'Achingly stylish' Guardian
'Irresistible' Daily Telegraph
'Gripping' The Sunday Times
In a jazz bar on the last night of 1937,
watching a quartet because she couldn't afford to see the whole ensemble,
there were certain things Katey Kontent knew:
the location of every old church in Manhattan
how to sneak into the cinema
how to type eighty words a minute, five thousand an hour, and nine million a year
and that if you can still lose yourself in a Dickens novel then everything is going to be fine.
By the end of the year she'd learned:
how to live like a redhead
and insist upon the very best;
that riches can turn to rags in the trip of a heartbeat,
chance encounters can be fated, and the word 'yes' can be a poison.
That's how quickly New York City comes about, like a weathervane, or the head of a cobra. Time tells which.
'A delicious and memorable novel that will leave you wistful - and desperate for a martini.' Stylist
'Elegance and hardship drip off the page' Daily Mail
In his smashing debut, Towles details the intriguing life of Katherine Kontent and how her world is upended by the fateful events of 1938. Kate and her roommate, Evelyn Ross, have moved to Manhattan for its culture and the chance to class up their lives with glamour be it with jazz musicians, trust fund lotharios, or any man with a hint of charm who will pay for dinner and drinks. Both Kate and Evelyn are enamored of sophisticated Tinker Grey, who they meet in a jazz club; he appears to be another handsome, moneyed gent, but as the women vie for his affection, a tragic event may seal a burgeoning romance's fate. New York's wealthy class is thick with snobbery, unexpected largesse, pettiness, jealousies, and an unmistakable sense of who belongs and who does not, but it's the undercurrent of unease as with Towles's depiction of how the upper class can use its money and influence to manipulate others' lives in profoundly unsavory ways that gives his vision depth and complexity. His first effort is remarkable for its strong narrative, original characters and a voice influenced by Fitzgerald and Capote, but clearly true to itself.