Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles


Rules of Civility
by Amor Towles
352 pages
Viking Adult, 2011
source: library, but then purchased a copy for myself

Summary (from Goodreads):

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar with her boardinghouse roommate stretching three dollars as far as it will go when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a tempered smile, happens to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool toward the upper echelons of New York society and the executive suites of Condé Nast--rarefied environs where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve.

Wooed in turn by a shy, principled multi-millionaire and an irrepressible Upper East Side ne'er-do-well, befriended by a single-minded widow who is a ahead of her time,and challenged by an imperious mentor, Katey experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life, she begins to realize how our most promising choices inevitably lay the groundwork for our regrets.

My thoughts:

Months elapsed between reading Rules of Civility and gathering my thoughts for this post - a scenario that is far too common these days, I'm afraid. What is there to say now?

  • I loved this book. 
  • I relished each and every sentence. 
  • I will read anything Amor Towles ever writes.
  • In addition to the writing, I loved the atmosphere, setting, characters, and plot. 

Can I elaborate further? No. I'm sorry.

Book club reaction:

Our discussion took place several months ago during the annual summer potluck dinner. To set the mood, we kicked off the evening with period cocktails from the 1930's. However, after a round (or three) of orange blossoms, the discussion never progressed beyond how much we all loved the book and how amazed we were that writing is not Amor Towels' day job. (He is a principal at an investment firm in Manhattan.)

Favorite quotes:

"The skyline at night is so breathtaking, and yet you could spend a whole lifetime in Manhattan and never see it. Like a mouse in a maze... Along whole avenues of the Lower East Side the sky was blotted out by elevated tracks and fire escapes and the telephone wires that had yet to be put underground. Most New Yorkers spent their lives somewhere between the fruit cart and the fifth floor. To see the city from a few hundred feet above the riffraff was pretty celestial. We gave the moment its due."

"Over Charlotte's shoulder I could see Rosie studying her nails. Fully figured with a penchant for forgetting to button the top button of her blouse, you could just tell that if Rosie couldn't romance her way to the top of the Empire State Building, she was prepared to climb it like King Kong."

"In the center of the table was a bowl of fruits so well-to-do- that half of them I'd never seen before. There was a small green furry sphere. A yellow succulent that looked like a miniature football. To get to Anne's table, they must have traveled farther than I had in traveled in my entire life."

"You look back with the benefit of age upon the dreams of most children and what makes them seem so endearing is their unattainability - this one wants to be a pirate, this one a princess, this one president. But from the way Tinker talked you got the sense that his starry-eyed dreams were still within his reach; maybe closer than ever."

"In out twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions - we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come."

My rating:

42 comments:

  1. I didn't read much of this review because it is on my shelf but love your thoughts after letting it 'sit' for a few months after reading? cool. I am very much looking forward to this one.

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    1. Care - Unfortunately, there wasn't much of this review to read, but it will definitely be one of my favorites this year.

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  2. I like and admire your reviewing style, my friend! And I love that you enjoyed it so much. This book has been languishing on my Ipod ... I think it's going to move up to the top of the to be listened to list.

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    1. Audrey - Thank you! I think my reviews suffer from a lack of style (sigh), but I do love to talk about books. Wish I had the proper literary vocabulary. Hope the audio version of Rules of Civility is just as amazing as the book.

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  3. I am supposed to read this for book club but I sort of dropped out of the club and haven't kept up with the books. I do plan to read it soon though. That is the plan anyway!

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    1. Ti - I hope you get a chance to read it - would love to know your thoughts on Rules of Civility. It will be one of my favorites this year.

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  4. I'm glad you're thrilled about the book. And thanks for this review... good to read all the quotes you've chosen. I read it a while back, and my reaction was a bit more aloof. I know how it's being hailed as the new 'Great Gatsby', but I was more drawn to Fitzgerald's 'minimal' styling compared to Towles's 'superfluous' descriptions. However, your book club's period meeting sounds wonderful. Did you all have to dress the part too? That would have been so cool!

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    1. Arti - I wish we'd thought to dress in period costumes. Towles writing style appealed in every way... I read paragraphs over and over again, marveling at his choice of words. Can't wait for his next book!

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  5. I have this book noted down to read & recently wondered what it was about & what had prompted me to note it. Reading your review I now remember.

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    1. Joan Hunter Dunn - I'm so glad! This will definitely be one of my favorites this year.

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  6. Replies
    1. Sam - Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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  7. Lol - I love your thoughts. Maybe we should just write more reviews this way. I'll bet we'd get them written sooner if we kept them short and sweet. I felt the same way about this one!

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    1. Lisa - Maybe short and sweet should be our motto for 2013! This will be a 2012 favorite.

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  8. Sometimes, that is all you can say, right? That is what I felt like saying today with Beautiful Ruins. Sometimes all that is in your mind and heart is love.

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    1. Sandy - Exactly! Rules of Civility will definitely be a 2012 favorite, and I wouldn't be surprised if Beautiful Ruins ends up on that list next year.

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  9. I'm really glad to hear you loved this so much. It makes me think I should pick it up. I passed on it in hardcover but I may have to pick up a paperback.

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    1. Marie - I hope you decide to read this one!

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  10. I've been wanting to read this book but somehow, the whole 'new Gatsby' buzz surrounding it has been scaring me off. But I think i'm going to give it a try now. Have you read The Great Gatsby? Do you see a Fitzgerald influence in Towles' work?

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    1. CHE - I love The Great Gatsby and have read it several times. I can certainly see why many speak of similarities/influences, but Towles definitely has a style all his own!

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  11. I find it incredibly hard to write about books I adored so I love the way you've reviewed this - all we need to know really!

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    1. Anbolyn - Thanks! I have a really hard time writing about books I love, too. Maybe this short and sweet approach is the way to go.

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  12. I'm glad you loved it. It's sitting on my shelf just waiting to be read. Actually I think it's sitting on the floor in the dining room, but that's only because we're painting.

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    1. Carol - Good luck with the painting project... hope you get a chance to read Rules of Civility soon!

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  13. I loved this book. I'm coming to realise that this is my favourite period in history to read about, both fiction and non-fiction.

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    1. Joanne - Funny, I seem to have come to the same realization...

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  14. Very powerful review and I am convinced that I must add this to my list.

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    1. Kathleen - Rules of Civility is definitely a must read!

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  15. Love this reviewing style! I always find it so hard to find the words that will do justice to a book I love. I've picked this book up several times at the library but felt doubtful I'd like it. Maybe next time I'll bring it home.

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    1. Cat - Thank you. My reviews certainly aren't especially literary or critical, and I try to stick to personal reaction, but that's even harder for books I love. This will be one of 2012 favorites.

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  16. You've elaborated enough for me! I just HAD to buy this several months ago because of all the praise so I'm thrilled to see your five stars. Need to bump it up on the list!

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    1. Trish - Yes, you do! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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  17. I liked this book at the beginning, but I didn't care for the ending -- it just seemed unresolved to me -- I had so many unanswered questions about the characters!

    And this is nitpicky but I found the lack of quotation marks irritating. I didn't realize at first because I started it as an audiobook in the car. Once I got into the story I read the print copy on breaks and at home, and I was sucked into the story. I get really annoyed when writers ignore punctuation. Cormac McCarthy does it too. What's the point?

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    1. Karen K. - Ambiguity usually bothers me, and I was left wanting more her. I read somewhere that Towles is working on an extended short story about these characters. Maybe that will answer some of the questions.

      Funny you mentioned the lack of quotation marks, because that's another of my pet peeves. All I can say is that I loved the writing so much, it was not an issue this time.

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  18. Wow! I think I need to get my eyes on this one!

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    1. Stacybuckeye - Yes, you do!! I read a library copy, but loved it so much that I bought one to keep.

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  19. I don't need any further elaboration!! I've had a copy of this one forever. Must start rearranging my books for next year and put this in my 2013 pile!!

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    1. Staci - I'm just starting to think about 2013 reading (and the TBR Double Dare)... hope you get to read this soon. Such gorgeous writing...

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  20. I'm so glad to hear you liked this! I just picked up a copy the other day but I wasn't sure . . .

    I can't wait to get it started!

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    1. Trish - Hope you love this one, too! The writing was simply amazing.

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  21. You convinced me! This is going on my TBR list for 2013.

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    1. Les - I absolutely loved Towles writing... hope you do, too!

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