Amor Towles is approaching 50 and making a living as a principal at an investment firm. One wouldn’t expect his debut novel to be told from the perspective of a wise-cracking young lady of 25, but Towles is good at surprises. Katherine Kontent (“like the state of being”) is a legal secretary trying to climb the social ladder and squeeze all the juice out of Manhattan. She is the only slightly less seductive sidekick to Eve, who leaves her wealthy family behind to act like a mash-up of Christopher Isherwood's Sally Bowles and Truman Capote's Holly Golightly. It's the Upper East Side in the winter of 1939 — ripe for ripping off F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway or whatever writer you prefer from the era of roaring alcoholism, but Amor Towles doesn’t take the bait.
Neither does narrator Rebecca Lowman, who has good fun with the zippy dinner conversations while managing to keep Kate's sporting sense of dignity intact as both lovers and day jobs threaten to collapse her up-and-comingness. Lowman, who has a long string of television series bit parts from Will & Grace to Law & Order to her credit, slips easily into the everywoman role and adds notes of believable determination to our heroine's struggle for better circumstances. Who will marry Tinker Grey and who will get the promotion at Conde Nast are interesting plots, but none of this is the surprise - the plot surprise is all the more devastating. Towles gives us some glitter, but he doesn't gloss, and that is the biggest surprise. The women in this book are fraught with the tremendous burden of appearing charming but unintelligent, and Lowman lets in enough sharp tones to give their dilemmas and revelations a substantial bite. Towles has fleshed out these familiar archetypes in a unique direction, so much more rich and thick than the flat characters with which novels of this time period are usually laden. Megan Volpert
The New York Times best-selling novel that "enchants on first reading and only improves on the second" (The Philadelphia Inquirer).
Features a sample chapter from A Gentleman in Moscow, the highly anticipated new audiobook from Amor Towles - available fall 2016.
This sophisticated and entertaining first novel presents the story of a young woman whose life is on the brink of transformation. On the last night of 1937, 25-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey into the upper echelons of New York society - where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve.
With its sparkling depiction of New York's social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.
Hear why Rules of Civility is Our Book of the Summer.
©2011 Amor Towles (P)2011 Penguin
Yes! The whole story was so engaging and entertaining, and the narrators voice was lovely. I would happily take this journey again!
The main character. She sounded like a woman who was very progressive for her time and someone that young women now could relate to.
Her voice is so beautiful and easy to listen to. I don't think I would have imagined the characters to be so graceful and classy without her narration.
The book didn't make me cry, but it pulled me right in, right from the start. I hated whenever I had to stop listening.
Hoosier transplanted in Virginia Beach who is a fan of good books and travel.
The narrator's voice seemed especially well suited to the main character, and she did an excellent job interpreting the other characters' personalities as well.
Katie was a very engaging character, and of course we saw the story unfold through her eyes. I especially liked that the other characters were painted with depth and empathy, and no one was despicable, because we grew to understand them and why they behaved the way they did.
Rebecca Lowman's performance of this book is stellar. She gives meaningful inflections to each character's voice. She pulls off a few language shifts, as well.
The book is unbelievably good. It is a reader's read. Filled with homages and name-drops, Towles achieves the impossible: he is Edith Wharton, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald all at once.
Age of Innocence for its comedy of manners approach to Manhattan.
The Great Gatsby for its up-and-coming-or-not characters.
The Sun Also Rises for its burn-and-crash characters and pacing.
The movie Metropolitan for its look at the upper-class and arrivistes with equal measure.
Tinker Grey--his is the character of greatest focus and growth.
Librarian, blogger, reader
I would listen to this narrator read anything. She has a slightly deep, slightly husky voice that was perfect for this book. She read the characters different enough from one another that it was easy to tell who was speaking, without making those differences exaggerated. Lovely job!
This is not a book of action - it's more about people living in a specific time, but I was interested in those people and the time in which they lived. I felt quite transported by it. Tinker Grey reminded me a bit of Jay Gatsby, perhaps because I was rereading The Great Gatsby at the same time. Although it wasn't plot-heavy, I still thought it was a good story, but the real strength is in the beautiful writing.
I found the story a little depressing even though that was the author's intent. Some uplifting character's would have been welcome. But, overall, a good depiction of that era in NYC.
Evoked another time
(Spoiler alert)--When Katie discovers the true nature of Tinker's relationship to Anne.
The Great Gatsby revisited
The dialog evoked a time before tweeting and texting when people were articulate.
Looking for riveting fiction with well developed characters, close to real life stories and a compelling narrator who feels the story.
The story, the characters and the narrator are fabulous. Love the narrator's accent and passion as she brings to life the characters and the scenes. I felt like I was there experiencing everything first hand.
The main character is outstanding - really well written and very strong believable woman.
Rebecca brings the characters to life - wonderful accents and personality.
In parts I laughed in others, I held my breath until I found out what was going to happen next.
I was drawn to this book because I love the 1930's and I especially love Manhattan in the 1930's. If Towles was to write another book in which the time period/locale was the same I would read it.
I'd recommend it to certain people.
The narrator did a wonderful job bringing the characters to life.
The dialouge was snappy and smart; sometimes too much so. It sounded just a smidge unrealistic.
Yes, this writer uses language and creates word-pictures in an exquisite manner. I could not stop listening after the first chapter, which seemed slow. I am so glad I carried on and listened more, as the remainder of the story was masterfully written. Hard to believe this is a first time novelist.
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