Books Other Recommendations

Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility: A Novel by Amor Towles

Fiction suggested by Shirley

From Amazon — 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.

Set during the hazy, enchanting, and martini-filled world of New York City circa 1938, Rules of Civility follows three friends–Katey, Eve, and Tinker–from their chance meeting at a jazz club on New Year’s Eve through a year of enlightening and occasionally tragic adventures. Tinker orbits in the world of the wealthy; Katey and Eve stretch their few dollars out each evening on the town. While all three are complex characters, Katey is the story’s shining star. She is a fully realized heroine, unique in her strong sense of self amidst her life’s continual fluctuations. Towles’ writing also paints an inviting picture of New York City, without forgetting its sharp edges. A love letter to a great American city at the end of the Depression; an homage to 1938 Manhattan.

Towles presents a wonderful sense of Manhattan as a feast for excitement and adventure from the Village to Midtown, including the original watering hole of the St. Regis Hotel’s King Cole Room with the fabled Maxfield Parish mural, to uptown apartment suites overlooking Central Park West. And it seems like the Great Gatsby has met the Gold Diggers of 1938.

Events move quickly and the circle of friends and acquaintances swells to include other denizens of Gotham and the tippling affluent described with Art Deco wit: “Slurring is the cursive of speech, I said. Eckshactly, he said.”

Through the four seasons of 1938 Katey expands her horizons and moves from the world of law to the intense, demanding realm of society magazine publishing for which she seems better suited. And her friends shift their courses, including Tinker for whom Katey will always have a sense of tristesse but no regrets.