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Reviews for Table For Two

by Amor Towles

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Bestseller Towles (The Lincoln Highway) returns with an enchanting collection of stories about fateful encounters. In “The Ballad of Timothy Touchett,” the young title character moves to New York City to become a novelist and works in a bookstore, where his boss pays him bonuses to forge the signatures of famous dead authors in first editions of their books. The scheme pays off for a while, until Paul Auster visits the shop and spies forgeries in two of his own works. Art and crime also dovetail in “The Bootlegger,” when a Carnegie Hall concert attendee has another man thrown out for making a bootleg recording, then feels remorse after learning the man had taken to recording the concerts for his late wife when she was too ill to attend, and continued recording them after she died in order to remember her. The standout novel-length “Eve in Hollywood,” a sequel to Towles’s debut Rules of Civility, follows Evelyn Ross from New York City to Los Angeles in 1938, where she befriends film star Olivia de Havilland and has-been Prentice Symmons, and comes to Olivia’s aid after Olivia is blackmailed with nude photos. The noirish tale is rife with double crosses, exciting chases, surprising reversals, and the vivid historical atmosphere Towles is known for. The author’s fans won’t want to miss this. (Apr.)

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Towles (The Lincoln Highway, 2021) turns to short fiction in this collection of six expansive stories, ranging in setting from Russia to Manhattan, and a noir-tinged novella that takes place in late 1930s Hollywood. His captivating storytelling voice and sly sense of humor on full display, Towles tells the stories of a Russian man named Pushkin who transforms standing in line into a fine art, an aspiring novelist who discovers a gift for forgery, a larcenous retired art dealer, a father-in-law with a secret talent for disco-themed roller-skating, and more. Fans of Towles' first novel, Rules of Civility (2011), will recognize the spunky heroine of Eve in Hollywood, this collection's novella, which follows one of Rules' central characters as she moves on to a new life on the West Coast and, in a gracefully meandering tribute to the movies of the 1930s, gets wrapped up with gumshoes, evil producers, pool boys, paparazzi, has-been actors, and even the real-life Olivia de Havilland. While lighter weight than Towles' longer fictions, these short pieces are just as diverting.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Best-selling Towles will delight his fans and short-fiction lovers as he follows his guest editorship for The Mysterious Bookshop Presents the Best Mystery Stories of the Year, 2023 with a collection of his own stories.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

In his first collection, Towles sequel-izes his debut novel, Rules of Civility (2011), with a 200-page novella and adds six short fictions involving unlikely encounters and unexpected outcomes. Set in the late 1930s, the novella, Eve in Hollywood, extends the story of Evelyn Ross, nervy sidekick of Rules protagonist Katey Kontent. On a train from New York to Los Angeles, the flinty, facially scarred blond, impulsively rejecting a return to her home in Indiana, strikes up a friendship with widowed former homicide cop Charlie Granger. They meet months later in L.A. when Eve’s cutely met new friend, starlet Olivia de Havilland, is blackmailed over surreptitiously taken nude photos. In classic noir fashion, an untrustworthy man of significant girth is at the heart of the plot. The book’s other lively pairings include a used bookseller and a young would-be writer who finds his calling forging signatures of famous authors for him (Paul Auster plays a key role); a newly committed concertgoer and an older patron who drives him to distraction by secretly recording the music; and two travelers stranded at the airport who share a cab ride to a hotel, where one of them transforms from a harmless nice guy into a raging alcoholic and the other attempts to drag him away from the bar on desperately phoned orders from the man’s wife. Towles has fun leaping ahead with his narratives. In a cruel twist of fate, a peasant in late-czarist Russia pays a price for daring to profit from holding people’s places on excessively long food lines in Moscow. Towles sometimes lays on the philosophical wisdom and historical knowledge a bit, but the novella and all the stories are treated to his understated (and occasionally mischievous) irony. A sneakily entertaining assortment of tales. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.