Rules of Civility Immerses You in 1930s New York City
By mamainjammies on September 16, 2011
From the moment Katey Kontent appeared on the pages of Rules of Civility's 1930s New York, I couldn’t put the book down. Amor Towles' debut novel grabbed my attention with its clever writing and characters that were outside of my experience in every way.
Towles paints a picture of 1930s New York in such vivid tones that you can feel the pulse of the city, as seen through the eyes of Katey Kontent. Katey and her friend, Eve, meet a wealthy and connected young man named Tinker while celebrating … or at least, acknowledging… the approach of a new year. At first, it seems as if the novel will simply be the story of a love triangle, where girls fight over boy and mayhem ensues. An auto accident, however, turns the triangle into so much more. Katey watches as Eve and Tinker embark on a relationship brought about by greed, guilt and a sense of entitlement. Thanks to her position at the outside of Tinker and Eve’s social circle, Katey encounters people and places that her job in the typing pool would never have offered and as a result, is able to provide a commentary on life, wealth and privilege that the reader would not have otherwise received.
While the storyline contains a twist or two and is worth in its own right, the true star of the novel is Towles’ ability to bring Katey to life. Intelligent and witty, Towles writes for Katey with an intensity that kept me turning the pages simply for another insight into her surroundings and the people inhabiting her circle.
On Tinker: “He always looked his best, I thought to myself, when circumstances called for him to be a boy and a man at the same time.”
On the meatpacking district: “In some infernal version of Noah’s ark, teamsters walked off the trucks onto the loading docks carrying carcasses of different species slung over their shoulders two by two: two calves, two pigs, two lambs.
On Eve: “I’m willing to be under anything, she said, as long as it isn’t somebody’s thumb.”
In the end, Rules of Civility charms with the writing, the characters and the atmosphere. It’s a book that will only get better upon a second… or third… reading.
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