Sunday, January 15, 2012
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year-old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.
The story opens on New Year’s Eve in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, where Katey and her boardinghouse roommate Eve happen to meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a ready smile. This chance encounter and its startling consequences cast Katey off her current course, but end up providing her unexpected access to the rarified offices of Conde Nast and a glittering new social circle. Befriended in turn by a shy, principled multimillionaire, an Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, and a single-minded widow who is ahead of her times, Katey has the chance to experience first hand the poise secured by wealth and station, but also the aspirations, envy, disloyalty, and desires that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her orbit, she will learn how individual choices become the means by which life crystallizes loss.
(from the publisher)
Drawn in by the gorgeous cover, I thought everything about Rules of Civility sounded fascinating. Elegant couples, jazzy 1930's parties and nightclubs, and the world of high society in New York appealed to me. While all of these elements were a part of the story, it didn't quite all come together to make it a great read.
The backdrop of Jazz Age music, fashion, night life, and NY attractions were the highlights of the book, while it seemed liked plot was secondary. Other than a handful of events, nothing much happens except for a whole lot of shots of gin, bar hopping and cigarette smoking, and jumping in a cab from one party to the next. A tragedy early in the story shapes one of the major story lines and I thought, finally, now we're getting somewhere with a real conflict; however, I disliked the way things developed (and stayed that way for most of the book!) so the book went downhill from there. It was one of those novels that I thought had much promise and could have been really great, but it just didn't quite meet my expectations.
A+ for style and setting, (definitely a nod to all that was fun and exciting about New York in the 30's), but just a "meh" on characters and plot.
Title: Rules of Civility
Author: Amor Towles