Rules of Civility and Those Women
By Karen Ballum on August 17, 2011
BlogHer Original Post
I have been starting at the blinking cursor for a solid 20 minutes. I have been staring at it because I want to tell you just how much I enjoyed reading Amor Towles' debut novel Rules of Civility but I seem to lack the proper words. I feel fairly certain that lacking words is not something that the women in Rules of Civility did very often. And oh, I love Towles' women.
Don't get me wrong, I liked the men in Towles' first novel. They were charming in that "one foot stuck in boyhood" kind of way. His women, though, were broads. Or dames, if you prefer. They were a bit ahead of their time and I loved them for it.Evey (I'm sorry, I cannot think of her as just simple "Eve" -- she is Evey) is one of those friends that if you have her in your life ... you are kind of blessed. She's not one that will necessarily stay long and sometimes you just might hate her but you can't stop loving her. She's the friend that you'll laugh with until you cry. Evey's the friend that will only ever get you into the very best kind of trouble. Despite being the best friend to be around for a good time, she's not someone to be trifled with. Towles sums Evey up early in the book with this line, which so many of our readers, like m3lbblog, liked enough to tweet.
Anne... oh what to say about Anne? If I were forced to choose, she might be my favorite character. I think you can sum her up best in this exchange that she and Kate had at a racetrack in which she does her best to give Kate a little bit of advice about life.
"-- You see that thirty-year-old blonde next to Jake? That's his fiancee, Carrie Clapboard. Carrie moved all manner of heaven and earth to get into that chair. And soon she will happily oversee scullery maids and table settings and the reupholstering of antique chairs at three different houses; which is all well and good. But if were your age, I wouldn't be trying to figure out how to get into Carrie's shoes -- I'd be trying to get figure out how to get into Jake's." p. 109
Anne was a rich woman doing her best to live a rich man's lifestyle in the 1930s and she made no apologies for any of it. I loved her for it... especially when I was hating her for it.
And Kate Kontent... our aptly-named hero. Kate (or Katey) is more than just the narrator -- she's the heart and brains of the story. Evey is the friend we want. Anne would make a cool aunt. But Kate? She's the one that we would want to be. She takes risks but not rashly. She isn't afraid to do the unexpected. She seeks happiness in untraditional ways. She's witty. She's smart. She's tall and attractive.
But that isn't to say that she's perfect. Like all of the characters in Rules of Civility, she has her flaws. She makes mistakes. She can be mean. She struggles. She's has bouts of brashness. For me, Kate just wasn't a character in a book. She lived and walk the streets of Manhatten and took me along with her -- into secretarial pools, jazz clubs and fancy restaurants where we *gasp* dined alone.
The writing and the language in Rules of Civility is superb. It's quotable and you'll want your flags and highlighter pen as you read it so that you can mark goodies such as, "Writing is the cursive of speech." But what will stick with me long after I've read it is those women.
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