Rules of Civility: A Novel: 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. With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.
Previous Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles is somewhat of a historical novel of the year 1938 except it's really the story of Kate Kontent and the different people she met, the choices she made, and the way her choices molded her for the next couple of decades. It seems a bit random yet I am very drawn to this story because of certain truths I gleaned from it. Here's what I liked:
Kate: Human, quick witted, well read, learns best by living although reading is an excellent past time. She bounces back and morphs into a person of interest because of the people and experiences of this year. On her own she is quite boring and tends to be a girl of opportunity. She takes some stands by the end, changes her mind and her ways and sees her own hypocrisy. She is complex and I so enjoyed the dialogue. For this I forgive her loose morals.
Eve: A completely unexpected character. Although completely beautiful and witty, she also comes from a background of means. She can always go home to her parents where there is wealth and opportunity to marry well and pop out babies. She chooses her own destiny and is not the opportunist I expected. She also taught the best truism of the book. As Kate is reading to her, Eve tells her to skip and begin on page 104, where the action really begins.
Extension of this concept is another scene at work where Kate is looking at snapshots of Bette Davis, knowing that whatever will be published will define her. This is what we really get when we meet people in our twenties or thirties; 103 pages have already been written that set up the background of who they are. We've skipped it so we don't get a complete picture. What we have is a snapshot and often make our judgments based on that defining moment. Erroneously.
Tinker: The one who changes the most and realizes the difference between being driven by wants and needs. His snapshot changes for the reader.
Wallace: The most genuine of the characters. Admirable and humble.
Anne: Never satiated, she is often the cause of conflict although not because she is untruthful. She is forthright and interesting.
This one is a solid 4 star book. It makes me think and I almost appreciated Hemingway. I read The Old Man and the Sea and found myself utterly depressed and despairing by the end. For all he suffered to catch that big fish, the sharks still ate it. Had I skipped the first 103 pages, I would not have been so bored nor would have suffered through his suffering. If Hemingway had skipped the first 103 pages he might not have met such a tragic end.
But perhaps that is the beauty of being Hemingway.
Thanks to an awesome publicist, I have two copies to offer for giveaway.
Paperback comes out June 26th (tomorrow).
Let's get this show on the road.
Contest ends July 10, 2012