Rules of Civility: Book summary and reviews of Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility

A Novel

By Amor Towles

Rules of Civility
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2011,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

Elegant and captivating, Rules of Civility turns a Jamesian eye on how spur of the moment decisions define life for decades to come. A love letter to a great American city at the end of the Depression, readers will quickly fall under its spell of crisp writing, sparkling atmosphere and breathtaking revelations, as Towles evokes the ghosts of Fitzgerald, Capote, and McCarthy.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. [A] smashing debut... remarkable for its strong narrative, original characters and a voice influenced by Fitzgerald and Capote, but clearly true to itself." - Publishers Weekly

"An elegant, pithy performance by a first-time novelist who couldn't seem more familiar with his characters or territory." - Kirkus Reviews

"A romantic look at the difficulties of being a New Yorker. But not, as the publisher suggests, reminiscent of Fitzgerald... This novel would, however, make a nice (contemporary) companion to novels like The Great Gatsby and is thusly recommended." - Library Journal

"[T]he best feature of Rules of Civility is its fast pacing and irresistible momentum. The language is snappy, too, full of period idiom and witty one-liners." - The Telegraph (UK)

"This is a flesh-and-blood tale you believe in, with fabulous period detail. It's all too rare to find a fun, glamorous, semi-literary tale to get lost in." - The Observer (UK)

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More Information

Amor Towles was born and raised just outside Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale University and received an MA in English from Stanford University, where he was a Scowcroft Fellow. He is a Principal at an investment firm in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and two children. You can find him online at www.amortowles.com.

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