“It was the last night of 1937.”
Rules of Civility was the third book that we read for my new book group. It had a bit of a mixed review from the book group members with the majority of us liking it, and other members being a bit put off by some of the plot turns and themes, but overall I think it was a hit.
The novel is set in the late ’30’s in NYC and centers on Katey Kontent, a young, ambitious woman who lives in a boarding house with her wild friend Eve. Katey works at a law firm as a typist and goes on adventures with Eve at night. One New Year’s Eve they meet Tinker Grey who appears to have money and class – something both Katey and Eve are attracted to. When they join Tinker’s wealthy set life changes for both of the girls, tragically for Eve and advantageously for Katey. As the year goes on, Katey, who is bright and curious, makes the most of the opportunities that come her way yet endures heartache and sadness along the path to discovering herself.
The two best things about this novel are the setting and Katey. Towles conjures the allure of city with his vibrant descriptions of the buildings, the streets, the nightlife, the energy and bustle. Katey is described with the same enthusiasm. She is smart, funny, clever, sassy and self-reflective. It is a joy to watch her make her way in the world and discover who she wants to be and how she wants to live. She narrates the story and her voice is completely endearing and authentic.
The other characters are also very polished. For a debut novelist Towles does an amazing job of creating distinct and colorful people who are full of complexities. He also writes fantastic dialogue that reads like a movie from the 1930’s sounds.
This is a first-rate coming of age story with wit and intelligence. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to see what Amor Towles writes next.
For those of you who’ve read Rules of Civility, did you know that Towles wrote a short story collection called Eve in Hollywood? It will soon be available as an ebook (Thanks to Melissa from Life:Merging for letting me know about it).