A Review of Table for Two by Amor Towles

Amor Towles hits the mark again with his newest book, Table for Two. Towles set this table with seven appetizer-sized short stories filled with spicy characters, juicy prose, and tasty plot turns. If you are a fan of Towles’ historical works (Gentleman in Moscow, Rules of Civility, and The Lincoln Highway), you will find it fun to see how Towles’ thoughtful turns of phrase and human observations work in stories set in the present day. If you were fearful that some of the romanticism the author depicts in early works would be lost without the nostalgia of yesteryear, fear not. The characters he creates for today’s world are just as interesting and memorable.

The seven short stories lead us to the main course of Table for Two–a novella that continues the story of Evelyn Ross, a key character in Rules of Civility. At the end of Rules of Civility, Eve leaves New York and disappears to California. Table picks up the story as Eve takes old Hollywood by storm.

While Eve was a bit of a tragic character in Rules of Civility, in Table for Two she hits her stride. In the story, Eve befriends a coterie of Hollywood actors, in particular, a young starlet struggling under the yolk of controlling studio bosses and a faded male lead on the tail end of a long career who is dealing with weight gain and paranoia. (I couldn’t help but picture Marlin Brando in the part.) Eve shines with beauty and smarts as she helps both her new friends navigate scandal and the shady Hollywood underworld. 

As with all of Towles's works, the character development is enough to keep the reader engaged, but in Eve’s story arc, he also creates an engaging scandal plot line that leads to a caper, leaving you cheering for Eve’s mismatched collection of new Hollywood friends.

The new insights into Eve’s personality and backstory even motivated me to go back and reread Rules of Civility with a new eye, and I definitely enjoyed it more on my second reading. If you usually savor Amor Towles, Table for Two serves up another delicious helping of his special brand of storytelling.