Sunday, February 16, 2020

2/16/20: Book Review – Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar with her boardinghouse roommate stretching three dollars as far as it will go when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a tempered smile, happened to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool toward the upper echelons of New York society and the executive suites of Conde Nast—rarefied environs where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. 

Wooed in turn by a shy, principled multi-millionaire and an irrepressible Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, befriended by a single-minded widow who is ahead of her time, and challenged by an imperious mentor, Katey experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life, she begins to realize how our most promising choices inevitably lay the groundwork for our deepest regrets. 

This is the second Amor Towles book I’ve read (the first being A Gentleman In Moscow) and I have loved them both. Rules of Civility, Towles’s first published novel, has a wonderful voice that carries the reader along a time in history between world wars when the country was getting back on its feet and hopes and prospects were flying high. Interesting characters, interesting times, wonderful juxtaposition between rich and middleclass. This is a great beach read, not too heavy, not at all violent, but delightfully clever, and ultimately satisfying.  

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