Book Review || Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

Monday, April 11, 2022


Portrait of a Thief
Grace D. Li
12th April 2022

Oh, how I love being surprised and enjoying things so much more than I even thought! I was intrigued by the synopsis of this one - college students banding together to steal art back for the country it was taken from? Sign me up. But I also know myself, and I know I don't always like crime books - they're a bit too "gritty" for me generally speaking (says the person who revels in blood and gore in high fantasy... onwards!). When this arrived, I decided to sit down and read the first chapter or so, just to see if I felt like I was going to like it or not. And let me tell you, the rest was history.

Grace D. Li has such a lyrical and downright beautiful writing style - each chapter, and each perspective, gave these little moments of pause, where the character found themselves thinking about all manner of things, or just witnessing the unfolding of their own lives, and I was blown away by how Li was able to make me feel nostalgic or reminiscent for a life that I had never lived, and will never live. Each character is so beautifully drawn, failings and all, and don't even get me started on how well she painted each scene so that I felt like I could have been there with the characters as it all unfolded.

This story also manages to tackle big issues, like the theft of art from their countries of origin being displayed in museums and galleries where they are actually little more than the spoils of war, or items secretly stolen and yet somehow now the possessions of predominantly white powers around the world. It also looks at the experience of being the child of immigrants, or a child immigrant, and the difficulties of belonging, feeling like a part of one place, or possibly part of neither. Class, race, and even ties to family of origin and how they can get so hopelessly tangle: all are woven into this extraordinary book. I had to keep checking the author bio at the back of the book to confirm that this is a debut novel

If this is a debut, I cannot wait to see what Grace D. Li does next. I enjoyed every minute of my time with this book, and already have plans to reread it. Highly recommend.

10/10  bubble teas, ready to be drunk. (I think that may be my highest rating ever. XD)

(I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own. Thank you!!)

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