I like reading about New York during the late 1930s. It is always interesting to think of parents and grandparents who lived through those times. It’s only natural to cheer for Towles’ young characters as they search for love and success in Post Depression New York. I think Towles’ use of the Walker Evans Subway photographs is a clever way to start the story. Likewise, using young George Washington’s Rulebook is a nice way to explain Tinker’s actions and tie together the theme of the story.
Towles had a good idea, throwing together Katey, Eve and Tinker. It’s fun to watch the sparks fly as they get to know each other and form alliances. But as the storyline develops, something goes wrong with its telling. I can’t help thinking that the author has tried too hard to recreate a Gatsby-type environment and the result is the unfortunate comparison. It’s not quite the same, kind of like how RC Cola just isn’t the “real thing.”
In addition, I found Katey’s character to be unrealistic, and, perhaps because of the author’s choice of first-person narrative, too masculine. It also would be nice to read, for a change, about someone who doesn’t effortlessly vault herself to the top of her field and high society. Just how is it that Katey is so well-read, so self-assured, so refined, given her modest and unrefined background?
Some other points:
Ann Grandyn’s character is an interesting twist, but the “shocking” discovery of her relationship to the characters is anything but surprising.
Eve’s departure from the story is disappointing. I think her character has more potential than Katey’s.
I like Wallace, and think he also would make the story better with more character development. In addition, Hank Grey is interesting, but his introduction to the story is confusing. It’s hard to understand how Katey has any relationship with Hank, just because of a chance meeting in a bar and despite her relationship with Tinker.
I find the end of the story to be unsatisfying. Tinker’s demise needs more explanation, and the scene between Katey and Ann is too stiff to be believable.
My final gripe is on page 137: “Forgive my wife and I…” Bad grammar – should be “Forgive my wife and me…”
All in all, light and easy reading and entertaining because of that.
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