Monday, August 08, 2011

Rules of Civility

by Amor Towles is my favourite book this summer, and may end up being my favourite book to the end of this year! Towles has done an incredible job creating a smart and dynamic female character in Katey Kontent and the Manhattan of the late 1930's. The novel opens with Katey at a photography exhibit at MOMA with her husband in the mid-sixties. She discovers two portraits of her old friend, the dashing Mr. Tinker Grey. She sees something in the photographs that take her back to meeting Tinker on New Year's Eve in 1937.

Tinker is part of Manhattan's elite and he introduces Katey, and her best friend Eve to a world they can only dream of: money, art, limousines and doormen. They in turn introduce him to their own little nooks and crannies of the city: down and out jazz bars, the Russian show at an underground booze tank. Everything is going along swimmingly until a car accident happens, Eve is badly injured and Tinker takes her in. Over the next few years, the world that Tinker has created for himself will fall like a house of cards, forcing Katey to discover that many of her new and sophisticated friends are a self-made mirage. She continues to rise, surviving on her bracing wit and cool nerve.

Just like Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City is a love letter to San Fransico, Rules of Civility is the quintessential snapshot of a magical
Manhattan in the thirties, a love letter to a forgotten time and different place. This novel is totally fulfilling: the characters are dynamic, the descriptions are lush, and the dialogue is witty and on point. After I was finished the last page, I did something I rarely do – turn back to the first and start reading again. Do yourself a favour and READ THIS!

- Bronwyn

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