Rules of Civility – Amor Towles


Chosen by Rachel

Katey Kontent tells the story of when, in 1937, she and friend Eve met Tinker Grey in a New York jazz bar

✚ “It may have been written in 2011 but Rules of Civility has all the atmosphere and stylistic charm of the period in which it is set: 1930s New York. Jazz bars, martinis, sports cars and beautiful people make for captivating reading.

“It would at first appear that the presence of wealthy benefactors and young socialites parallels with those other famous New York novels Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Great Gatsby. But this is where the plot commonalities end and in fact Towles has done well to not borrow from these same era tales.

The narrator Katy Kontent was born Katya, the daughter of a Russian immigrant. She uses her wit and charm to work her way up the both corporate and social ladders and make the most of every opportunity presented to her. Caught up in a life of h’ordeuvres and cocktails she meets interesting characters with unusual names – Dicky, Bucky, Bitsy, Generous. Everyone is emotionally charged with a habit of analysing and voicing their inner most thoughts in dramatic style.

Most of us shell our days like peanuts. One in a thousand can look at the world with amazement. I don’t mean gawking at the Chrysler Building. I’m talking about the wing of a dragonfly. The tale of the shoeshine. Walking through an unsullied hour with an unsullied heart.

“One night at the novel’s outset Katey and her friend Eve meet Tinker Grey, a stranger in a bar. His seemingly privileged and sophisticated lifestyle is a draw card to both the girls, and it’s not long before their’ lives become linked through a series of dramatic and unforeseen circumstances.

“The result is a snappy and glamorous period piece full of friendships and covert romance that you can’t help but picture in black and white. The development of both the plot and characters is full and fast paced and constantly throws surprises at you.

The Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company & Conversation was a document written in 1595 and made known later by George Washington. It set out 110 guidelines on how to act in a civilised manner. They are actioned throughout the book, by characters eager to reinvent themselves in high society, and are listed in full as a afterword. They make interesting reading and are used effectively to unite the themes and plot lines.”

68th: Go not thither, where you know not, whether you shall be welcome or not. Give not advice without being asked and when desired do it briefly.

“The bookclubbers agreed this was one of those literary gems, rarely found, and an absolute pleasure to read.”

Published 2011
335 pages

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