Amor Towles is a contemporary American novelist whose historical fiction has been topping charts in recent years. He’s notable for his ability to capture the spirit and emotional quality of a time and place in his novels. I think his second book in particular has the staying power and universal appeal which will make it stand the test of time.
Rules of Civility
Towles’ first book, Rules of Civility, plunges the reader into 1938 New York City nightlife. Katy, a secretary with social ambition, rides the ebb and flow of New York social life, rubbing elbows with millionaires, playboys, and beggars. A coming of age, rise and fall type of story.
I appreciate how Towles captures the spirit of his historical setting. The reader feels a part of the aimless, pleasure-seeking New York nightlife scene of the rich and troubled.
Content: promiscuous relationships, a man engaging in sexual relationships with women for their money, the main character engaging in a sexual relationship with a man she doesn’t love. Their is some explicit sexual content and some fade outs.
Recommended reading age: adult only, and you’re not missing much by skipping this one.
A Gentleman in Moscow
Simply put: I loved A Gentleman in Moscow. This one is in a whole other class than Towles’ other two novels.
This may be because it’s got a unique storyline going for it. In 1922 amidst the outbreak of the communist revolution, aristocrat Count Alexander Rostov is placed on house arrest in the attic of the Metropol, a magnificent hotel across the street from the Kremlin. The entire book takes place in the Metropol. You’ll meet an unforgettable cast of characters who live in the hotel. You’ll learn how Rostov keeps his sanity for decades of imprisonment. You’ll learn about Russian cuisine and etiquette and emotions. You’ll fall in love with the Metropol and Rostov’s adopted family there. There’s even a devious villain to hate. This is a beautiful, lyrically told, memorable story.
Content: Rostov eventually begins an affair with a famous actress. Although it’s clear they are engaging in a sexual relationship, there is nothing too explicit or offensive.
Recommended reading age: adults.
Buy it through my affiliate link: A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel
The Lincoln Highway
The Lincoln Highway is the poignant story of a wide cast of characters who are brought together in one memorable road trip along the Lincoln Highway, the first continental highway. A young man released from prison early, his bookish little brother, his estranged sweetheart, his two escaped prison buddies, their families, the drifters they meet… this book peeks through the windows of their lives in mid-twentieth century America.
This is not an easy book to read. There’s death: intended and unintended. There’s manslaughter and straight up murder and suicide. There’s mental illness and child abandonment and sin and broken families. But there’s also friendship and sacrifice and glimpses of hope. Once again, Towles manages to capture the emotional atmosphere of a particular place and time.
Content: one unfortunate (and needless) description of a “circus” at a brothel with naked women riding horses and other scantily clad women. One teenage boy tries to force another to go to bed with a prostitute.
Recommended reading age: adult only.
You may also enjoy my list Good Books for Catholic Adults.