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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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Performance

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Story

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Dull - was anxious for book to end

Narrator monotoned - characters unlikeable - command of languae and ability to create imagery and interesting methaphors admirable but not enough to make story or characters enjoyable.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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4.5 Stars

I enjoyed the story very much. It is a debut novel and I generally enjoy them. It is a bit overdone with clever choices of words, but it did not distract from the story. I also enjoyed the narrator; she became Kathryn Kontent. (what a wonderful name) The only disappointment was the end, but will say no more as to not spoil. I could have seen a sequel ??? different story with some of the same characters.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • 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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  • Wayne
  • Matthews, NC
  • 10-09-15

Surprisingly good

I got a good deal on this book, otherwise I would never have purchased it. It certainly is not of my preferred thriller genre. But it is a wonderful book that is well worthwhile. It is a story about the life of a remarkable 25 year old woman and her friends and acquaintances set in New York City mostly in 1938. There are more disappointments and tragedies than happiness for her, but she perseveres. It is ultimately a story about life.

The narration is excellent.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

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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  • Story
  • 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