What is it with the books I have read this summer making me feel old? I mean, I am only 31. The characters in “The Rules of Civility” live through so much, and their various circumstances change so many times within the scope of the novel that by the end (or at least up to the epilogue) I just thought…wow. You’re still younger than me.
On to my review…
“The Rules of Civility” is a debut novel by Amor Towles, and my favorite of the summer, to date. I thoroughly enjoyed his style of writing. He’s not just a story-teller, like the authors of a good portion “talked-about” novels are today (I happen to enjoy those, too), but rather had a very individual and identifiable voice. The very best part for me was the dialogue—witty, smart, and so effective.
The story is told from the perspective of Katey, a quite spirited and independent woman living in a boardinghouse, working as a secretary, and living it up after hours with her best friend and partner-in-crime, Eve. They’ll put on their best dress and scrape enough change together for a drink, secure in the knowledge that they’ll find a handsome bachelor or two to fund the rest of their night out. It is this way that they meet Tinker Grey, and the three are swept up into a series of glittering evenings in fancy bars and smoky jazz clubs. That is, until the night when a chance event causes everything to drastically change.
Much of the plot seems to happen by chance, in the beginning, setting of a series of events that the characters must react and adapt to. Katey, Tinker, and Eve all seem to hold their cards close to their chests, revealing only as much of themselves as is unavoidable, all the while believing that they understand the others completely. This is a source of a good portion of conflict in the novel.
“The Rules of Civility” is an even-handed story of high society…the charm, but the real people, and struggles behind it. And while Katey does work her way up the social ladder, she is far from a social climber. Rather, she works her own way up, which is of course the best part. I will say there were a few spots where Katey did things I didn’t find believable and thought “Ugh. This was written by a man.” However, those spots were few and far between.