Rules of Civility
By Amor Towles
Penguin Books, 9780143121169, 2012, 368pp.
The Short of It:
Friendship, love, and duty collide amid the backdrop of a glittering New York City in 1938.
The Rest of It:
This is one of those stories that is so full of rich imagery and well-drawn characters that I doubt I can do it justice in summarizing it here. Nevertheless, I shall try.
After Eve accidently dumps a bowl of food into Katie’s lap, the two become fast friends. Eve, or Evey, is beautiful, vivacious and impossible to ignore. Her flirtatious nature and her knack for always knowing where the party is, attracts Katie who is slightly more down-to-earth and sensible. Katie is a working class girl, trying to make a name for herself in the publishing world. But when the work day is over, it’s Evey who takes Katie by the hand and the two find themselves living it up with drinks paid for by others. It’s a fast crowd but not without some memorable finds.
One of those finds is Tinker Grey. Charming, dashing, full of wit and humor, he befriends Katie and Evey and the three of them pal around the city enjoying a lot of gin, and the memorable meals to go with it. But after an accident which leaves Eve in a precarious situation, Tinker, perhaps feeling guilty over his involvement, takes Evey in so that she can rehabilitate in luxury. Although Katie and Tinker are far from a thing, they do share something that he and Evey don’t and so this new living arrangement gives them all pause. How do you cage a wild thing? How can Tinker go on with his life while tending to his sense of duty?
This story gave me a lot to think about. If you enjoyed A Gentleman in Moscow, you will enjoy this book as well but it will leave you feeling a little sad which is why I think it took me awhile to finish. Sad, the way nostalgia can make you feel, wistful and longing for how it used to be. These relationships are complicated and fluid and every time I turned a page, I was presented with some new big idea to ponder. This is why I read this book slowly, savoring each interaction.
One big bonus for me is that Katie and Tinker are readers. There is much literature talk and mention of classic books such as Great Expectations. I also cannot help but mention that parts of it reminded me of one of my favorite movies of all time, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Overall, I very much enjoyed this story and these characters will stay with me for a very long time.
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