Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
OK, I admit it: It was the gorgeous cover that made me need to read this book. Plus, it was getting splashed all over EarlyWord as one of the hot books of the fall. But guys, I started reading it in my pjs one morning, and I’m not going to tell you what time I put on daytime clothes. I’m just not telling.
This is one of those glorious lost-love books, and I love lost-love books. And also, it’s a New York City book, and I love those, too. Plus, it’s one of those blast-from-the-past books (also something I love), in which the narrator starts out in the now (1966 in this instance) and then reflects back on then (1937 and 1938, the heyday of her youth). And there are love triangles, and there is grand ambition and social climbing and the loss of innocence, and all I can say is Wow.
The narrator, Katey Kontent, is a young woman of meager means who gets a job in the city and falls in with a stylish crowd. And we know that in 1966 she’s married and seems to be having a very fine life, but back in the ’30s… she’s falling in love, and then getting her heart broken, and you really don’t know if things are going to go well for her.
This book begs to have its plot told, but I’m not gonna do it because sometimes that just ruins everything. So that’s all I’m gonna say.
Here’s what I found out, after finishing the book: The author is a man! (All along, I’d been thinking, “Maybe I’ll look at the author photo…” But I don’t always do that, and then it turns out this one’s male.) It surprised me at first, because the narrator is female, but then I realized that I could believe it. Maybe because of the Fitzgerald-esque feel of the book… I really can’t lay a finger on it.
In addition to a fantastic plot, the writing is stylish. Here’s a nice passage that gives a sense:
“Bitsy looked impressed.
—I’ve never been in a car wreck.
Though from the way she said it, you got the sense she had been in other kinds of wrecks—like in an airplane or motorcycle or submarine.” (p. 183)
OK. So I’m strongly recommending this book. I 5-starred it on Shelfari and everything. If it sounds at all like your kind of thing, place a hold at the library and then wait for the lovely day when it arrives especially for you.