Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (2011), narrated by Rebecca Lowman

On the last night of 1937, Katey Kontent (accent on the 2nd syllable) and her roommate Eve go to a nightclub to ring in the New Year. There they meet a man named Tinker Grey. The three become friends and the novel follows their friendships, romances, and careers through 1938.

I don't want to say much about the plot because so few things actually happen and I think it's nice to not know all of those things before you start. The book is less about the plot anyhow than the characters and their lives and what that year was like for them. It's told from Katey's perspective, so it's more tightly focused on her life. Since some of the major plot points are about Tinker and Eve this is an interesting perspective.

Partway through I began reading The Great Gatsby again, and realized how much like Jay Gatsby Tinker Grey is. He's a bit mysterious, his acquaintances unsure of his background and he's some larger than life. I guess that would make Katey this novel's Nick Carraway, but she's less marginal to the novel than he was to Gatsby. We get to know Katey fairly well and I liked her a lot, although I didn't feel like I knew her as well as I frequently know a first-person narrator.

The novel was quite atmospheric, like dipping into someone else's life in another time. Even reading about Katey's job as a secretary at a law firm was fascinating, but it got even better as she took charge of her career and moved on to a magazine job. The writing was beautiful as well, which made the audiobook an even better experience. It was enjoyable just listening to each sentence.

If you can get the audio, I highly recommend it. Rebecca Lowman spoke with a slightly low, slightly husky voice that was just perfect. Her distinctions between characters meant that I always recognized who was talking, but the voices weren't exaggerated. It was an excellent production.

Rules of Civility has been on my list to read since it first came out. I kept hearing how good it was - and I fully intended to get around to it - but the description never quite pulled me in. Instead I kept buying copies of it for other people who then told me how much they liked it. Recently I've been trying to prioritize books that have been on my radar for a while, and my recent subscription to is making my reading much more manageable. If any of you have been putting off this book like I was, I'll just add one more voice to the chorus and urge you to make time for it. You won't be disappointed!

1 comment:

Icy Daylight said...

I'm so glad you liked this!