Earth – an Object Lessons book review

earthI loved the sound of Earth by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Linda T. Elkins-Tanton (one of the Object Lessons series published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic). Object Lessons is an essay and book series about the hidden lives of ordinary things – however, this book takes a different approach to the others. We don’t often consciously think of the earth as an object, and certainly it seems incongruous listed among the other objects in the series – Bookshelf, Egg, High Heel, or Tumour for example. Earth is more philosophical than factual, a thoroughly human depiction of the Earth in the form of letters between a planetary scientist and a medievalist.

It is rare to find a truly co-disciplinary approach to any subject, but the form of this book – a back and forth of letters/skype/FB messages between Elkins-Tanton and Cohen – allows viewpoints equal weighting of disciplines while creating an interplay of ideas. Both share a fascination with the wonder of the pale blue dot we call home, and it is a pleasure to ‘eavesdrop’ on their correspondence, which is increasingly personal as a friendship develops. This book really helped me to visualise the beauty and complexity of the Earth as they examine it from different scales and perspectives, veering off into asides on beauty, perception, creativity and the imagination. The writers describe this as a “little book about an impossibly large subject”, albeit a subject every reader will view with fresh eyes for having read it. I was expecting more facts, less philosophy (although there are some science bits) but this is my favourite of the Object Lessons series I have read so far.

Earth is published by Bloomsbury Academic. I received an ecopy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

The Improbability of Love – Book Review

improbWhen lovelorn Annie McDee stumbles across a dirty painting in a junk shop while looking for a present for an unsuitable man, she has no idea what she has discovered. Soon she finds herself drawn unwillingly into the tumultuous London art world, populated by art dealers with mixed motivations, exiled Russian oligarchs, fixers, museum chiefs and wealthy patrons all scheming to get their hands on her painting – a lost eighteenth-century masterpiece called ‘The Improbability of Love’. Uncovering the painting’s past will not only uncover an illustrious list of former owners, but some of the darkest secrets of European history… and unfortunately I can’t say much more about the plot without spoilers and I won’t do that to you!

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild has been generating a lot of buzz, increasing since its inclusion on the 2016 shortlist for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. It’s not every day that you can read a satire on the art world by a banking heiress who includes ‘Chair of the National Gallery’ on her impressive CV, and it’s hard not to wonder how many of the walk-on parts in this novel are inspired by real people. Her family also had more works of art stolen during World War II than any other (over 3000 pieces), and the reverberations of art theft in this dark era, the correlation between the possession of art and power, are felt throughout this novel. Continue reading “The Improbability of Love – Book Review”