To New York Times best-selling author Amor Towles, writing is a craft. Just like a great tennis player masters the skills required to execute a perfect forehand, a writer can master the craft of writing. Skilled writers never have to ask, “Should I put this in the present tense or past tense? Should this be a blunt style or a poetic style? Is this a time for a simile to be introduced or not?” Rather, with training, practice, and repeated drafts, these artistic writing decisions become second nature.
Mr. Towles is certainly a master of his craft. He constructs his stories like a great artist accomplishes a sketch; outlines of time and place are precisely drawn while the plot and memorable characters provide intricate shading. His writing is sharp, his themes are compelling, and his language is elegant. Mr. Towles’ three novels, each unique and brilliant in their own way, are certain to make it to your list of favorites. You’ll savor every line and, once finished, dive right back in to savor it all again.
Are you ready to discover Amor Towles?
About Amor Towles
Mr. Towles was born in 1964 and grew up in and around Boston, Massachusetts. He earned an undergraduate degree from Yale University and then went on to earn an MA in English from Stanford University. Writing was always what he wanted to do. In fact, when he was 10, he wrote a message, placed it in a bottle, and threw it into the Atlantic. Harrison Salisbury, the managing editor of the New York Times, found the bottle and message, and the two of them wrote to each other for many years. (Mr. Salisbury makes a cameo appearance in A Gentleman in Moscow.)
While writing was always the dream and the ambition, Mr. Towles also knew he needed to make a living. After college, he set writing aside to build an investment business with a friend and, after about ten years, picked up his pen to begin writing again. By the time he published his first book, Rules of Civility, he was in his forties, owned a home, and had a wife and two children. Having his life reasonably in order freed him to hone his craft and create a truly exceptional novel. The success of Rules of Civility made it possible for Mr. Towles to retire from the investment world and devote himself full time to writing.
I think the closest cousin to the novel in the art realm is the symphony. A novel has movements and leitmotifs. It has moments of crescendo and diminuendo. You feel a growing emotional force, and then it backs off for reflection. A work must feel cohesive and organic, and the beginning and end inform each other in a way that we can hold in our head.Amor Towles
His efforts have received universal acclaim. His novels have sold millions of copies, received numerous awards, and topped best-seller lists. Which of Amor Towle’s books will be your favorite?
Rules of Civility
Prepare yourself to enter the glittery world of Manhattan elites in the 1930s. The title of this shrewd comedy of manners comes from the Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation, written by a young George Washington.
When we meet the novel’s narrator, Katey Kontent, a daughter of Russian immigrants, she works as a secretary and lives with her closest friend Eve. At a New Year’s Eve party, the two young women befriend a handsome banker, Tinker Grey.
As a result of this chance meeting, the girls are introduced to New York society’s upper echelons, and Katey’s life takes an entirely unexpected course. She moves from her humble secretarial position to the job of editorial assistant at Conde Nast magazine. Reporting on society gossip becomes Katey’s focus, allowing her to become more familiar with Manhattan’s most privileged residents.
Katey learns that along with wealth and station come poise and civility, but beneath the polished, glamorous exteriors lie envy, aspiration, and desire. This book is smart, beautiful, and alive. You’ll be drawn in by the brilliant, luxurious writing that showcases Mr. Towles’ devotion to his craft. You’ll linger because the dialogue and plotting will have you completely entranced.
Rules of Civility is a sophisticated novel full of style and substance.
A Gentleman in Moscow
Manners play a central role in Mr. Towles’ second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow. The protagonist is Count Rostov, a nobleman sentenced by the Bolsheviks in 1922 to house arrest for life in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. His crime was seditious poetry.
The title tells you at once nothing and everything you need to know about the book. Rostov, who has never worked a day in his life, now spends his days living in a tiny attic room. While some of the most tumultuous events in Russian history create chaos in the outside world, Rostov creates peace and order in his prison just as any gentleman would.
From the outset, his life seems small and limited, but with the help of a girl with a penchant for yellow and a secret key, Rostov discovers doorways into a rich life filled with surprising adventures, emotions, and relationships. Is Rostov the luckiest man in all of Moscow? You’ll have to read the book for yourself to decide.
This novel is funny, charming, and unforgettable. It’s a little bit “great Russian novel” and a little bit Eloise at the Plaza. You will not want it to end, so be prepared to read it several times just for the sheer joy of it.
The Lincoln Highway
In 1954, Emmett was eighteen and on his way home to Nebraska from a stint at a juvenile work farm. He planned to pick up his eight-year-old brother Bill and head to sunny California to get a fresh start. His plans are completely upended when he discovers that Woolly (if you’re a Towles nerd, you’ll love that Woolly is a nephew of a character in Civility) and Duchess, two friends from the work farm, had stowed away in the trunk of the warden’s car and have arrived in Nebraska with a totally different idea of what should come next.
The action accelerates to a heart-pounding conclusion as the chapters count down from ten to one. The tale is funny, heart-warming, and exciting. Discovering what landed this merry band of travelers in custody, to begin with, is just one of the many questions that will keep you up at night reading this wonderful book. There’s much to enjoy in The Lincoln Highway.
Thoughts About the Works of Amor Towles
In Civility, Mr. Towles tells the story of one year in a young woman’s life as she tries to climb the social ladder and gain all that’s promised there. In A Gentleman, the story spans 32 years and tells the tale of a man at the top of the ladder who loses everything, including his social standing. The events in Lincoln take place in just ten days.
Time and its impact on the story are vastly different in all three books. The characters are also varied, from a young New York woman in the 1930s to a noble count in Russia to three teenagers and a young boy.
The style, structure, and tone of all these books are distinctive by their rhyme. They are distinctly Towles’ tales. Each book is deliberately constructed. No detail is unimportant, from the chapter titles to the marking of time as each story progresses (Lincoln and A Gentleman end on exactly the same date) to the selection of a narrative voice. Mr. Towles has made purposeful decisions designed to move the story forward. One thread that ties them all together is that each book, in its way, tries to uncover the ways decency, kindness, manners, and civility can offset evil and its impact at every level of society. For that reason alone, these books are worth your time. That you will thoroughly and completely love each one is icing on the cake.
Discover Amor Towles
Today is the day to pick up a book by Amor Towles. The stories have nothing to do with one another, so the order you read them doesn’t matter. Just read them. And buy your copies from Discover Books because we promise you’ll want to put flags on your favorite passages and mark the most memorable lines. With free shipping and prices as low as $3.85, you can afford to pick up all three at once.
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