Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

the rules of civility

So happy I decided to randomly read this!

Here’s what happened – Last week I was browsing around the library’s used bookstore, like I do, and found this on the shelf for $2. And I have kinda-sorta-maybe been wanting to read it, so I decided to get it. And because almost all of my books are packed right now, I ended up bringing this to work with me over the weekend, along with like 5 library books. I was sitting there, flipping through pages in all these books and trying to decide what I felt like reading next. And I started flipping through this, and then I read the first pages… and then I didn’t stop.

Rules of Civility is one of those books that completely captures your attention and draws you in so that you can FEEL the setting – the 1930’s, NYC, jazz clubs, martinis being had, everyone smoking cigarettes oh-so-classily, and so on. I would be reading this book and a sense of calm and elegance would descend over me – despite the fact that I was reading at my job, in a little trailer shack and wearing jeans and work boots. I was REALLY in New York in the 1930, living Katey’s story along with her and drinking martinis.

So, the plot! I suppose I should mention that a little. It’s New Year’s Eve, 1937 in Manhattan, and Katey Kontent and Eve Ross are celebrating in a little jazz bar when Tinker Grey walks in and changes their lives forever. Their fates become entwined in unexpected ways, and we see where this takes Katey over the next year. The yearlong journey of Katey’s life was engrossing and unpredictable. A lot of crazy, but no unrealistically so, things occur. The characters were all incredibly vivid. It was all around lovely.

Katey was a fantastic main character. One post-it note I wrote along the way just said “OMG I love this girl”, and it’s true. In the beginning she seemed a little timid and generic to me, but she blossomed into this wonderful, strong, interesting person. She really comes into her own. And she’s a bookworm! Eve mentions Katey’s extensive reading earlier in the book, but you don’t notice it much until later – she spends a lot of time reading Dickens and Agatha Christie, discussing Walden by Henry David Thoreau, thinking about Hemingway. I actually really enjoyed how much literature was not only mentioned in the book, but DISCUSSED. It’s easy for authors to make their characters seem like readers just by mentioning a book or two, but it’s rare for an author to make a character appear so bookish in her day-to-day thoughts and conversations. I adored that. Besides being a book lover, Katey was also brave and intelligent and daring and independent and I just think she’s one of the best female characters I’ve read in a long time.

There was a great cast of secondary characters as well. Tinker Grey, obviously, being the main male character of the book. Her friend Eve is kind of crazy but sweet. Wallace is a sweet male character that Katey bonds with. Her boss Mason Tate is one of those demanding, powerful bosses. And they all seemed so real and unique.

Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised and I can definitely see why it’s been making waves in the book world. It’s so well-written! I even want to take a minute to compliment the font used – I’m not sure what font it is, exactly, but it seemed perfectly matched to the book. It actually led me to wondering how much font influences a reader’s feelings while reading, and looking that up online for a while. Iiiiinteresting.

So yes, read Rules of Civility! I think it was glittery and wonderful and I’m sure it’ll be a re-read for me at some point. Literary fiction WIN.

Sarah Says: 4.5 stars

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23 comments

    1. I loved it! There’s just so many little tiny details about it that came together so beautifully and I adored it.

      I also have to say that I was surprised when I found out Amor Towles was a man! He wrote Katey REALLY well.

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    1. Hahaha yeah. I’ve actually taken some others at your house too, I just can’t remember exactly which ones. If I have books with me that I need to review I like taking the review pics in random places – I get bored doing it around my apartment.

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    1. Exactly! But far too often it’s “Oh so and so is such a reader” and it maybe mentions a book or two, and then it’s never really discussed. Being able to “hear” Katey’s thoughts about different books and authors and her conversations with others about books was REALLY refreshing.

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  1. The way you got sucked into the book is awesome and a great recommendation to get me to read it. Awesome review and I’m going to have to add it to my TBR list

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  2. I adored Rules of Civility as well and hope to reread and reread and reread – you get the idea, haha. I was shocked when a very vocal member of my book club trashed it. It still baffles me.

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  3. You and I had very different experiences with this book. I wanted to love it more than I actually loved it, but your comment about the typeface (and how it might affect one’s reading) makes me wonder something: I listened to this book on audio, and while I don’t remember any quibbles I had about the reader, I do remember feeling very put out with Katey. I’m fairly sure I rolled my eyes at her on a regular basis. Maybe I would have liked it better if I’d read the book instead of listened to it. I do remember enjoying the scenes of Katey on the bicycle and learning to ride it.

    NB: Random House almost always puts in a note about the type, which is something I’ve always appreciated. Or at least I’ve appreciated since I’ve learned what typography is. It’s a shame that all publishers don’t make mention of the type.

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    1. I really do wish the publishers would note the typeface all the time. Sometimes I just need to know!

      You might have a point about the audio thing. It’s one of the reasons I don’t do audio a lot – mainly that I’m lazy, but also if it’s a book I’ve never read before, I worry that the audio experience will be different than the reading experience. I like listening to memoirs in which the author is the narrator for the audio, and I like listening to books I’ve read before, but otherwise I’m wary. It didn’t occur to me until this book that maybe there’s a similar thing with the font of a book. Humans are weird!

      I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it as much. But you know, differences are what make the world go on and all that.

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  4. I’ve been seeing this book everywhere for a while now. It seems to pop up all the time on various blogs and I keep going back and forth, wondering if it’s for me despite all the rave reviews. You just convinced me to give it a try as I know we have similar reading tastes. I hope it grabs me as much as it did you! I’m glad you gave it a try and possibly introduced me to another awesome book I might otherwise have overlooked.

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