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Editorial Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Story

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  • Overall

Overwrought

Although book has good concept, I got bored. The writing is like someone who got an A in a college writing course and then uses every single technique in the first 10 pages. The writing is overwrought with too much emphasis on "clever" and "descriptive" use of language. Very annoying. Also the narrator's style emphasized words so much it got more annoying. Too "precious" too "madcap". The theme begins on an interesting note (late 1930's NYC) but then just seems like a private privileged (meaningless) world. This book did not meet my expectations. Sorry.

75 of 95 people found this review helpful

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  • KP
  • Oakland, CA
  • 04-23-12

Nostalgia from a bygone era...

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.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Silvery 1930's New York City is the main character

This quiet, elegantly paced book is beautifully written and narrated in a very compatible way. You feel a little like Nick and Nora Charles reading it. Thoroughly enjoyable - takes a little while to get going, and suddenly you're caught in a shimmery web at the intersection of urbane social pathways and blue-collar ambition. New York city becomes one of the characters, and there's an undercurrent of ode to a bookworm.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Julius
  • Rego Park, NY, United States
  • 10-01-11

GOOD CONCEPT, BORING STORY

After the love affair for 1930s New York, it is all downhill. A boring book, enought said.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Janet
  • United States
  • 09-07-11

remarkable first novel

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jbug
  • Atlanta, GA
  • 10-27-11

Thoroughly enjoyed story and reader

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Could taste the martinis

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Carolyn
  • Friendsville, PA, United States
  • 07-31-11

Super plu perfect

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.

10 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Hats off to Towels and Lowman!

Would you consider the audio edition of Rules of Civility to be better than the print version?

Part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much was because of the incredible narration by Rebecca Lowman. She has the perfect voice to fit the character Katey Kontent, and executes all the other characters really well. Lowman is my new favorite narrator.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Rules of Civility?

This is a beautifully written story. Towels tells the tales with a lyrical and poetic style reminiscent of Steinbeck, of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Every chapter dances along in perfect rhythm.

What about Rebecca Lowman’s performance did you like?

I very much enjoyed the story and highly recommend it, but Rebecca Lowman's performance took the novel from great to outstanding.

Any additional comments?

If you're looking for a good listen, this is it! The story takes one back to a nostalgic time in New York City. It's a wonderful coming age novel about love, friendship, heartbreak and self realization and fulfillment of one's own potential as well of that of others.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Boring

It was a book no depth. No plot and no ending waste of 9 hours .

1 of 1 people found this review helpful