Anyone for a cocktail? – “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles

March 14, 2012 at 9:10 pm 5 comments

“Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles, Published in 2011 

So this read was quite unlike my last one.  “Rules of Civility” is just plain fun and though a bit mired down with “meaning” it does a good job of transporting the reader to New York City in the late 1930s.

Katey and her roommate are celebrating New Year’s Eve at a jazz club in 1938 when they meet Tinker Grey, an attractive and rich banker.   Their lives intertwine and then ultimately change when the three are in a car accident together.  While Katey tries to navigate these friendships after the accident, she finds herself in a new job, with new rich friends, and a seemingly unusual drive to make something of herself. And of course, as in all novels like this, not everyone or everything is exactly what it seems. Drunken, laughing desperation is always so easily mistaken for happiness.

Towles uses various art forms to define his characters – what they are reading, what music they enjoy, the art they make, the clothes they wear – all to show the reader exactly what each character is made of and perhaps even who they destined to be.  Towles’ narrator, Katey, is very likeable and the characters that surround her only enhance her appeal to the reader.  There is a whole a lot of drinking, wonderful restaurants, fabulous clothes and fun parties.  In parts this reminded me of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with everything lavish and spectacularly overdone while the characters suffer their own lonely fates. All through-out, Towles touches on the issues of feminism, fatalism, classism, war, economics and fate.

But understand – this novel doesn’t get bogged down in its own sense of importance. Towles writes with a light touch and for that I was grateful though it could be a bit disappointing if you are looking for more depth. If you do read this book, please, have a martini while you read it because this pregnant lady so wished she could have.  And if you can have a martini in a cafe in New York City while reading this book, then my friend, you are really on to something.

A gin martini, with olive, in a cocktail glass.

Image via Wikipedia

Other reviews to check out:


Entry filed under: March 2012 reads. Tags: , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nella  |  March 15, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Now I’ve got an excuse to go to New York! It sounds like the kind of book I need right now. Builders are giving me a headache.

    • 2. Emily C  |  March 16, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      Are you doing an addition?

  • 3. Julie Christine  |  March 17, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Thank you for including a link to my blog- allowed me to discover yours! Lovely blog – we are of like mind in not wasting time on crap reads. Brava and carry on!

    • 4. Emily C  |  March 19, 2012 at 9:08 pm

      I really liked your review – I thought the points you made about Katey were right on and I could not have agreed more.

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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