Rules of Civility: The Words Will Woo You
The story starts on New Year's Eve, 1937. Katey Kontent (the narrator) and her roommate Eve are celebrating the holiday at a jazz club in Manhattan. There, they meet Tinker Grey, a modern Prince Charming--handsome, rich, and gentlemanly.
Katey and Eve both begin to spend time with Tinker. At one point, Katey has this conversation with the owner of a Russian music club:
---Who's the young man? Yours or your friend's?
---A little bit of both, I guess.
Chernoff smiled. He had two gold teeth.
--That doesn't work for long, my slender one.
Chernoff is, of course, correct. But this classic love triangle doesn't play out in a classic way. In fact, Katey's attraction to Tinker isn't the main focus of the book. In the months following her first encounter with Tinker, Katey experiences a season of rapid change, and her view of the world is subsequently altered. From a car accident to a new career to new friendships with socialites, Katey grows up.
Despite the gasp-inducing plot twists and fascinating setting, this is at its core a novel about people. It's character-driven. And it's so beautifully-written that it's hard for me to describe these vividly-drawn characters. My words won't measure up to Towles' characterizations.
Eve was "[B]red with just the right amount of fresh air, roughhousing, and ignorance." Upon first meeting Tinker, Katey muses that she and Eve "could tell already that this one was as expensive, as finely made and as clean as his coat." Even Manhattan is a character, a "city where all things beautiful are welcomed and measured and, if not immediately adopted, then at least tried on for size."
I usually read books for the story, but this is one book that many will want to read just to enjoy the beauty of the language. The plot will certainly keep your attention, but the words will go deeper than the plot.
The story will interest you. The words will woo you.