Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Length: 324 pgs.
Genre: Fiction, Modern
My Rating: 4 Stars

From Goodreads Description:

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, twenty-five-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 year-long 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.

I chose this as my next read after finishing The Great Gatsby. And it proved to be perfect! I am a fan of Towles’ writing. I’ve now read all three of his novels and loved every single one of them. Rules of Civility starts out in 1966 then backtracks to New Year’s Eve 1937. We are transported to 1930’s New York for the telling of the story. A story of a life, of several lives in fact, but centered around Katey Kontent. Towles’ beautiful prose makes you feel like you are right there. And bonus, there are so many references to books and reading and authors! Because Katey is a reader. Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, E. M. Forster, Dickens, Agatha Christie…Walden Pond, Great Expectations, Anna Karenina, Les Miserables…..just a mere sampling of the authors and titles mentioned in this book. As an avid reader, I loved that aspect of the book!

Towles is really good at atmospheric writing; and in Rules of Civility, he definitely achieves this with rich descriptions and ambience. The writing is beautiful, sophisticated, and brimming with nostalgia.


It is a lovely oddity of human nature that a person is more inclined to interrupt two people in conversation than one person alone with a book, even if it is a foolish romance…” (p. 79)

It’s a bit of a cliché to refer to someone as a chameleon: a person who can change his colors from environment to environment. In fact, not one in a million can do that. But there are tens of thousands of butterflies: men and women like Eve with two dramatically different colorings – one which serves to attract and the other which serves to camouflage – and which can be switched at the instant with a flit of the wings.” (p. 117)

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