Tag Archives: Literary Fiction

Review: Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility

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.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: We Begin At The End

We Begin At The End

We Begin At The End
By Chris Whitaker
Henry Holt and Co., 9781250759665, March 2021, 384pp.

The Short of It:

If you are looking to be entertained by some unforgettable characters then you’ve found your book.

The Rest of It:

Duchess Day Radley is a thirteen year-old outlaw. You see, the Radleys have a history and Duchess knows it and has no problem reminding others of it every chance she gets. She is a pistol through and through and won’t allow anyone to bully her family in any way. This includes her young brother Robin and her wayward mother, Star.

Duchess spends her days looking after her brother, mostly because her mother has a tendency to pass out drunk in the font yard. Everyone in town knows Star, and they knew her sister Sissy too, the one who was killed by a drunk driver years ago and the man who did it was just released from prison and lives right across the street.

As reputations go, Star’s is not great although her heart is in the right place. She tries to do right by her kids, but seems to always fall short. That’s why there is an entire cast of characters looking out for her, one of which is Walk, short for Walker, who is Cape Haven’s Chief of Police. He and Star go way back. He does what he can to help her out, but one night, he’s not able to and the entire town is affected by the tragedy.

Small town life. Tragedy. Unforgettable characters. The hope of new beginnings. When I picked up We Begin At The End, I just knew within the first few chapters that this was going to be a story that would stay with me for a very long time. First off, the writing is beautiful. There were some passages that I read out loud just to hear the words. What pushed this book over-the-top for me, in a wonderful way, are the characters. Duchess is all edges, hard and bristly but you can’t help but love her even when her “tell it like it is” demeanor puts a wedge between her and anyone trying to get close to her.  Walk is kind-hearted, honest when he needs to be but also a realist and loyal to a fault. I’ve got to mention Thomas Noble. He’s a gentle young man who befriends the tough Duchess Day Radley and loves her regardless of all the pushback that she throws his way. What a lovable kid. He reminded me of Owen Meany in a lot of ways. I could go on and on about the characters.

“You’re the toughest girl I ever met. And the prettiest. And I know you’ll probably hit me, but I think my world is infinitely better because you’re in it.” ~Thomas Noble

This is one of those reads that you savor. You turn the pages slowly because you don’t want your time with these people to end. You read a passage and then find yourself staring off into space pondering what you just read. This story broke my heart in so many ways but man, did I love it. It’s still early in the year but this will probably be my favorite read this year.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.