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
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.
There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson
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.
If you enjoy truly eloquent writing, you will be glad to find Amor Towles. Wonderful turns of phrase, a delightful recreation of an interesting era, three dimensional characters. I will be watching for his next offereing.
I really enjoyed this book. The story was easy to follow, plenty of interest and well written. The reader was also excellent. Highly recommend to women. Don't think the guys will care for this one much.
I could taste the martinis, hear the jazz and feel the 1930's NYC pavement under my feet. I enjoyed the writing, the story and the narrator. I had to listen to this book a second time, which I hardly ever do. As I read this book, I wondered how my life would have been different in the 1930's as a woman, and what choices I would have made. There were many paths in this book, many ways that people were true to themselves.
When I grow up (and I am just 69) I want to be an author like Amor Towles. and, the narrator is excellent as well. I have a theory that they are birds from the same nest. She is the blue velvet that perfectly presents this jewel.
The writing in this book is truly amazing. That the author is extremely literate is very obvious. While at times the writing seems over the top, the constant use of metaphors and tropes as a style is both wonderful and distracting. In one of the reviews I read before buying this book, a criticism was that the author was unable to create characters that the reader could engage with and care about. It is a valid point. While I enjoyed the writing and the early character development, I would advise the reader not to buy this book because the author is just unable to make a plot that holds together at all. It's such a shame. I wanted to like the book, but the author just couldn't coordinate the character development with the plot. Characters are dismissed after lengthy parts with total disregard, and the end is totally undeveloped, as it the author just got tired of writing the book. Perhaps he did.
Very well written debut novel. I expect most reviewers would say the book is foremost a homage to The Great Gatsby and Breakfast at Tiffany's, but in addition to the tribute, the stroy in itself is fascinating.
You could say that while trying to follow the tradition of these great American writers Towels might be lacking in ingenuity, but I personally think that a writer should be a reader, at first. and when a writer pays tribute to his favorite novelists, it doesn't necessarily mean, he is giving up his own voice.
I much enjoyed this book in it's own, and the tribute to these great writers was a much enjoyable bonus.
Readers who love New York as i do (without ever living there), will be touched, by the referance to "Autumn in New York".
I read this because my friend recommended it. From the love story to the delightful characters to the enjoyable way it is written, I really enjoyed it. The narrator did a nice job with the voices. There were a lot of characters and some jumping around in time, but it was easy to keep it all straight.
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