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Table for Two

A magnificent short story collection

Anyone wary of short stories should put their doubts to rest and dive into the utterly magnificent Table for Two by Amor Towles. I’ve been chuckling through his stories which range from a neurotic wife convinced her husband is having an affair to a Russian peasant turned opportunistic capitalist by the Russian revolution; from a high-strung Goldman Sachs banker suspicious of a fellow concert goer to the incompetent aspiring author whose skills at forging puts him on a new career path and many more. Once again, Towles’ superb storytelling skills shine.

Most of Towles’ stories are set in the early 2000s in the Waspy, upper echelons of New York society, a milieu Towles knows well having attended Yale and spent many years as a Wall Street investment banker. He writes as you’d except the blue-blazer-and-khaki-wearing-set to talk but with a sharp eye on their morals and with plenty of sarcasm and acerbic wit.

It is hard to pick a favourite from these seven stories. I relished in them all. They reveal love, greed, empathy, compromise, moral quandaries and opportunism. But most of all, a great sense of humour on the part of the author.

In the last and longest story called Eve in Hollywood, we follow Evelyn Ross, the heroine from one of his previous books, Rules of Civility, as she embarks, somewhat spontaneously, on a life in Tinseltown. Once there, she befriends the actress Olivia de Havilland who’s in the middle of filming Gone With the Wind. Dark forces are at work to make a quick buck by threatening to smear the squeaky-clean reputation of de Havilland. Sharp-witted, street-smart Eve saves the day in this noir-ish novella.

What is so thrilling with Towles’ writing is that he seems to enjoy it so much. His turn of phrase is awe inspiring and his story telling talent rare. Enjoy!

Table for Two by Amor Towles is published by Penguin, 444 pages.

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