first library card at 5 and rode my bike there almost every weekend to check out as many books as fit in my backpack. At the time, our branch was in a small space in a shopping center. Now, it’s the light-filled building above.

As a shy and anxious child, the library was my refuge. I could live hundreds of lives without worrying about impressing anyone, saying the wrong thing, or saying anything at all. It was a way to read new releases or classics without depleting my small allowance. It was a chance to find new worlds to live in. I relished summers when I could win the reading challenges and spend days reading outside. I learned so much from the pages of the books I checked out, even if I didn’t always understand it. It was at the library that I found Redwall. I went to boarding school with Camilla and camping with the Austens.

Since then, I’ve had a library card in every town I’ve lived. The library is one of the first places I look for in a new neighborhood. In a place where I don’t know many people, a library is a magical place filled with all my old friends as well as new friends to discover. It’s full of adventure, good food, and many laughs. I know that I can stop into a library anywhere and be at home. One of the best volunteer gigs I ever had was at a library reference desk on Saturday mornings. It was wonderful and relaxing to be surrounded by knowledge on a regular basis.

These days, I don’t get to my local branch often, but I still check out books constantly through Overdrive. I love that even when I can’t go in person to enjoy the atmosphere, I can still take advantage of it. Just like when I was a kid, I check out too many books and then can’t read them all before they are due. With ebooks, though, I appreciate having no fine since the book is automatically returned. I’ve only bought a few books, mostly cookbooks, after checking them out from the library. I love that even when I can’t go in person to enjoy the atmosphere, I can still take advantage of it. I have always been one to share books, to push the great book I just read onto others. With the library, I know that the book will be there if I want to re-read or share it, but meanwhile, someone else can enjoy it.

I’ve already located the library nearest to where we are moving next. I think it’s gong to be our first stop after dropping off the suitcases. I can’t wait to take my son to the storytimes and help him pick out new books for us to read together.

By the way, your library doesn’t just have books. Our local library has so many other benefits: computers, free wifi, English, French, and Spanish discussion groups, classes on technology, sites for ebooks, for language learning, and for music. It helps job hunters, people doing taxes, and students doing research.

The library is a community resource, and the library is home. I can’t wait to find my new home in my new city.
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Review: The Book Thief

It’s an amazing book. (I did not cry. But only because I was on the metro while I read it.)

The Book Thief Cover

Read: The Book Thief by Maurice Zusack

Stars: Five

Drinking: Winter Spice, Twinings

I can’t believe it took me this long to read this book. I’ve seen it everywhere, it was made into a movie, and it’s about World War II – one of my favorite subjects. It’s been on my TBR list for years, but I never quite got to it. I’m glad I finally did. It’s an amazing book. (I did not cry. But only because I was on the metro while I read it.)

Death and Liesel Meminger meet for the first time when she is ten. Her brother dies before her as they are taken to a foster home outside Munich. Luckily, her new parents, especially her new Papa, are very understanding. She becomes a part of the vibrant community around her. But since they are in Germany in the late 1930s, Death and Liesel meet again many times. Between their meetings, Death keeps an eye on her and follows her book-stealing and reading career.

I love Death’s quirky narration. Despite the dark setting of the story and the grim nature of his work, the narration is friendly and reassuring. I was so absorbed that the ending took me by complete surprise, despite overt foreshadowing. Liesel, her Mama and Papa, her best friend Rudy, and all of the other residents of their small community are so vibrant and full of life. You feel like you are in the basement with them listening to Liesel read her stolen books during air raids.

The darker theme of the book is, as with many books about World War II, what happens when good people do nothing in the face of evil and intolerance. The town is within walking distance of Dachau, a labor concentration camp. Jews are paraded through the streets on their way to the camp. The one man who stands up to the inhumanity and offers a small gesture of kindness is punished. It’s a side story to the Book Thief’s main story, but one that Death muses on often. It felt a bit heavy-handed compared to the rest of the narrative.

I highly recommend The Book Thief. I can’t wait to see the movie. A warning, though – it is considered experimental fiction and the narration by Death is not for everyone. But if you want a great story about love, family, death, and reading, give it a try.