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In TABLE FOR TWO, Amor Towles detonates an atomic blast of nuclear fiction, a chain reaction of long short stories, culminating in a novella of elegance, charm and erudition.

The relevance of the title may be open to conjecture but the contents of this tome are beyond dispute. A half dozen beautifully rendered New York stories mostly circa 2000, and one intriguing Hollywood tale set at the eve of the Golden Year of 1939, suitably titled, Eve In Hollywood.

The first story, The Line, actually starts in the last days of Czarist Russia and ends in New York during the Crash of 1929. It reads like a folk tale, a fable, about a non assuming man named Pushkin, who becomes a professional proxy in waiting in lines for people.

A wry observation of bureaucratised Communism, The Line is as cheerful and chirpy as it is charming and disarming. A wonderful entree to TABLE FOR TWO and the feast that is to follow.

The Ballad of Timothy Touchett is a tour de force of a forger, a plagiarist penman adept at copying famous signatures, a felonious bunk and the book trader who uses and abuses his prodigious talent. For fans of the late Paul Auster, there’s a marvelous surprise in store.

Hasta Luego is a sobering story about an alcoholic called Smitty, the enduring support of his spouse and a narrator who gets caught up in a whirlwind rescue mission.

I Will Survive is a “path to hell is paved with good intention” story, where suspicion and concealment collide and collude to conflate a guilty secret into a full blown catastrophe.

The Bootlegger would have you conjure illicit stills and Tommy-gun spitting car chases but it’s bootlegging of a more modern meaning that spins this yarn of accusation, hubris and humiliation.

The New York section of shorter stories comes to a close with The Didomenico Fragment, a witty and erudite piece set in the arts end of the world and deals with family inheritance, fiscal integrity and the influence of role models on the young.

TABLE FOR TWO finishes with a two hundred page plus mini saga about a blackmail and extortion racket involving Olivia de Havilland at the beginning of her career. It’s an exquisite Hollywood-noir complete with an unforgettable femme fatale, a gumshoe with gumption, a fading star, and assorted studio big shots, including David O. Selznick.

Amor Towles has built a towering entertainment seven stories high, each one employing his craft of persuading words into elegant and eloquent prose.

TABLE FOR TWO by Amor Towles is published by Hutchinson Heinemann.


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