Rules of Civility
By Amor Towles
The first novel by the author of The Gentleman of Moscow, Rules of Civility is a witty, elegant fairytale of late 30’s New York for fans of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and F. Scott Fitzgerald.Tweet
Shiver my timbers, it's a real smasher, no fakes or frauds here. Spending 1938 dashing from seedy smokey New York Jazz clubs through prohibition bars, the soaring skyscapers and out to the mansions of Long Island and the Hamptons, Katey Kontent (as in happy with life not like the list at the start of the book) is just a pill. A sparky spunky girl who seizes opportunities as they come along but with the smarts to spot what is really going on this is a breathless trip through a fantastic slice of history in the most exciting city in the world.
The writing and pace are just mesmeric, all the group enjoyed reading it and cemented Amor Towles as one to watch out for - copies of the Gentleman of Moscow are circulating the group as I type. Someone please capture this on celluloid, it would be beautiful.
“I enjoyed this simple story told beautifully which really brought to life the way young people lived in Manhattan pre-war.”
“An enjoyable account of several lives overlapping in an interesting society. Lots of lovely imagery and interesting things to think about regarding life and love.”
“Describes a year in the life of feisty women, a book that describes a particular era.”
“Well written and very cinematic, more visual than visceral. Very interesting characters the women are all strong, the men less so. I think this would make an excellent film.”
A beautifully written book that transports you to a different time and place.
Lydney WI Book Club. As a group we have not yet met to discuss The Rules of Civility. Next meeting, then more reviews will be posted. I found the book a bit difficult to get into at first, but really wanted to know more about the characters the more I read. I loved the feel of the period created in this book. By the end of the book it made me appreciate it even more. How the characters, as in real life, often move in and out of ones life. Sometimes having a great influence and at other times barely making a difference.
Elgin Library Evening Reading Group read Rules of Civility and discussed it at their most recent meeting. This title certainly triggered a lively debate. The majority of the group found the book enjoyable and liked the writing style which provided some beautiful phrases and passages. They did agree that it was akin to the Great Gatsby in the air of superficiality of the 1930s. The characters of Katey, Tinker and Eve were certainly brought to life expertly. Even inanimate objects were described in particularly detail and thought e.g. the guns at the shooting party. Some group members remarked that it read, at times, like a screenplay and they could imagine it as a film with New York as a feature or even a radio play. Some thought Katey a bit of a shadow in as much as they knew what she wore, what she ate, what she did but there was little described of her physical attributes and so they couldn’t picture her. One group member really was averse to the preface and wished it to have just been a chapter of the book. On the whole, the majority of the 13-strong group enjoyed this atmospheric book, some so much so that they immediately read A Gentleman in Moscow afterwards (and enjoyed it immensely). Rules of Civility is a book to draw discussion on so many levels, the lyrical writing, the defined characters, the complete conjuring up of 1930s New York and the moral dilemmas – a definite reading group ‘thumbs up’.
This is the review for the Hunstanworth Village Hall Book Group.
‘In a jazz bar on the last night of 1937...Katey Kontent knew: how to sneak into a cinema...steal silk stockings...type eighty words per minute...by the end of the year she’d learned how to live like a redhead and insist on the very best, that riches can turn to rags in the trip of a heartbeat, chance encounters can be fated, and the word ‘yes’ can be a poison.’
Review: Everyone enjoyed this tale of rags to riches (and riches to rags) socially mobile young people in New York City. We liked the way the author managed to make all of the characters well rounded and likeable; and the story which covers one year in a young woman's life never seemed to drag or become boring. We also felt that the period came across as being authentic (jazz age, post prohibition, pre WWII).
We'd heard that 'Rules of Civility is considered by some as a kind of cross between 'Sex in the City' and 'The Great Gatsby' and agreed in general that this was a fair comparison.
Discussion focussed quite a bit on social mobility - the differences we perceive between America and England, which also led us onto the changing role of women. This book following last month's 'Christmas With the Bomb Girls' showed a marked contrast in how different authors depict the lives of young women in that era.
Rules of Civility' 'definitely left us wanting more...we wondered what Tinker's fate was and how Eve faired in Hollywood.
Rating: Definitely not a Marmite book, We were unanimous in our enjoyment of this novel, with markdowns only because of the font/print which was dark grey (not easy to read in some lights) and lack of speech marks (although this bothered some more than others).
Overall a good 4.5 out of 5 for this well written story.
At the start I found this a difficult read but I persevered and found myself looking forward to seeing how the story progressed. A reminisence and reprise of her tumultuous 1938, Katey Kontent is a young lady of fierce intelligence who has her own ideas and her life stretching in front of her. Yes, poor decisions are made, friends come and go but through the turmoil someone sees her potential. And it will be this that sets the course of her life.
Thank you to Sarah at Hodder & Stoughton for our book group copies of
Rules of Civility.
I finished the book in a day! As did one other person in my book group.
All of my group had strong opinions of this book….they either loved it or hated it. There were more in the loved it group.
For myself I was left wanting to know what happened to Tinker and to Evie.
And how did Katey finally get together with Val? I know that it was a snapshot of only one year of Katey’s life but I was left wanting to know more….
So for me, it was an interesting read that has me looking for more books from the same author.