This story – mostly set in 1938 – was mainly engrossing but occasionally frustrating. The brilliance of the story is the way Towles captures a certain year, in a certain place, from a certain point of view. Or rather, 1938 in New York for Katey Kontent. It also captures the way that a period of time can be formative and yet have little visible affect on our lives.
That last element – the formative time with little outward influence – is something that I love to see in books. It doesn’t always make for a smooth plot, which might be why lot of narratives introduce the protagonist to people who become (as far as the reader knows) a lasting fixture in the life of the character. Here, we see all of the supporting cast gradually pass out of Katey’s life. But, by the end of the story you know that she would not be who she is in 1966 without the events of 1938.
Highly recommended if you like historical fiction that draws more on the lives of ordinary people than big events, or well-crafted character and setting-driven stories. I often reminded myself to slow down and enjoy the writing, rather than rushing through to find out what happens.
Source: my public library