Read Rules of Civility by Amor Towles Online


In a jazz bar on the last night of 1937, watching a quartet because she couldn't afford to see the whole ensemble, there were certain things Katey Kontent knew: the location of every old church in Manhattanhow to sneak into the cinemahow to type eighty words a minute, five thousand an hour, and nine million a yearand that if you can still lose yourself in a Dickens novel tIn a jazz bar on the last night of 1937, watching a quartet because she couldn't afford to see the whole ensemble, there were certain things Katey Kontent knew: the location of every old church in Manhattanhow to sneak into the cinemahow to type eighty words a minute, five thousand an hour, and nine million a yearand that if you can still lose yourself in a Dickens novel then everything is going to be fine.By the end of the year she'd learned:how to live like a redheadand insist upon the very best;that riches can turn to rags in the trip of a heartbeat,chance encounters can be fated, and the word 'yes' can be a poison.That's how quickly New York City comes about, like a weathervane, or the head of a cobra. Time tells which....

Title : Rules of Civility
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781444708851
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 335 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Rules of Civility Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2018-11-28 11:57

    ”She was indisputably a natural blonde. Her shoulder-length hair, which was sandy in summer, turned golden in the fall as if in sympathy with the wheat fields back home. She had fine features and blue eyes and pinpoint dimples so perfectly defined that it seemed like there must be a small steel cable fastened to the center of each inner cheek which grew taut when she smiled. True, she was only five foot five, but she knew how to dance in two-inch heels--and she knew how to kick them off as soon as she sat in your lap.”Lower Manhattan 1938.Eve Ross, a New York transplant from Indiana, is one of those friends that manages to always have a good time whether she is in a jazz club or on her way to a funeral. She is an energy vampire. She takes it. She gives it. As one party ends another one begins. Katey Kontent is Eve’s sidekick. She was born in New York and enjoys the octane fueled experiences with her friend, but she can never throw herself into the fray quite the way Eve does. She’s always more reserved, more willing to observe and ponder events rather than be lost in the moment. It is 1938. They meet Tinker Grey, a well groomed, well heeled banker who is a man in need of a good time and Eve and Katey are the right two gals to provide it. He has the money. They have the energy. Katey is used to taking a backseat to Eve and as their dueling relationship starts to evolve with Tinker it is no secret that as much as Tinker appreciates Eve he is developing a serious crush on Katey. Eve is a force of nature and provides the whirlwind effect to any outing, but if a guy wants a moment to have a quiet drink and a deeper conversation Katey is the right ticket. --”Eve leaned toward Tinker confidentially.--Katey’s the hottest bookworm you’ll ever meet. If you took all the books that she’s read and piled them in a stack, you could climb to the Milky Way.--The Milky Way!--Maybe the Moon, I conceded.”She is HOT and she READS? YOWZA! She reads everything from Charles Dickens to Agatha Christie and appreciates that pendulum of reading experiences equally and for different reasons. ”I read a lot of Agatha Christies that fall of 1938--maybe all of them. The Hercule Poirots, the Miss Marples. Death on the Nile. The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Murders...on the the Vicarage, and, ...on the Orient Express. I read them on the subway, at the deli and in my bed alone.You can make what claims you will about the psychological nuance of Proust or the narrative scope of Tolstoy, but you can’t argue that Mrs. Christie fails to please. Her books are tremendously satisfying.Yes, they’re formulaic. But that’s one of the reasons they are so satisfying. With every character, every room, every murder weapon feeling at once newly crafted and familiar as rote ( the role of the postimperialist uncle from India here being played by the spinster form South Wales, and the mismatched bookends standing in for the jar of fox poison on the upper shelf of the gardener’s shed). Mrs. Christie doles out her little surprises at the carefully calibrated pace of a nanny dispensing sweets to the children in her care.”If you are still not sure that you want to be friends with Katey Kontent than how about this.”In retrospect, my cup of coffee has been the works of Charles Dickens. Admittedly, there’s something a little annoying about all those plucky underprivileged kids and the aptly named agents of villainy. But I’ve come to realize that however blue my circumstances, if after finishing a chapter of a Dickens novel I feel a miss-my-stop-on-the-train sort of compulsion to read on, then everything is probably going to be just fine.”Katey when she needs a moment of contemplation, a place to be alone with her thoughts she finds an empty church. I too find a church most spiritual between services when the thunder of religious verbosity is dissipating into the distance. In New York such churches are works of art, good for the soul and the intellectual mind.St. Patrick’s New York”St. Patrick’s on Fifth Avenue and Fiftieth Street is a pretty powerful example of early nineteenth-century American Gothic. Made of white marble quarried from upstate New York, the Walls must be four feet thick. The stained-glass windows were made by craftsmen from Chartres. Tiffany designed two of the altars and a Medici designed the third. And the Pieta in the southeast corner is twice the size of Michelangelo’s. In fact, the whole place is so well made that as the Good Lord sees about His daily business, He can pass right over St. Patrick’s confident that those inside will take pretty good care of themselves.”There is a car accident and Eve is hurt the worse of the three. Guilt, a powerful tool, swings all of Tinker’s attention to Eve. Any burgeoning relationship he has with Katey comes to a skidding halt with the shattering of glass and a great beauty marred by scars. They don’t see as much of each other, but when they do there is still a trip of a heartbeat.She can’t get him out of her head. He isn’t who he seems.He is more and less than what she believed.Tinker’s brother provides a little insight into what makes Tinker more than the sum of his parts. ”Never mind that he speaks five languages and could find his way safely home from Cairo or the Congo. What he’s got they can’t teach in schools. They can squash it, maybe; but they sure can’t teach it.--And what’s that?--Wonder.--Wonder!--That’s right. Anyone can buy a car or a night on the town. Most of us shell out our days like peanuts. One in a thousand can look at the world with amazement. I don’t mean gawking at the Chrysler Building. I’m talking about the wing of a dragonfly. The tale of the shoeshine. Walking through an unsullied hour with an unsullied heart.Mother Nature competing with TiffanyYeah, I know, I had to take a moment and spend a little time thinking about that line as well. I do know that perfection, those amazing moments where everything lines up from the moon to the breeze are few and far between. They need to be logged, carefully wrapped in gossamer, and placed in the deepest, safest vault of your memories so that when things go to crap they can be retrieved, savored, and hope can be restored that more of those moments are in your future. Life can never take everything away from you. Like most of us Katey doesn’t end up anywhere near where she expected, but 1938 is a year of those gossamer wrapped memories that can bring a whimsical smile to her lips when she is forty, seventy or a hundred and seven. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:

  • Anne
    2018-12-13 11:52

    The prologue to this novel takes place at an exhibition of photographs by Walker Evans in 1966. The author tells us that Evans had waited 25 years to show these photos to the public due to a concern for the subjects' privacy. The photos are taken with a hidden camera in the NYC subway car and "captured a certain naked humanity." Kate sees an old friend, Tinker Grey in two of these pictures. In one he's clean shaven, wearing a custom shirt and a cashmere coat. In a photo dated one year later he looks underweight and dirty in a threadbare coat. The novel starts 25 years earlier, in flashback, telling the story of Tinker Grey, Kate and others with picture perfect descriptions of the city, it's highlights and it's inhabitants. Towles writes as though through the lens of a camera. But unlike Evan's subway photos, Towles has a light, empathic touch when it comes to people - the angles never harsh, just true. And how appropriate that the underlying theme of this book is about how much people expose or hide their true lives, how much is deception or reality. As Kate says, " we give people the liberty of fashioning themselves in the moment - a span of time that is so much more manageable, stageable, controllable than is a lifetime." Justice is another theme in the novel. Do those people in the subway get a life that they deserve? What about the rich Wall Street types? Kate becomes a fan of Agatha Christie at a point in the novel when she is hurt, angry and concerned about whether justice exists in the world. She likes Agatha Christie's universe "where everyone gets what they deserve.... and a destiny that suits them." Literature lovers will enjoy several other allusions to and quotes from other writers, not to mention Kate's tendency to start a book somewhere in the middle. But the most enjoyable parts of the book were the laugh out loud funny repartee or the witty narrative voice that often highlights Kate's wise and strong personality. In an emotional moment, she tells the reader: "As a quick aside, let me observe that in moments of high emotion....if the next thing you're going to say makes you feel better, then it's probably the wrong thing to say. This is one of the finer maxims that I've discovered in life. And you can have it, since it's been of no use to me." One of the markers of a good novel for me is whether I miss the characters after I've finished the book. I'm feeling quite bereft and hoping for a sequel.

  • Elyse
    2018-11-18 08:49

    $1.99 Kindle Download special today! -- GREAT DEAL!!! (I spent more!) FANTASTIC....FABULOUS!!!!!! I LOVED THIS NOVEL TREMENDOUSLY!!!!This review is filled 'mostly' with quotes --as these are quotes I want to remember....yet without the context of the story itself ... there are NO SPOILERS. Special thanks Sara. We are buddy-reading this together ..having our own private book club discussion....adds much richness to a novel like this one. Whatever setbacks Katey's father faced in life, he said, "however daunting or dispiriting the unfolding of events, he always knew that he would make it through, as long as when he woke in the morning he was looking forward to his first cup of coffee". "when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane--in the cigarette on the stoop or the gingersnap in the bath--she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger". "One must be prepared to fight for one's simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements"."In retrospect, my cup of coffee has been the works of Charles dickens.Tinker had this to say about Katey.... "Right from the first, I could see a calmness in you--that sort of inner tranquility that they write about in books, but that almost no one seems to possess. I was wondering to myself: 'how does she do that?' And I figured it could only come from having no regrets--from having made choices with... such poise and purpose". Hmmmm....something 'I' mulled over....( as did Katey)....."Most people have more needs than wants. That's why they live the lives they do. But the world is run by those whose wants outstrip their needs". "If we only fell in love with people who were perfect for us, then there wouldn't be so much to fuss about love in the first place""I suppose that Anne was right when she observed that at any given moment we're all seeking someone's forgiveness." HIGHLY RECOMMEND to ALL!!!!!

  • Jeanette
    2018-11-20 13:00

    This is just delightful fun. It's a love letter, a limerick, a lollipop, a literary longing. Grab your shaker of martinis and your cocktail onions and take a ride with Katey Kontent through the streets of 1938 Manhattan. She's just a working girl trying to make it on her own, but with the right (or wrong?) friends, she manages to borrow a little glamour...and a helping or two of trouble besides. The book is not without its flaws. I was only going to rate it four stars. After I read the epilogue and then went back and re-read the prologue, I added the fifth star because I like the way it's constructed. I also liked the way he brought it all together in the end, drawing some poignant and profound conclusions. It may be that you can only appreciate the fellow feeling at the end if you've reached a certain age and can look back on your 20s with both regret and compassion for your young self and the friendships you chose before the weightiness of life settled in.

  • switterbug (Betsey)
    2018-12-01 07:05

    If a novel could win an award for best cinematography, this would take home the gold. Amor Towles's sophisticated retro-era novel of manners captures Manhattan 1938 with immaculate lucidity and a silvery focus on the gin and the jazz, the nightclubs and the streets, the pursuit of sensuality, and the arc of the self-made woman.The novel's preface opens in 1966, with a happily married couple attending a Walker Evans photography exhibition. An unlikely chance encounter stuns the woman, Katey--a picture of a man staring across a canyon of three decades, a photograph of an old friend. Thus begins the flashback story of Katey's roaring twenties in the glittering 30's.Katey Kontent (Katya) is the moral center of the story, an unapologetic working girl--more a bluestocking than a blue blood-- born in Brighton Beach of Russian immigrant parents. She's an ambitious and determined statuesque beauty à la Tierney or Bacall who seeks success in the publishing industry. She works as hard by day as she plays at night. Her best friend, Eve (Evelyn) Ross, is a Midwest-born Ginger Rogers /Garbo character mix, with jazz cat spirit and a fearless, cryptic glamor. She refuses daddy's money and embraces her free spirit:"I'm willing to be under long as it isn't somebody's thumb."Katey and Eve flirt with shameless savoir-faire, and are quick with the clever repartees. They will kiss a man once that they'll never kiss twice, and glide with effortless élan among all the social classes of New York. Moreover, they can make a few dollars stretch through many a martini, charming gratis drinks from fashionable men. With their nerve and gaiety, the two would be equally savvy at Vanity Fair or the Algonquin Round Table, or in a seedy bar on the Lower East Side.Eve and Katey meet the sphinx-like Tinker Grey on New Year's Eve, 1937, at the Hotspot, a jazz bar in Greenwich Village. Tinker's métier is Gatsby-esque--an inscrutable, ruggedly handsome man in cashmere, a mysterious lone figure with an enigmatic mystique. The three become fast friends, but as with many triangulating relationships, a hairline rivalry sets in. Then a cataclysmic tragedy shatters the cool grace of their bond, and their solidarity is ruptured.Towles is spectacular at description and atmosphere, keeping a keen camera's eye on the city with a polished pedigree of writing that is rare in a debut novel. A smoky haze envelopes the streets and clubs and buildings, which the reader can't help surveying in all the rich colors of vintage black and white. The writing is dense, yet fluid and ambient, rich as a contralto, and cool as a saxophone. Tendrils of Edith Wharton flow through, as well as Fitzgerald, and echoes of Capote's Holly Golightly.At times, the lush descriptions threaten to eclipse the story, and the characters recede. This is a book of manners, so the action resides in the conflict between individual ambitions and desires and the acceptable social codes of behavior between classes. However, the middle section stagnates, as one character hugs most of the narrative in repetitive days and nights, the psychological complexities dimming. It loses some steam as the taut thrill of the first half wanes, but an understated closure recharges it again.Overall, the beauty of the novel endures, and the sensuality of the prose lingers. The reader is also edified on the origin of the title, and the author folds it in neatly to the story. The characters are crisp and contoured, delightful and satisfying, even if one left the stage a bit too soon. This is one male writer who finesses his female characters with impressive agility and assurance.

  • Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
    2018-11-16 11:03

    Blargh, I'd been having such good luck with Goodreads Choice finalists.I really should have put it down after page two, when the female, working-class narrator describes her roommate as follows:"Eve was one of those surprising beauties from the American Midwest.In New York it becomes so easy to assume that the city's most alluring women have flown in from Paris or Milan. But they're just a minority. A much larger covey hails from the stalwart states that begin with the letter I--like Iowa or Indiana or Illinois. Bred with just the right amount of fresh air, roughhousing, and ignorance, these primative blondes set out from the cornfields looking like starlight with limbs. Every morning in the spring one of them skips off her porch with a sandwich wrapped in cellophane ready to flag down the first Greyhound headed to Manhattan--this city where all things beautiful are welcomed and measured if, if not immediately adopted, then at least tried on for size."You know, maybe you shouldn't write your debut novel in the first person from the POV of a character of the opposite gender from yourself? Let alone a different time period and socioeconomic (and educational) background? Just a thought?Well, I kept going. For 129 pages. Until I realized there was no plot. Just lots of drinking, and pretentious talk about art and such.Also, by the time I quit, the main character had coincidentally run into someone while out and about at least 5 times. I thought New York City was a bit bigger than that?But, I admit, I hated The Great Gatsby, which this has been compared to.But at least Nick Carraway was convincingly male.

  • Dolors
    2018-12-01 10:04

    “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”The road not taken by Robert Frost.Katey Kontent stands on her balcony overlooking Central Park in 1966 and reflects on the journey of her life and the road she chose to walk more than twenty years ago. Vulnerable and voluptuous like Billie Holiday’s voice in “Autumn in New York”, Katey remembers the one and only genuine love of her life, the irresistible banker Tinker Grey. “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Whereas a song must rely solely on a sequence of piano notes with slight variations as a conduit for immediate beauty, this novel offers another kind of aesthetic emotion captured in interwoven depth and detail which slowly escalates to a bittersweet climax that will remain for long after the last page is turned.The almost Proustian trip to Katey’s past is triggered by the fortuitous encounter with a couple of old pictures of magnetic Tinker in a photographic exposition that will project Katey’s memory back to the New Year’s Eve of 1937 in which she and her roommate Eve, both working as secretaries in the land of opportunities, meet the seductive banker in a vibrant smoldering jazz club.Wrapped in the quintessential urban mythology of New York City and overflowing with the exuberant pulsation of hedonism and new opportunities resulting from the Great Crash of 1929, Katey, Eve and Tinker become irremediably bound together in a triangular relationship going beyond the clichéd scenes and plot twists experienced countless times before in other stories. What Towles paints in elegant yet solid black and white brushstrokes is an insightful and vivid account of the social reality and the vicissitudes of life enriched with fascinating and complex characters oozing with naked humanity, which struggle to find their own place in this glossy yet hollow Broadway cardboard scenario of the New York of the time. “One must be prepared to fight for one’s simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements.” (p. 128) How far is one ready to go to secure social status and career success? What is the price to pay for allowing feelings cross the beaten track of ambitions? Which road should be taken when the forking path of conscience has to be confronted? The glamorous yet frivolous most travelled one, based on impeccable “Rules of Civility” which frame public behavior and ensure social and professional success? Or the less treaded one that points out to the uncomfortably hidden truths within oneself? Opposite sides of the same coin are imprinted in the inner contradictions of each one of the characters in this riveting chess game of story, tearing apart while bringing their lives together across the streets of sumptuous yet decadent Manhattan. “That’s how quickly New York City comes about – like a weather vane – or the head of a cobra. Time tells which.” (p. 161) Be ready to time travel through Katey’s acute and sharp eyes while encountering multilayered moral dilemmas that won’t only varnish the black and white canvas with opalescent colors beaming with true love, compassion, loyalty and sacrifice but also infuse disquieting questions about the first signs of a ruthless society that would take shape in the forthcoming years after the interval of the Second World War, whose threat looms on the horizon of this novel.“So long as a man is faithful to himself, everything is in his favor, government, society, the very sun, moon, and stars” says Henry David Thoreau in his masterpiece Walden, Katey’s favorite book. I stand with Katey on her balcony staring at the holes in the floor of heaven and wonder alongside with her whether the choices she made with eyes closed and open heart were the right ones.Her stunning eyes stare back at me and silently reply“I have no doubt that they were the right choices for me. And at the same time, I know that right choices by definition are the means by which life crystallizes loss.”Billie Holiday’s sinuous voice is suddenly tinged with a melancholic undertone remembering the roads that won’t ever be trodden and the fellow travelers that were lost on the way. But as the last notes of the song are engulfed by the darkest night, my lips draw the slightest hint of a smile in knowing that all roads, if treaded faithfully, will lead where one truly belongs.

  • Elaine
    2018-12-05 13:58

    This book was strange for me, at points, it was a 5, at other points a 1. There were passages (usually not parts of the narrative, but Katy's aphorisms - presumably the product of her middle-aged mind looking back) that moved me nearly to tears. These little nuggets are Katy's own "Rules of Civility" and they made the book worth reading. (E.g., "Right choices are the means by which life crystallizes loss.").But those little tidbits are not the bulk of this quite plotty pacey novel, which is a fairy tale about a mad cap girl with a fairy tale name (Katey Kontent) in a fairy tale New York of 1938, where Bentleys prowl the streets, all the women are beautiful, all the boys are plucky, the furs are furry, the jewels chandelier sized, the cocktails ever flowing, the underclasses ably represented by a bosomy wisecracking Italian girl from Jersey and several kindly Negro workers and musicians, and the Depression mumbles by at a safe remove. Instead of hardship, we get lovingly detailed tours of the hangouts of moneyed New York then and now (the Beresford, the 21 Club, the bar at the St. Regis, the Plaza, the University Club, Long Island, "camps" upstate...). What's wrong with that, you say? Isn't a fun fairytale, with a few good plot twists, some soapy love stories, and a crafty villainess, worth the candle? Well, yes, and no one loves time-travel voyeurism with lush descriptions of meals, clothes and décor more than me. (See also The Age of Innocence and Mad Men (but more on the latter, later)). And if that were all that Rules of Civility was meant to be - a frothy little cocktail for a summer's night - it might leave a saccharine taste in your mouth, but it wouldn't irk, or leave a sense of hollowness, as ultimately this book did for me. In the end, Rules DID remind me of Mad Men, more than Age of Innocence or House of Mirth or the Great Gatsby, all of which had self-conscious echoes in this novel. Both Mad Men and Rules indulge my desire for trans-decade New York lifestyle porn, mostly of the well to do, as well as my arch sense of knowingness at getting the landmarks, the signposted history, the name-dropping literary tie-ins, but I find both cold at the core, with a cipher for a hero/ine. I feel a bit sad and worse for wear after visiting these worlds. Katy, like Don Draper, is a woman with a new name and without a past. And this is a fundamental problem for the novel. We're told at the beginning that New York is a place where "Katyas become Katies", and while we're never told as much, we imagine that Kontent (a wonderful fairy tale name) is also a shortening of some unwieldy Russian surname (the inverse of Gatz to Gatsby, one imagines). But while viewers who persevere will eventually learn how and why Dick became Don, the more historically common but still interesting transformation of Katya to Katy is never explored. You spend the whole novel waiting for more than perfunctory references to Brooklyn, her immigrant laborer father and MIA mother, as well as for some insight into the amazing labor of reconstruction needed to make that bookish Brooklyn ethnic working class girl into the toast of WASP society, capable of making not only 4 (count 'em -4!) scions of highborn families (albeit one down on his luck) fall in love with her, but also (far more credulity stretching) of winning the social acceptance and trust of those scions' assorted female friends and relations. You will wait in vain, however, because despite the early acknowledgement of this transformation, Rules ends up asking us to take on fairy-tale faith that Cinderella can go to the ball, that a plucky Katya can shed the accent, learn the mannerisms and pole vault her way into the world of the Social Register with nary a wrong fork, social faux pas, cold shoulder or cutting remark.Similarly, despite the framing of the novel as being rooted in Walker Evans' photos of Depression-era working class commuters and the early discussion of the Depression and its "hunger and hopelessness", the novel is ultimately ahistorical, or at least set in a pleasant social register (no caps this time) where the Depression doesn't intrude. This is part of what creates the feeling that reading the novel is like over-indulging in candy - it's all fun and games in this make-believe version of 1930s New York, and again, that's OK, as far as it goes, but it prevents the novel from being multi-dimensional and more meaningful.To close on a personal note: in the 1930s, both sets of my grandparents were young adults in New York, constructing their own bridges out of the working class. Like Katie, all 4 were the children of immigrants, some from Russia, all were smart, bookish, motivated. Unlike Katie, no one ever invited them to tea at the Ritz. They ended up accomplishing a lot, but their Brooklyn accents with the ghost of Yiddish behind marked them as far from blue blood their entire lives. So did their memories of Depression penury, which, combined with their inherited shtetl thriftiness, made them suspicious of conspicuous consumption to their dying days. Nothing in Rules is true to that lived history of 1930s New York. Of course, Katie wasn't Jewish, and it was certainly possible to cross great social divides - show girls became duchesses and the like, but there should be a story - more than a fairy tale - to explain this miracle, and because there isn't, Rules of Civility disappointed me in the end.

  • Robert
    2018-12-15 12:59

    This is the rare example of a book that makes you appreciate the art of writing. It is indeed remarkable that this first time author has created a debut novel that succeeds in every way. Mr. Towles has crafted a true masterpiece. This stylish, elegant and deliberately anachronistic debut novel transports readers back to Manhattan in 1938, where authentic, human characters inhabit a playground that comes alive with the manners of a society on the verge of radical upheaval.This book is art deco, jazz clubs, martinis and Long Island mansions.The story is told in long flashback, from the hindsight of 30 years beyond the events of 1938, the narrator reminisces on events and people who contributed to a turning point in her life. Told from the vantage point of an older woman, looking back at the year when forces converged in her life, this is the story of a young lady determined to make her fortune in Manhattan. While reading this, I realized that I have never and would never have as much talent to write as well as Mr. Towles does here.One pet peeve I have is the author chose not to use quotation marks in dialogue. It is very annoying and did take some getting used to. Why writers (and editors for that matter) approve of this method is confounding. Also, as rich and colorful as Mr. Towles writing is, occasionally he overdoes the verbosity. Case in point, page 263: "I looked up and down Second Avenue like a wolf that's escaped from it's cage. I checked my watch. The hands were splayed between the nine and three, like two duelers back to back who have counted off paces and are about to turn and fire." The true test of any story is if the author made you care about his characters? Mr. Towles has succeeded in both painting a rich, colorful and vibrant picture of 1930's New York, as well as creating real and authentic characters that come to life for us to revel in their company. If I have failed to convey just how much I admire Amor Towles writing, let me share this. Initially, I checked this book out from the library (3 times), then checked out the Audio CD (masterfully read by Rebecca Lowman), and then finally purchased my own hardcover copy (paying full retail price I might add!) This book will remain in my personal library and will be reread again with great pleasure.

  • Diane
    2018-11-27 14:08

    Thank you, Amor Towles, for writing such a lovely and sophisticated novel. Your book was a soothing tonic for this bruised and battered reader.Rules of Civility is the story of Katey Kontent in New York City. The novel opens at an art gallery in 1966, and then flashes back to 1937 after Katey sees a photo of her former lover, Tinker Grey. She thinks back to her single days and to the night she first met Tinker in '37. She remembers how getting to know him inadvertently set her on a path that changed her circle of friends, her career, and her fortune.There are so many things I enjoyed about this novel! I liked that Katey loved to read, and her conversation was often infused with bookish references. I liked that she was clever and also moral, and she tried to do the right thing in difficult situations. (In some ways she reminded me of Elizabeth Bennet, of Pride and Prejudice.) I liked the portrayal of different levels of New York society, and how some people were so desperate to fit in. I liked that our characters have secrets that we don't learn until later, and that the author was able to surprise me. I even liked that the novel's title refers to a work by George Washington that gives etiquette advice. I knew little about the plot when I picked up this book, but was intrigued by all the positive reviews I'd seen. I'm a few years late to this book party, but I became eager to finally read this first Towles novel when his latest work, A Gentleman in Moscow, also received good buzz. I enjoyed the writing of Rules so much that I definitely plan to follow up with Gentleman.I listened to this book on audio, which had a good narrator and was an enjoyable listening experience. I'd highly recommend this novel.Favorite Quote"At any given moment we're all seeking someone's forgiveness."

  • Cynthia
    2018-11-18 08:55

    Immigrants or Trust Funds?“Rules of Civility” is a love story for a city. Specifically New York City during the last few years of the 1930’s. That’s not to say that Towles's characters aren’t fully realized. They are. In fact the dialog is outstanding. When a character opens their mouth you know immediately if they haunt the docks or Park Avenue. At one point the three principle protagonists are out larking and sneak into a Marx Brothers movie. Think of how exaggerated the accents and mannerisms are in those movies….much to our amusement. This is exactly what “Rules” dialog isn’t. It’s distinct but real. “Rules” has an energy that’s exhilarating. Blood pounds as people and City and an era collide. There is a blend of secretaries, bankers, day traders, party girls, lost boys, doormen, waitresses, cultures, a blend of 15th and 2nd generation Americans all dreaming their dreams and banging into one another.4.5/5

  • Sarah
    2018-11-23 12:47

    I waffled between a one or two star rating, but I'm not feeling particularly generous today, so one star it is.Basically: upper-class middle-aged man tries to write as/about working-class young woman. And fails. I think I enjoyed about the first twenty pages of this one, and the rest just fell utterly flat. First of all, the main character (with the terrible name of Katey Kontent) was completely unconvincing and not at all compelling. It's rare that men can write convincingly in a female voice, but it can be done (She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb is one example of a male author writing in a believable female voice). Not by Amor Towles, though, apparently. Katey was basically everything - a party girl, but also very serious and a hard worker, gregarious and super friendly, but also stoic and she was basically nothing. There was no personality, no interesting flaws or redeeming characteristics. The whole story is viewed through her perspective and this is basically her story, and yet I finished the book feeling like I didn't know her at all. Additionally, I felt that Katey's working-class background was...unlikely? She was much too readily accepted into the elite circles and much too integrated into that lifestyle to have actually come from impoverished working-class roots. I'm going to attribute this issue to the fact that the author grew up in East Coast suburbs and went to the Ivy Leagues - my guess is he's grown up too close to those elite circles to actually see how snobby and exclusive (and racist and sexist) they can be. Towles also had this super obnoxious habit of going off into pretentious tangents about classic literature...basically worshipping works of the Great White Man Authors (Hemingway, Thoreau, Dickens...) while shitting all over female writers (Austen, Woolf, Buck). No one cares about your page-long analysis of Walden, Mr. Towles, so perhaps you could hush up and get on with the story. Others have complimented the writing style, but personally I wasn't impressed. I thought it was overwritten. Heavy on the style, light on the substance. I know this was compared to Fitzgerald (another author of whom I am not fond) and I can see why, but it's a pale imitation. The plot itself was generally weak. Nothing about the plot is particularly new or original. It starts out kind of interesting but quickly flatlines. The romances were all tepid. I hated the name Tinker for the banker/(SPOILER)manstress (male version of mistress). So yeah, can you tell I didn't care for this one much? I feel like I've been too harsh and bitchy in this review, but what can I say? Something about this book rubbed me the wrong way. Read something else, this one isn't worth it.

  • Margitte
    2018-11-21 14:05

    I don't want to say a lot about this book. I'm a bit tired this morning. Wanted to finish this book and denied myself a few hours of sleep.This is the story of Kate, Eve and Tinker in the New York of 1938, where it was possible to climb the social ladder with a few rules from the father of the American republic's, George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior; a few well-positioned social connections; and and a whiff of intelligence. Everybody had a chance if you knew the rules. In 1966 Kate is reflecting on that year's experiences which changed their lives forever. And all through the prose a love letter to New York is written in embossed gold. A wonderful read. My first encounter with this author was his book A Gentleman In Moscow which will forever be one of my favorite books. This one comes in at a close second. Quote I want to remember:The metaphor was apt. A million years of social behavior had worn away this chasm and now you had to pack a mule to get to the bottom of it. Washingtonia left a lot to learn and a lot to regret in the case of these three young adults who learnt more about themselves and life in a year than most people in a lifetime. For Tinker Grey, this little book wasn’t a series of moral aspirations—it was a primer on social advancement. A do-it-yourself charm school. A sort of How to Win Friends and Influence People 150 years ahead of its time. In the end it was about choices. Between Anne Grandyn on the one hand and Wallace Wolcott on the other, there was a midway waiting to be discovered.For me this novel was something between Judith Krantz'sPrincess Daisy - lite and Hemingway's nostalgia, with a dash of philosophy added. Whatever it was, it worked for me.

  • Sara
    2018-11-30 06:14

    New Year’s Eve 1937, Katey Kontent and Evelyn Ross meet handsome, well-heeled Tinker Grey at a bar and they see in 1938 together. They make resolutions for one another...and one of those resolutions is to get “out of your ruts.” Well, this chance meeting shakes up all their lives and not a rut is left when 1938 whistles itself into history. With New York City as a delicious backdrop, Katey navigates both the heights of society and the working class world, and along the way she learns a lot about herself and her fellow travelers. Towles writes enchantingly flawed characters. No goody-goody, unrealistic, cookie-cutter cliches here, and I liked that. Atmospherically, there is something of Fitzgerald in this novel. I made the comparison and then found that many others had done the same. However, there is nothing derivative about either the writing or the is just that sense of a world that is partying on its surface and boiling underneath. There is the looming threat of World War II, which is mentioned in passing, but which permeates all the joviality, because, as an audience, we know that what follows the recovery from the depression is a party that is only momentary, ending in massive losses on battlefields abroad.Early in the novel, Katey observes, It wasn’t about who had dibs now or who was sitting next to whom in the cinema. The game had changed; or rather, it wasn’t a game at all anymore. It was a matter of making it through the night, which is often harder than it sounds, and always a very individual business.” This quote summed up a lot for me, for the story is, if nothing else, about the struggle of the individuals to find their place in society, to make trade-offs they can live with, to grasp the right things and the right people. In the end, making it through the night and waking to a morning where you still appreciate a simple cup of coffee might be all that it is ever about for any of us.A Gentleman in Moscow was one of my favorite reads in 2016, and Rules of Civility has proved to me that Amor Towles is the real thing. All the happenstance in the world could not have produced two such different and yet so captivating novels. I will put my money down every time Towles writes something new.

  • PorshaJo
    2018-11-29 06:51

    Rating 3.5There is a movie by Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris (awesome movie), that many say 'its a love letter to Paris'. A love letter to a particular time in history, the roaring 20s, where many literary and artistic people socialized. The Rules of Civility, I felt, was Towles love affair. His love affair with New York city, his love affair with the late 30s, and his love of literature.The story follows Katey Kontent (really?) who is twenty five, living in New York's Greenwich Village, moving along and socializing with various types in the late 30's. In the blurb, it also talks about Tinker Grey and her friend Eve and that fateful evening. But I did not think they were central to the story. I wanted to hear more of this trio but the story focuses on Katey, and all those people that cross her path. Yes, many of whom she would have never met, had it not been for that meeting with Tinker Grey. I liked the story, but wanted to like it more. Not too much really happens with Katey, other than meeting some rich folks, socializing, and trying to get ahead in life, all while trying to maintain a sense of elegance. At first, I loved all the literary references, but then it became too much. There is no doubt that Towles can write, and write vivid descriptions of times and places. I look forward to reading more from him.I listened to this one via audio and it was great. The narrator is one that I have heard before and she did not disappoint. Overall, I'm glad I have finally read this one, but doubt it will stick with me.

  • Lynn
    2018-11-22 10:00

    I enjoy character-driven novels. This one is made perfect by focusing on a specific time and place: 1938 in NYC. It's a year between the Great Depression and the beginning of WWII. Even the poised, reflective characters are carefree enough to hang out and drink, listen to jazz and have madcap adventures. Fun to eavesdrop on all that. There's a wonderful device used to demonstrate one person's character. At the beginning of the book, our narrator finds Tinker Grey's picture twice in a photographer's exhibit. Tinker also appears twice in a class picture.I like the non-preachy examination of wealth, class and ambition in America.Second reading for DCL book group.

  • Emma
    2018-11-16 12:08

    "If we only fell in love with people who were perfect for us, then there wouldn’t be so much fuss about love in the first place."I first came across this author when I read A Gentleman in Moscow, which I absolutely adored. Reading this was my chance to see if he was a one trick pony. Let me tell you- he is not!Amor Towles writes beautifully and evocatively of the late 1930s in New York. The book is an exploration of love, of choices made, of life fulfilled, of connections made and disguarded and of ships passing in the night.Towles is very insightful of the human psyche and this book was a pleasure to read, his use of language flows so artfully.Recommended.

  • Chrissie
    2018-11-21 08:10

    In summary, I loved listening to this audiobook. Why? First of all, this book is a must for anyone who loves NYC. Secondly, almost every line refers to places and books and artists. There is a wonderful message. The author is a master of metaphor. Most every sentence implies more than the bare words. One example: Katey pronounces her surname Kon-TENT. Don't you see the difference between that and KON-tent? Think about it. The plot throws you a looper. The characters become real people .In the beginning I wondered if the different characters' actions were believable. Yes, they most certainly were. People are complicated. As with real people it takes a while to understand these characters. By the end of the novel each one is very special, each in their own way. And finally there is subtle, sophisticated humor. Absolutely excellent narration by Rebecca Lowman. The title of this book refers to George Washington's penmanship assignment entitled "Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation". Are you curious for more? Look here: ( These 110 rules are listed at the end of the book, but I did not read them.... The title is very apt, for this book is all about to what purpose these rules should be followed. This book is all about the choices each of us makes in determining our fate, because we do make choices. Our fate is not predestined. ******************Oh, what I wouldn't do to go shopping at Bendel's. I can dream it still exists and is still the same?****************Through Chapter 9:Why have I not grabbed this book sooner?! It is not just good, it is really good. This book is for those people who demand books that are well written. Exciting plots are not enough. You know there are those books that are fun because the plot keeps you hanging on. Then there are those books which are fabulous because every line has you thinking, not about the plot, but about what is described, the place, the people, or how a character is responding, or how would I react in that situation. I am not saying the plot doesn't move forward, I am merely saying what happens isn't that necessary because the writing in itself keeps you thinking. I love the writing.So what is it I love? I wrote below that the author superbly describes NYC. By that I do not mean what you see, but what you feel when you are there in that place. There is a static electricity in the air that is NYC. There is the honking of the cabs, there are the dark summer nights, there is the hot, sticky air in the summer. These things that I mention here are NOT described in this book, but this author has found all the other characteristics of this city that are so hard to capture. I thought this was a nostalgia trip for me...... but it is more than that. Amor Towles describes places and events that I have never experienced, and I feel I am there too! An example, the Belmont race-tracks. Katey is there at 5 A.M. on a weekday. There you find the down and out, those who bet with their last dime, the wealthy, those who own horses and have a stake in the outcomes, the trainers... Each sit in their own places. Each is described with similes so that you see in which group each one belongs. How they hold their bodies, how they move, where they sit, how they are clothed, what they are eating and drinking - all of this you see. You feel the excitement. This is NOT done through boring descriptions. It is done through wonderful similes and metaphors so you understand and know immediately how a person almost feels because you recognize the visions conjured by the metaphors. This book is filled with the words"like" and "as if". It is filled with gorgeous metaphors that you snap up immediately. That is the author's trick..... But this is no easy trick. How has the author known how to capture those hunched shoulders? Where else is that shoulder held with that hunch so that readers will recognize it immediately? Then Towles puts it there for us in his metaphor. Back to the race tracks. They are referred to as "Race-Arounds". What a wonderful expression. There are hunched backs, then straightened backs released as if on a spring when the horses surprise. Hands grip cups where "the absence of steam said the cup was filled with liquor". You smell the paddocks. And here, as elsewhere, what you see is compared to the lines of famous literature. It was like "circles of Dante's Inferno". Over and over again there are reference to artists and authors and photographers and books you have read. You remember these books or that painting and you know exactly what is expressed. This is a book for the literate, the well-educated. It is certainly for the well-read. It not only captures the jazz clubs of the 30s, but also art trends, the secretarial girls, literature and even butterfly collections! Eve is compared to the portraits of John Singer Sargent. Doesn't that draw a picture for you?Another thought.... How has this author so well captured the essence of his female characters? Is there some women here on the sidelines?So, I am terribly enjoying this book for how it us written. The events are rather insignificant for me; sometimes I do wonder would people make such decisions? Would it happen like that? But I have only read nine chapters. Maybe I will change my mind about that too. I am beginning to figure out who these people are: Tinker and Katey and Eve. We are talking 1938, NYC. Tinker is from the well-to-do. Eve and Katey are scratching the dirt, but Eve is never one to be under another's thumb, as she clearly states at the very beginning. One is from Brooklyn with Russian immigrant parents.That is Katey. The other is from the Midwest. What is intriguing is that I am sure there is more to understand about these three disparate figures. Who is the social climber? Katey is the erudite blue-collar worker, a stenographer at a law firm, but under the exterior who is she? How are they similar? How do they differ....... and this is a friendship of three! That never works. Who really loves who? I like the narration by Rebecca Lowman. Her voice is a perfect balance to the struggles of the the three. There are struggles. ************************Well, I definitely love the way NYC is described. I lived there. It has a special feel to it. You go into that city and you feel it in the air. You feel that when you read this book. It makes me terribly nostalgic. There are so many details that perfectly capture the atmosphere of the place - the cabs, the sounds, Greenwich Village, the restaurants, the food. Each aspect is perfectly depicted with a simile that strikes home perfectly. Gosh, I am amazed. I was so worried when I started this book....

  • Liz
    2018-12-09 10:55

    Sometimes you’re fortunate enough to read a book that can make you gasp, make you laugh, and bring a poignant tear to your eye, all at the same time… your throat literally swells with it. If you have read such a book then I’m sure you know what I mean. Rules of Civility was not just a book to me, but an experience which embodied all those feelings. If you’re wondering, Rules is written with the charm and imagination equal to that of A Gentleman in Moscow, but they are very different stories. This one follows twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent during the year 1938 in Manhattan, after a serendipitous encounter with Tinker Grey, a banker from the upper echelon of society. Katey’s intelligence and intrepid mind serve her well during her adventures and encounters over the subsequent year. After meeting someone by chance and throwing off a few sparks, can there be any substance to the feeling that you’ve known each other your whole lives? After those first few hours of conversation, can you really be sure that your connection is so uncommon that it belongs outside the bounds of time and convention? And if so, won’t that someone have just as much capacity to upend as to perfect all your hours that follow? Across the strata of society from flophouses to penthouses, we have the pleasure of meeting some wonderful characters, not all of whom are as they first appear. Still waters run deep, as they say, and one of the beautiful things about this book is learning what and who people really are; who is honorable and who is not? Who will remain and who will fade away? Even savvy Katey doesn’t always recognize what is before her, without the benefit of hindsight, and I found myself taken delightfully by surprise on several occasions. I could continue to talk, but I’m going to finish up here. So much more than the title and the summary, this book now has a place in my heart and on my shelf, right next to Gentleman. Amor Towles is two for two with me, and I wish he would hurry up and write another!

  • Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
    2018-12-07 08:12

    Entertaining - light but not fluffy - what it does best is capture the high drama of being a New Yorker during the late 30’s. A city where the upper class live large and lavish, hang out in jazz bars, frequent hotels like The Plaza & Essex House and generally fritter their lives away drinking & smoking up a storm. Katey Kontent, a social climber extraordinaire and her flaky friend Eve hobnob with rich elitists with names like (seriously) Tinker, Dicky & Bitsy… Throw in a bitter struggling artist straddling the fence between two worlds as he rejects the trappings of wealth for the glory of art. For spice deception is the novel’s core, seems like no one is who they appear to be.Impressive debut from a Boston boy who graduated from Yale & Stanford, obviously comfortable writing about the world of the privileged. Sparkly dialog, interesting characters, great period piece. I like that he’s going for a ‘Great Gatsby’ / “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” flavor even if he doesn’t quite pull it off - this is his 1st novel after all.Cons: Because Amor never makes up his mind on Katey’s character she ends up muddled rather than multi-faceted, plus he really needs to work on portraying the feminine voice. Her calculated detachment came across masculine in tone, her various love affairs passionless (view spoiler)[in all fairness she does get pretty excited when Tinker Grey walks into The Hotspot wearing an expensive camel haired coat (hide spoiler)] 3 ½ stars rounded to 4 “Part of the joy of Dicky was the ableness with which he flitted from moment to moment and topic to topic like a sparrow in a hurricane of crumbs.”“For what was civilization but the intellect’s ascendancy out of the doldrums of necessity - shelter, sustenance & survival - into the ether of the finely superfluous - poetry, handbags and haute cuisine?”

  • Sue
    2018-11-25 09:49

    So much has been said about this book here and elsewhere that I'm not sure what else to add. I did love this book for many reasons: The sense of time and place, the wonderful use of language (love the use of metaphor), sparkling dialog and internal narration, and wonderful descriptions of New York City itself that raise its presence to another character.We have all lived through our twenties (or most of us through most of that decade). So much happens, so many decisions are made that impact our future lives whether we realize it or not. And in New York City, especially Manhattan, in that struggling decade of the 1930s, Towles has found a great story to tell and I plan to read it again.

  • Carol
    2018-11-29 12:49

    It's really hard to put my finger on what made me like Rules of Civility so much. I'm partial to debut novels and their authors so when 4 to 5 star reviews started pouring in on GoodReads for this book, I quickly added it to my list. The setting of New York, the city would not normally make me clamor to read this book, but the 1938 New York that Rules of Civility depicts captured me right away. I can only believe this is due to Amor Towles ability as a writer. The story seems fairly simple. Two young working girls with limited funds, Katey & Eve, are out for some fun on New Year's Eve when they meet the dapper, rich Tinker Grey. An unlikely friendship forms amongst the three and they find themselves having grand good times together. Two's company, three's a crowd, soon seems evident to Katey, however. From here on in the story belongs to Katey and it's a richly told tale. Wealth, class, friendships, loyalty are all explored with the New York jazz scene playing in the background. I almost forgot to mention where Towles got his title inspiration...a list of social maxims put together by George Washington in his teenage years, Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation, Consider the first of the 110 that are reprinted in the appendix and one of my favorites:"1st Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present."Good characters and a story that flows easily make this a debut a winner for me.

  • BrokenTune
    2018-11-29 12:54

    —Oh stop, Eve said. It’s dreadful. What is it?—Virginia Woolf.—Ugh. Tinker brought home all these novels by women as if that’s what I needed to get me back on my feet. He’s surrounded my bed with them. It’s as if he’s planning to brick me in. Isn’t there anything else? Rules of Civility left me cold. I did not hate it, I did not like, I certainly did not love it as much as other people, including a lot of readers whose reviews I value, loved this book.I don't even know whether it was the detached voice of Katey Kontent that made me feel nothing about anything in this book or whether it was the embellished detail of 1930s jazziness that got on my nerves and made me look hard for another aspect of the book that I could get into. Something like a plot or an interesting character. Or at least one that did not feel like a cardboard cut-out.I may have detested F.S. Fitzgerald's main characters, but at least they were memorable. I may have disliked Evelyn Waugh's tone and snobbishness, but at least his books carried an air of authenticity by attempting to be satire.I don't even know what the book was trying to do.Nope, Rules of Civility just did not work for me.

  • Sarah
    2018-11-24 09:14

    Amor Towles has his own style of writing. He is like yoga for the brain. I will first say, it's amazing to me how Amor Towles can write from a women's perspective. I would think most men would find that painful. I'm just kidding. Rules of Civility is about two roommate's that meet a wealthy man on New Years night and how it changes the course of their lives. For a period of time.It was told from Katey's point of view and all of the characters were ones that grew, and you were able to connect with them throughout the book. Towles is spectacular at description and atmosphere. It's also about solidarity, manners, and closuresI was so excited when Katey finally came to light about some things. I kept thinking, Egads woman, wake up ! I won't say a lot about that. I also loved the part about the martinis with Anne and "the olives'' that was a hoot !!No spoilers here !!I was captivated by this novel. Elyse recommended it to me after reading A Gentleman In Moscow. I loved both of Towles books from beginning to end. Rules of Civility has something for everyone.Overall this novel endures. I would recommend this one to anyone who enjoys great historical fiction

  • Toni
    2018-12-15 12:09

    Rereading this wonderful book, just for fun and joy! Better the second time around. Just like watching a movie the second time, you get to see all those little details you missed the first time, and just wonder, how you didn't catch that! Read it again!

  • Algernon
    2018-11-27 06:54

    What were you afraid of as a kid? What did you always want that your parents never gave you? If you could be anyone for a day, who would you be? If you could relive one year in your life, which one would you be? Strangers in the night, two girls and a young man, meet and try to discover each other through a little game of 'what if ...' Sounds like my GR friend Dan and his Ongoing Security Question Quiz, or like that running gag inThe Way We Werewhen Robert Redford picks up the best of everything he experienced. For Katherine Kontent (call her Kate or Katey, never Kathy), the year she relives through the pages of the present novel is 1938 and the place is Manhattan in its full pre-war regalia. Sophisticated, witty, funny, bittersweet, elegant, lyrical, caustic, self-reliant, Katey swept me off my feet right from the start: a prologue set in 1966, at a Walker Evans vernissage for his famous subway portraits. Katey recognizes one of the faces, captured twice in contrasting circumstances : one as an affluent banker, the other as a tramp. Will this be a version of Rich Man, Poor Mansoap opera? 'No, not exactly!' answers Katey as she takes us back to the last night of 1937.Look at them: Kate Konstant and Eve Ross, pennyless but filled with lust for life, two single working girls in the big city, sharing a room in a rundown hostel, spending their last dimes on drinks and cigarettes in an underground bar in the Village,looking like starlight with limbs .In walks a young man in an expensive cashemre coat and with a monogrammed gold lighter. They hit it off instantly, conversation sparkling brighter than champagne. Out in the streets the snow tranforms the city into a fairytale realm and 1938 is ushered in with 'Auld Lang Syne' and a snowball fight.But which girl will end up with the saucy Tinker? and will their friendship prove stronger than budding romance? Pretty soon the rom-com vibe takes a sharp turn into a darker alley, and inclement weather ( the approaching war in Europe, the still felt repercursions of the Great Depression, the daily slog of earning a living, the broken hearts and fallen idols) threatens the smooth sailing of girls' ship.I liked the Eve part of the story, the rich girl from Midwest who runs away from home to make it on her own in the metropolis, but it was Katey I rooted for all the time. A no-nonsense, practical and intelligent young woman of Slavic stock from New Jersey, ambitious and hard working, sarcastic yet kind and loyal, she is the kind of dreamer who doesn't give up when life gives her lemons, she goes out and fights for what she wants. (view spoiler)[ best example is her quitting the safe but soul destroying secretarial job instead of accepting a promotion.(hide spoiler)].And she's an avid reader, which is a sure way to please a GR book nerd like me : Katey's the hottest bookworm you'll ever meet. If you took all the books that she's read and piled them in a stack, you could climb to the Milky Way. Books and reading, music, painting, photography, art in general plays a crucial role all through the story, as each street corner in Manhattan, each Central Park alley or penthouse apartment is enriched and defined by the spirit of the artists who lived and loved and created the personality of the city. Some references are direct, others are hidden in plain view like Easter Eggs for the reader to discover. From the house of Edith Warton to parties in the upper state luxury estates of Gatsby fame, from the birth of be-bop in after hours jam sessions with Bird and Coltrane to mornings in front of Fifth Avenue luxury shops as a Holly Golightly alter ego, from a secret Ukrainian vaudeville bar to an old fashioned Irish house (GOOD ALE, RAW ONIONS, NO LADIES) - Katey takes us on an incredible cultural journey through the true heart of Manhattan. Here are few of her literary gems: Powdered with snow, Washington Square looked as lovely as it could. The snow had dusted every tree and gate. The once tony brownstones that on summer days now lowered their gaze in misery were lost for the moment in sentimental memories. At No. 25, a curtain on the second floor was drawn back and the ghost of Edith Wharton looked out with shy envy. Sweet, insightful, unsexed, she watched the three of us pass wondering when the love that she had so artfully imagined would work up the courage to rap on her door. When would it present itself at an inconvenient hour, insist upon being admitted, brush past the butler and rush up the Puritan staircase urgently calling her name? --- At the back of the club, looming over a small empty dance floor, a jazz quartet was playing loved-me-and-left-me standards without a vocalist. The saxophonist, a mournful giant with skin as black as motor oil, had apparently lost his way in the labyrinth of one of his long lonely solos. --- Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, I always looked forward to the unveiling of the new seasons at Bergdorf's. Standing before the windows, you felt like a tsarina receiving one of those jeweled eggs in which an elaborate scene in miniature has been painstakingly assembled. With one eye closed you spy inside, losing all sense of time as you marvel at every transporting detail. Books are not simply a refuge from reality or a convenient way to flesh out the cultural background of the story. They define and motivate the actors, as seen in a snappy catfight between Katey and socialite heiress Ann Grandyn: - You're rather well read for a working-class girl.- Really? I've found that all my well-read friends are from the working classes.- Oh my. Why do you think that is? The purity of the poverty?- No. It's just that reading is the cheapest form of entertainment.- Sex is the cheapest form of entertainment.- Not in this house. or in Tinker's most precious possession, a book from his childhood that not only explains his personality, but provides also the title of the novel:Rules of Civility @ Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. If this piece of George Washington memorabilia describes Tinker's aspirations at gentlemanly behaviour, Katey's pick for a desert island companion is Waldenby Henry David Thoreau:the only book in which infinity can be found on every page. .The aspirations of Thoreau for simplicity and harmony with nature and with oneself can be identified as the source of Katey's equanimity and strength of purpose, for her self-reliance and her bounce back resilience after each knock down. I've bookmarked a couple of examples, out of many: Uncompromising purpose and the search for eternal truth have an unquestionable sex appeal for the young and high-minded; but when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane - in the cigarette on the stoop or the gingersnap in the bath - she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger. What my father was trying to tell me, as he neared the conclusion of his own course, was that this risk should not be treated lightly: One must be prepared to fight for one's simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements. --- But for me, dinner at a fine restaurant was the ultimate luxury. It was the very height of civilization. For what was civilization but the intellect's ascendancy out of the doldrums of necessity (shelter, sustenance and survival) into the ether of the finely superfluous (poetry, handbags and haute cuisine)? I have tried to avoid spoilers by saying as little as possible about the way the romantic life of Katey, Eve and Tinker develops all through the year 1938, who ends up with whom, who runs away, who is left stranded on the shore. Yet I am left with another batch of quotes that I would hate to throw away, as they are illustrative of the splendid prose and subtle use of metaphor in the text. So, no names, just snapshots that I throw your way like paper airplanes (you'll get the reference when you read the book) : Dear Sir,If you would be so kind, please play us your interpretation of "It's De-Lovely". For is it not de-lightful to-nightful? Your Moonstruck Neighbors --- The romantic interplay that we were having wasn't the real game - it was a modified version of the game. It was a version invented for two friends so that they can get some practice and pass the time divertingly while they wait in the station for their train to arrive. NOTE : this particular game referenced here is called 'honeymoon bridge' , and is a simplified version of the four hands deal, to be played by two. As a bridge afficionado myself, I can't wait to give it a spin ( It was an ingenuous little game. *** had played it with his grandfather on rainy days in the Adirondacks. Here's how it works: You place the shuffled deck on the table. Your opponent draws the top card and then has two options: He can keep the card, look at the second one and discard it face down; or he can discard the first card and keep the second one. Then it's your turn. The two of you go back and forth in this manner until the deck is exhausted, at which point you each hold thirteen cards, having discarded thirteen - giving the game an unusually elegant balance between intention and chance. )--- Like two teenagers who've struck up a friendship on a cross-Atlantic steamer, we raced to trade reminiscences and insights and dreams before reaching port. My friend Dolors ended her recent review with a reference to the night sky over Manhattan, probably the most enticing and enduring iconic moment of the novel. It was already on my bucket list of places to visit at some point in the future. Amor Towles added yet another reason to get there and try to follow in the steps of Katey, Eve and Tinker: From the end of the pier he could see the city skyline in its entirety - the whole staggered assembly of townhouses and warehouses and skyscrapers stretching from Washington Heights to the Battery. Nearly every light in every window in every building seemed to be shimmering and tenuous - as if powered by the animal spirits within - by the arguments and endeavours, the whims and elisions. But here and there, scattered across the mosaic, were also the isolated windows that seemed to burn a little brighter and more constant - the windows lit by those few who acted with poise and purpose.He scuffed out his cigarette and decided to dwell out in the cold a little while longer.For however inhospitable the wind, from this vantage point Manhattan was simply so improbable, so wonderful, so obviously full of promise - that you wanted to approach it for the rest of your life without ever quite arriving. I've given I think enough reasons why I rated the book five stars. The fact that my own answer to the question at the beginning ('If you could relive one year in your life, which one would you be?') is 1986, and that that particular year's girl was a bookworm named Kathy, may explain why I added it also to my favorites to a gallery of Walker Evans Subway Portraits:retronaut gallery Soundtrack suggestions:John Coltrane - BalladsCharlie Parker - Best ofWynton Marsalis - Standard Time vol. 3Billie holliday - Greatest HitsAudrey Hepburn - Moon River

  • Howard
    2018-11-20 13:58

    Update 4/23/2017I need to clarify a comment I made regarding the prison population in my community. Since they are people and they are part of the population and the facility is within our city limits, for census purposes they are counted as part of our population. After all, they do reside within our city limits. However, very few, if any, lived in the community or the surrounding area prior to their arrest and conviction. I assume that the prison population wherever it might be located is included in the census figures.I should have taken the time to explain what I meant. REVIEW:The place is New York. The year is 1938. Three twenty-something self-centered snobs are busily engaged in social climbing, though one is doing so surreptitiously. In their quest to make their way up the rungs of the social ladder they almost invariably make bad choices.To be honest, I don’t much like them. There is a secondary character that I do like, one who doesn’t have to worry about clawing his way to the top because he was born there. In fact, he seems to feel guilty about his status and would like to climb down the ladder. He also doesn’t have a nickname like the other three, who are known as Katey, Evie, and Tinker. He could have been called Wally, but he isn’t. He is always addressed by his given name, Wallace.Unfortunately, though it would appear that Wallace has both feet planted firmly on the ground, he is also subject to making bad choices and he makes a real humdinger. Maybe it does happen, but I found the regularity in which acquaintances kept bumping into each other to be more than ironic. I mean, after all, it is Manhattan. I live in a community with an estimated population of about 18,000 and it doesn’t happen to me to the degree that it does to the characters in this novel (I should mention that about 3,000 of our population are behind bars at the local correctional facility so that means that our circulating population is only 15,000.) On the other hand, I don’t spend as much time in bars and restaurants as Katey, Evie, Tinker and their friends Dicky, Bitsy, etc. do, which is where a lot of the bumping into occurs.Speaking of ironies, there is a poignant scene in the book that finds a young man and a young woman riding in a car during autumn in New York. On the radio Billie Holliday is singing:Autumn in New York,Why does it seem so inviting?Autumn in New York,It spells the thrill of first-nighting. Glittering crowdsAnd shimmering cloudsIn canyons of steel –They’re making me feelI’m home.It’s home in New YorkThat brings the promise of new love.It is even more ironic than I thought. Billie Holliday didn’t record the song until 1952.No, I didn’t know that when I read the book. It was only when I was doing some further reading about the book and its author that I discovered that tidbit in a review. I did do some research and found that it was true.But that isn’t the only anachronism in the book. There are few black people in the story. Besides Billie Holliday, and she is only on the radio, the only other black person I remember is one elevator operator. And where were the poor people? It is 1938, the Great Depression is still in force, but you can count the number of poor people mentioned on one hand and have two fingers left over. Furthermore, there are no soup kitchens, no panhandlers, or anybody selling apples or pencils on street corners.The only mention of the dire economic conditions of the Depression is in the opening chapter which is set in 1966. Except for an epilogue the rest of the story is told in flashback beginning on the last day in 1937 and ending in December 1938. I know that this is not what the story is about, but couldn’t the Great Depression at least be acknowledged? Oh, and by the way, the Brooklyn Dodgers played in Ebbets Field, not Dodger Stadium, and Clyde Barrow favored the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), not the Browning machine gun.One of the things that I do like about the book is the sharp bantering dialogue, especially the snappy comebacks by Katie and Evie. It reminds me of the black-and-white movies made in the ‘30s and ‘40s that I used to watch on TV when local stations ran movies to fill the time late at night and on weekend afternoons. I’m thinking of those that starred Barbara Stanwyck or Jean Arthur or Katharine Hepburn or, later, Lauren Bacall. They don't make them like that anymore.And there is this:I cracked two eggs in a bowl and whisked them with grated cheese and herbs. I poured them into a pan of heated oil and covered them with a lid. Something about heating the oil and putting on the lid makes the eggs puff upon contact. And they brown without burning.I tried it. It works.-------------------------------------------earlier comment:I must be the last person on GR to read this book. A friend recommended it a few years back and I purchased a copy which had languished on my shelf ever since. On a whim I picked it up yesterday and started reading and was on the verge of deep sixing it, but then the accident occurred, and the tone of the story made a sharp turn for the better -- or worse -- depending on one's viewpoint. I guess I find human misery to be more interesting than bar hopping, but I think I can finish it now.Hate the cover.

  • Diane S ☔
    2018-12-09 06:10

    4 1/2 if I could. What a wonderful book, tones of Fitzgerald but so much better. The words are beautiful, the writing fantastic. Three people, Evie, Katy and Tinker have an profound influence on each other, their relationships and many many secrets. First book so I just have to wait patiently for his next. Such a great feel for the Jazz Age.

  • Alena
    2018-11-20 14:14

    I cannot possibly write a review that reflects the intelligence and sophistication of this book. Integrating art, photography and literature into his portrait of 1938 New York, Amor Towles also tells a great story about the choices made by one young woman -- Kate/Katey/Katherine Kontent, and her friends.Kate is smart, funny, unpredictable and determined, all qualities that make a fine heroine. But she's also imperfect, which makes her infinitely more interesting. Likewise the characters that intersect her life in 1938 run the gamut from charismatic playboys to down on their luck artists -- few of whom make predictable choices."He always looked his best, I thought to myself, when circumstances called for him to be a boy and a man at the same time."Towles kept me on my toes throughout the novel -- no easy feat. Best of all, he evoked the time period seamlessly, making me feel I was on this journey along with Kate.I just loved it.

  • Michael
    2018-12-07 12:48

    Hard for me to get too excited about this nostalgic tale. It is great on tone and atmosphere in the life it portrays for Manhattan social climbers in 1938. The story told by Katie in retrospect from middle-age strives strives to be wise about life’s choices and the power of friendship to guide such choices with true integrity. But the paradoxes of Katie’s character makes it hard for me to buy-in well on her plausibility.In her early 20’s, Katie moves from Brighton Beach to Manhattan, takes a job at a law office and later in the production staff of a Conde Nast magazine, putting her on a path to intersect the lives of the rich and powerful. When she and her friend Eve befriend the aristocratic and presumed blue-blood Tinker, they get a chance to party and dine in style. She is so together that when the love triangle that develops leaves her in the cold, she does not compete and keeps her feelings hidden. She seems to effortlessly make other alliances with alternative charming fellows on a golden path. She is often so delightfully witty, forgiving, and practical in life, you wish she could be real. But she just seems to be too much of a goody-goody sometimes and too fond of platitudes to take seriously.The key paradox is how we perpetually experience the glamorization of the high life through Katie’s adventures and her ambitions (e.g. to live in a building with a doorman), yet we are led to believe she also holds the values of her blue-collar origins, such as looking down on the power of money and caring for the individuals of the lower classes who serve the rich. Also, she usually seems to admire the adherence of Tinker to George Washington’s precursor to Emily Post, “The Rules of Civility”, but at other times she seems to see the list of rules as a shallow guide for people to fake their way into well-bred behavior.See if you get any sense of enlightenment from these samples of Towles prose. Here is Katie’s opinion on the attraction of fine dining:My father would sooner have carried a twenty-dollar bill to the grave than spend it on some glamorous weed coated in cheese. But for me, dinner at a fine restaurant was the ultimate luxury. It was the very height of civilization. For what was civilization but the intellect’s ascendancy out of the doldrums of necessity (shelter, sustenance and survival) into the ether of the finely superfluous (poetry, handbags and haute cuisine.Here is a Katie’s Hallmark-type assessment of Tinker’s charm:What he’s got they can’t teach in schools. They can squash it, maybe; but they sure can’t teach it.--And what’s that?--Wonder.--Wonder?--…One in a thousand can look at the world in amazement. …Walking through the unsullied hour with an unsullied heart.And does this account of Tinker’s attraction to Katie seem to sing for you?:Right from the first, I could see a calmness in you—that sort of inner tranquility that they write about in books, that almost no one seems to possess. I was wondering to myself: How does she do that? And I figured it could only come from having no regrets—from having made choices with …such poise and purpose. It stopped me in my tracks a little. And I just couldn’t wait to see it.Does the following maxim strike you as deep?:Most people have more needs than wants. That’s why they live the lives they do. But the world is run by those whose wants outstrip their needs.And if bringing alive the fundamental essence of life in Manhattan is a goal, do you think this statement from Tinker’s perspective truly resonates for you:From the end of the pier he could see the city’s skyline in its entirety—the whole staggered assemble of townhouses and warehouses and skyscrapers stretching from Washington Heights to the Battery. …For however inhospitable the wind, from this vantage point Manhattan was simply so improbable, so wonderful, so obviously full of promise—that you wanted to approach it for the rest of your life without ever quite arriving.