RULES OF CIVILITY by Amor Towles

RULES OF CIVILITY

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Manhattan in the late 1930s is the setting for this saga of a bright, attractive and ambitious young woman whose relationships with her insecure roommate and the privileged Adonis they meet in a jazz club are never the same after an auto accident.

Towles' buzzed-about first novel is an affectionate return to the post–Jazz Age years, and the literary style that grew out of it (though seasoned with expletives). Brooklyn girl Katey Kontent and her boardinghouse mate, Midwestern beauty Eve Ross, are expert flirts who become an instant, inseparable threesome with mysterious young banker Tinker Grey. With him, they hit all the hot nightspots and consume much alcohol. After a milk truck mauls his roadster with the women in it, permanently scarring Eve, the guilt-ridden Tinker devotes himself to her, though he and she both know he has stronger feelings for Katey. Strong-willed Katey works her way up the career ladder, from secretarial job on Wall Street to publisher’s assistant at Condé Nast, forging friendships with society types and not allowing social niceties to stand in her way. Eve and Tinker grow apart, and then Kate, belatedly seeing Tinker for what he is, sadly gives up on him. Named after George Washington's book of moral and social codes, this novel documents with breezy intelligence and impeccable reserve the machinations of wealth and power at an historical moment that in some ways seems not so different from the current one. Tinker, echoing Gatsby, is permanently adrift. The novel is a bit light on plot, relying perhaps too much on description. But the characters are beautifully drawn, the dialogue is sharp and Towles avoids the period nostalgia and sentimentality to which a lesser writer might succumb.

An elegant, pithy performance by a first-time novelist who couldn’t seem more familiar with his characters or territory.

Pub Date: July 25th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-670-02269-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2011




INDIES CHOICE AWARD NOMINEES:

FictionTHE CAT'S TABLE by Michael Ondaatje
by Michael Ondaatje
FictionTHE MARRIAGE PLOT by Jeffrey Eugenides
by Jeffrey Eugenides
FictionSALVAGE THE BONES by Jesmyn Ward
by Jesmyn Ward
NonfictionBLUE NIGHTS by Joan Didion
by Joan Didion
Kirkus Interview
Amor Towles
September 5, 2016

Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in an elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose. “A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

Indie142 WELLINGTON PLACE by Tim Selvadurai
by Tim Selvadurai
FictionTHE SILENT WIFE by A.S.A. Harrison
by A.S.A. Harrison
FictionA FINE IMITATION by Amber Brock
by Amber Brock