Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility
Author: Amor Towles
Published: July 21, 2011
Genre: historical fiction
Hardcover: 352 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year- old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future. The story opens on New Year's Eve in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, where Katey and her boardinghouse roommate Eve happen to meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a ready smile. This chance encounter and its startling consequences cast Katey off her current course, but end up providing her unexpected access to the rarified offices of Condé Nast and a glittering new social circle. Befriended in turn by a shy, principled multimillionaire, an Upper East Side ne'er-do-well, and a single-minded widow who is ahead of her times, Katey has the chance to experience first hand the poise secured by wealth and station, but also the aspirations, envy, disloyalty, and desires that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her orbit, she will learn how individual choices become the means by which life crystallizes loss. 

My Thoughts: I have wanted to read this book for sometime now, so when I finally got my hands on a copy, I couldn't wait a second longer to read it. It was a great read, reminding me a lot of The Great Gatsby, but I felt like something was lacking that I couldn't pinpoint. It was a very interesting story, but it never completely pulled me in, which made it seem like a much longer novel than it actually is. The main character, Katey, is a young woman, trying to make her way in New York City. The story follows her as she changes jobs, goes through many friends, experiences seedy jazz clubs to the penthouse apartment on Central Park West. Katey is from Brooklyn, so seeing how she handles herself throughout these situations is interesting. She befriends people who are a part of New York high society, allowing her to go to parties and restaurants that she couldn't ever dream of. Katey is likeable and a great main character, for she isn't overly involved in what is happening around her, but she plays a big enough part to be able to witness so many events.

Tinker reminded me a bit of Gatsby with his elusive ways. You are never quite sure what it is that Tinker has done to have what he has, but as the truth unravels, you realize that Tinker is a very lucky man. The other characters play very minor roles, coming and going throughout the story, which I think is what made this book drag for me. There were so many people that it weighed the story down and slump in places. If you enjoy The Great Gatsby, then I think that you would probably like this book. Now, I'm not saying that it could compare to Gatsby, but the writing style of Amor Towles reminds me of Fitzgerald, that it's hard to not draw comparisons. 

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