Table for Two: Fictions

Viking. Apr. 2024. 448p. ISBN 9780593296370. $32. F
A young Russian entrepreneur, an aspiring author–turned–forger, a husband’s secret hobby, a Carnegie Hall bootlegger, and a novella of old Hollywood feature in this collection of richly crafted stories from the artful novelist who wrote A Gentleman in Moscow and The Lincoln Highway. In “The Ballad of Timothy Touchett,” a starving young novelist is persuaded by a bookseller to forge another author’s signature on a first edition of a book, increasing its value at auction. This becomes a lucrative gig for the young novelist, until he forges one too many signatures and is caught in the act. This tale, like the others in Towles’s collection, turns on a quirk of the human condition and provides readers with a satisfying surprise ending. Reading these stories feels like getting an unexpected treat with one’s afternoon tea.
VERDICT Not all novelists are good short story writers, but Towles excels with this collection. Readers unfamiliar with his novels will love these examples of his shorter fiction and they will be pure catnip to his legions of fans. Highly recommended.
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