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Rules of Civility

A highly polished bite of the Big Apple

Created date

September 20th, 2011

Back in the days when ladies handbags always matched their shoes and men wore hats without team insignias over the brims, novelists knew how to paint vivid images using only words. They had style and they weren t afraid to use it. It looks like style just might be back in style when it comes to novels. Rules of Civility, a frothy novel of love and loss set in late 1939 s Manhattan is a welcome reminder of the simple joys of a well-turned metaphor or a snappy bit of dialogue. In his debut novel, Amor Towles recalls the sights and sounds of the Big Apple long before places like the Gap and TGIFridays moved in. Towles Manhattan is brimming with contrasts. From the high-living socialites to down-on-their-luck WPA artists, Towles has a keen understanding that though these folks walked along the same streets at the same time, their lives were as distinct as night and day. Rules of Civility is the story of Katey Kontent, the savvy daughter of working-class immigrants. Like many heroines before her, Katey arrives in Manhattan with a strong desire to succeed. Towles does an admirable job of capturing Katey s psyche as the novel is told in the first person through Katey s point of view. She s the sensible one compared to her best friend, Eve, a rich Midwesterner escaping her bucolic upbringing. The girls meet a dashing young banker named Tinker Gray, and the threesome frolic through city hotspots until unexpected tragedy sends their lives in different trajectories.

Reviewer s note

I startedRules of Civilityas an audio book and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share my thoughts with readers. I got the eBook version and found a few things you miss with the audio book alone. For one, the author eschews quotation marks in favor of the quotation dash. While perfectly acceptable, it is unusual and some may find it distracting. For another, the entire story is a flashback, brought on when Katey attends the opening of a Walker Evans photography exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. The book (both print and digital) includes photos from the exhibit, which you won t get in the audio format.