My initial, but not my final, impression of this book was of a meticulously researched and carefully mannered romp. It's New York, 1938, and we start with two plucky and penurious heroines, one of whom is the narrator, making their way in the world. One finds her fortune and one finds her career, through the fulcrum of a wealthy young man who launches them into high society. (I am trying to avoid spoiling the plot, which is ingeniously constructed). For the first eighth of this book, Towles spins along on description and the introduction of characters. For a reader, the experience is like watching a black-and-white movie starring Carole Lombard AND Myrna Loy -- furs and jewels and snappy dialogue. The story deepens quite suddenly and absorbingly -- one really wants to know what happens next -- and doesn't let up until the last page. But for me, the real virtue of this book is the way the character of the narrator develops. This young woman comes into her own for the reader just as she does in her life, and proves to be both adept and charming in a completely unpretentious manner. I was very sorry to say goodbye.
living in los angeles I drive a lot, so audio books save me from a lot of frustration!
It took a while for me to warm up to this novel, but having finished it, I've come to the conclusion that its brilliant, despite the fact that the main character does seem a bit male for a woman. It appears to me that the author made a deliberate choice not to include her feelings, but his narrative skills make up for it. He's captured a time that has great appeal and glamor, and it all ties up expertly in the end.
I really enjoyed the tone of this book. The author brougth the city to life in it's pages. You could just picture these girls out and about around town just trying to figure it all out. I love this story of just an average girl who is anything but. I also like the little attention to detail that help you to conjure what life was like in NYC during the late 30's.
Based on the glowing reviews, I couldn't wait to download Rules of Civility: A Novel. Didn't take long to grasp that while the author had the skill to take the reader to another time and place, she couldn't deliver characters to care about, a plot, or anything that made me want to read on. Stuck to this book out of stubborness. About an hour from its end, it drones on in my ear as I type this. I wanted to like this book, and am sad that I can't recommend it to anyone.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
There's something about this book that reminded me of "Special Topics in Calamity Physics." The literary references don't populate every sentence, but there's certainly a marked respect for the great writers of the past. This is a satisfying listen. Though I've read a ton of historical fiction, I had never really contemplated the life of an "ordinary" woman in late 1930's NYC. As a warning, it might take a few minutes to get used to the narrator. She doesn't add anything to the story, but she stays out of its way and doesn't harm it.
In the first few minutes I had reasons to eagerly anticipate this book. Sadly, it never lived up to my expectations. What was apparent to me is that the author lacked the grasp of what the 1930s were truly like, and, after the first anachronism ("para-legals" in 1938? They were still just "secretaries"--not even "assistants," as many are called now), I lost faith in the story as well as the Main Character, who told the story. Very much needed: fully fleshed out and believable characters throughout. Listing the "Rules" at the end? Silly. Even sillier that it was actually read aloud.
In the Audible Editor's review and the Publisher's review, Katy Kontent is portrayed as a scheming, wise-cracking social climbing legal secretary in the 1930s. I must have read a different book. Yes she is looking for a better life and she is socializing in the upper echelons of New York society but that seems to be more by circumstance than design. Maybe the editors were judging her by the company she keeps but in doing so, they missed the boat.
Kontent is a legal secretary from a Russian immigrant background who has a far more insightful, thoughtful view of life than the empty socialites in her crowd. In that context she is a far more interesting character than portrayed.
This is one of the best books on tape I've purchased. It was beautifully written and narrated and I found it surprising that one reviewer dismissed it as "overwrought" - I disagree completely with that assessment. The imagery is beautiful and while some of the dialogue between her socialite friends is a bit superficial and silly, it was probably very accurate for that time in history and was a perfect frame for Kontent's own quiet and thoughtful demeanor.
Absolutely one of the best books I've "read" in years.
I really enjoyed reading Rules of Civility. It seems like it would make a great movie that I would jump to see. The novel is really a great description of life in Manhattan in 1938. I loved the way the author brought in so many little details about music and books and movies that are our legacy from that period of time.
Also, the story is a good one. It has a lot of tension built in about what is going to happen to the main character Katy and her roommate, Eve. I like the way the book opens when Katy is a grown woman looking back at that year in her life. It is an opening that adds to the dramatic tension because the reader really wants to know about this T. Gray fellow she sees in the photos in the exhibit she???s viewing in the beginning. Right now it???s reminding me of the opening of The Kitchen House, which is really an event at the end of the book chronologically, but it makes you wonder all the way through about the explanation for that event. That???s a good literary device!
Another fun thing for me about the book is all the ways that it evokes The Great Gatsby. It is fun to try and figure out all the various comparisons. And there are quite a few other literary references, too, that I loved. Thoreau, Ulysses ("Yes, yes, yes..." ), Dickens... and more.
I would have given it 5 stars except for me the middle section of the book seemed to go on too long or sort of languish in details and a string of unrelated events. The book is basically covering only a period of one year. In the middle it seemed to me like several years had gone by because of this string of events. These events were interesting, but I just didn???t think they worked toward moving the plot along. The book picked up again, however, and had a satisfying latter half and ending.
Love to read, and Audible has made the two-hour daily commute enjoyable!
A middle aged couple walking through a photography exhibit at MOMA in the 1960's when the wife is surprised by two photos of a friend from years ago. The rest of the book is a flashback for Katey Kontent of a golden, fast, sophisticated, pivotal year of her life.
Wonderful characters (Katey, Evelyn Ross, Tinker Grey, Wallace, Anne Grandon, and many more). This novel is fabulously visual and with a tapestry of places, characters and books.
Rebecca Lowman's narration was spot on. Many driveway moments with this book. I can't wait to see what Towles writes next.