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"Table for Two" | Reviewed by William Winkler

American author Amor Towles is best known for his 2019 novel “A Gentleman in Moscow,” currently appearing as a well-regarded adaptation for television.

Towles’s most recent book, “Table for Two,” is a hybrid work, comprising 6 short stories and a novella. Such a work is not unheard of. John Updike’s 2000 publication, “Licks of Love,” features 12 short stories and a novella featuring Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, protagonist of the four Rabbit novels, beginning with “Rabbit Run."

Towles’s 6 short stories, with one exception, are set in contemporary New York City and environs. The characters include a Russian immigrant who gained a significant nest egg from his willingness to stand in line for others in Moscow, a talented forger who augments the value of rare first editions by adding inscriptions from their authors, and a lonely widower who surreptitiously (and illegally) records concerts in Carnegie Hall.

The main character in each story is not who he or she appears to be. Towles skillfully peels back, layer by layer, aspects of their personalities to reveal hidden nuances of their characters.

“Eve in Hollywood,” the novella of the book’s second half, continues the story of Evelyn “Eve” Ross, an Indiana native who rose quickly to a level of social prominence in the café society of pre-World War II New York. Eve’s back story is the subject of Towles’s first novel, “Rules of Civility,” where we learn why she fled to Hollywood.

“Eve in Hollywood” introduces the reader to a more devious and crafty Evelyn, one who befriends a rising Hollywood star and helps to extricate her from a sordid blackmail scheme. This part of the book is more heavily character driven than some of Towles’s other writing, and therein lies its charm.

It is not necessary to read “Rules of Civility” to enjoy “Eve in Hollywood,” but it is interesting to compare the characterization of the protagonist in the two stories.

As Amor Towles has demonstrated in his earlier novels, he is a storyteller whose dual skills of plot development and character formation will reward the reader page after page.

         Buy the Book.


 

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