Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm
In a dusty corner of Paris, Grace works in an antique repair shop. She fixes the tiny baubles on chandeliers, the cracking of gilt frames and the prongs of antique jewelry. But Grace is not just a woman having a youthful adventure. But behind her small tools and magnifying glass, she is hiding from a devious past whether she admits it to herself or not.
It looked like something from a sidewalk sale in Garland, something that would sit next to a rack of leopard-print reading glasses. Perhaps it had once been a good example of its kind, but it was a Frankenstein piece now. The owners, entertainment lawyers in their forties, broke the teapot again and again. The first time, the bowl was cracked in three pieces; the second time it was the handle; the third, the bowl again. Why did they keep fixing it? ~Pg. 81
Grace was one of three friends/thieves who decided to rob an old museum house full of antiquities. She applied her art history knowledge from NYU (before she dropped out) to know what they should steal. Riley and Alls, her cohorts, are captured by the police but she escapes to Prague, and eventually Paris.
In the City of Light she takes on a new persona and tries to immerse herself in the antiques and repair business. But she is always looking over her shoulder. As the parole date for her fellow thieves approaches, she is even more on edge.
Grace sheds identities like it’s nothing. She is an amorphous object that slides into the suit that is required of her. At the same time, the person she was still fears revenge from the people she once knew. Like Tom Ripley, she adapts like a chameleon, even at the expense of her own self-identity. And as she swaps real diamonds for fake, facets of her true self dull as well.
The book reads easily, despite the foggy narrative aspects. It’s a compelling heist story, told from the point of view of an apprehensive thief.
Thanks to Annie from Viking for the review copy.
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult (January 22, 2015)
Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
Luke used to be an art thief, but he has gone straight. Well, sort of. He is really a war photographer based in Paris who somehow got caught up in an art heist. It started with a gallery opening and party. His friend Giselle pulls him aside to tell him A) Bergé is selling items from the art collection he made with Yves Saint Laurent; B) Their mutual friend Benoît has been kidnapped and is being held for the ransom; and C) The ransom is a particular painting that is going up on the auction block.
The novel reads like a James Bond adventure. Luke engages in a madcap exploit to steal the painting and rescue his friend. All while trying avoid the police. Even in that, the author finds moments of reflective descriptions.
After the commotion and the stress, the silent streets seemed surreal, but welcoming. It was an hour after late-night revelers tottered home and before the bakers and fishmongers got up, and more than an inch of snow had gauzed the avenues and sidewalks, absorbing every sound. The snow continued to fall, now in exhausted, featherlight flurries, making the night’s silence visible. In my twelve years of living in Paris, this was my first glimpse of a snowfall heavy enough to round the rough edges of buildings and bicycles parked on the street, snow so milky it was blue, snow like a ripped fringe of sky laid quietly over steeples and gargoyles and rusting cars, snow unsullied by the tumult of traffic and million hurrying footsteps and urinated dogs. ~Loc. 1239
In general, scenes are fast-moving and action is plentiful. The book is just plain fun. Read it for the pure romp that it is.
My thanks to Raquel for the review copy.
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Giant Publishing (July 2, 2014)
Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches