In my day job I work with people struggling with addiction, childhood trauma and mental health issues. So when it comes to my leisure time, the last thing I feel like is difficult or depressing reading. Nothing will see me put a book down quicker than a blurb promising to 'explore searing emotional pain' or 'plumb the depths of human grief'.
However, I also hate crappy writing. I hate clunky sentences, ill-formed or stereotyped characters, and illogical or clichéd storylines. This creates a dilemma, as most 'serious writers' lean towards serious subjects. Far too often the choice is between painful story / good writing or entertaining story / rubbish writing.
Consequently I am always on the look-out for books that provide a rollicking story while also being witty, philosophical, clever, insightful or thought-provoking. The latest to tick the boxes was The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild.
The story revolves around the discovery of a long-lost masterpiece, intertwining the life of the troubled young woman who finds the painting with the buyers and sellers of high-price art who covet it. (I won't say any more because I HATE it when people give a spoiler-filled plot synopsis and call it a review.)
The book hosts a diverse range of characters, all vividly drawn with flaws and foibles - the kind of characters that 'leap off the page', as they say. The storyline had enough twists and suspense to have me sitting up reading much later than I should. It is a book that celebrates the importance of art while casting a cynical eye over today's art trade. And there is a very sweet love story woven in there as well. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable end-of-a-hard-day book.