Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rules of Civility

by Amor Towles, Viking Adult, July 2011

If you want to visit another time another place that is both romantic and sophiscated read this book

Spoilers ahead
In Amor Towles stunning first novel, rich with period detail, the elegance of New York City in the late 1930s comes alive. The story centers on Katey, Eve and Tinker, three friends. The two women are roommates in a boarding house in NYC and they meet Tinker, an investment banker, in a jazz club. The story is told by Katey in a flash back. All of the action comes in the year 1938. Katey (aka Katya) is the daughter of Russian immigrants working in the steno pool at a law firm but out to better her circumstances. Eve is a Midwestern girl, intent on making her own way rather than take money from her well to do parents. Tinker, a man of mystery, seems the very essence of an old money Ivy League WASP now working on Wall St. The trio are involved in an auto accident when Tinker drives their car into a pole. Eve is seriously injured and disfigured. While initially Tinker and Katey seem destined to be a couple, Eve’s injuries change that dynamic. Tinker and Eve travel to Florida and Europe; Katey is courted by Wallace a wealthy, idealistic, liberal intent on fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

In the retelling this plot sound somewhat insipid but nothing could be farther from the truth with this story. Katey is a strong heroine. While she is intrigued by the world of wealth and security, she sees in the upper classes she remains grounded and loyal to her upbringing. The story focuses on the choices she makes, some small some large that drive her life - quitting her job, calling in sick, getting a ride to the city from a suburban party.

All of the characters are interesting – flawed but so believable. The relationships among the three friends and some of the minor characters that are introduced are fascinating and really well told. The dialogue is witty and entertaining, reminiscent of Nick and Nora Charles! Many reviewers have noted the similarity to Fitzgerald and I’d have to agree. Pre WWII high society NYC has never seemed as alive as in this story. If you want to visit another time, another place that is both romantic and sophiscated read this book.

I read a copy of this book provided by the publisher.


Zibilee said...

I have head this book waiting in my shopping cart for about two weeks now, and all I have to do is pull the trigger. I so, so want to read this one, and have heard nothing but good things about it so far. so glad that you ended up loving it so much, and giving it such a great review! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I agree that the characters were very realistic. I am glad you liked this one as much as I did!

Carole said...

Great review - I couldn't aree with you more. This was a story that I did not want to have end. Loved the story and the characters, but what really set this book apart for me- was the writing itself. Found myself re-reading several pages just for the sheer joy of how he strung words and ideas together. I'm even more in awe to find this is a first novel by this author...will definitely be looking forward to reading more by him.