Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Published by Viking Adult, an imprint of Penguin
Review copy provided by the publisher

The year is 1938, the place is New York City. Katey Kontent and her roommate Eve meet the rich, handsome Wall Street banker Tinker Grey one evening at a bar and Katey’s life suddenly changes course. This meeting sets off a chain of events which allows Katey access to some of the richest, most powerful people in New York, and also teaches her what it means to be in that upper social circles – how to deal with the jealousies and disloyalties that arise from being on top. While her relationship with Eve is never the same after the night they meet Tinker, Katey always keeps the two of them close to her heart, one day hoping that she and Tinker will become what she imagines they are meant to be.

Hands down, the best thing about Rules of Civility was the setting. Towles truly made 1930’s New York City come to life and I almost felt like I was right there with the characters. I fell in love with the era just while reading this book, the descriptions were that good.

When I first started reading this book, I liked the characters immediately. I especially loved how Katey, Eve, and Tinker were interacting and how that triangle of friendship was developing in the beginning of the novel. Unfortunately, at a certain point, Katey doesn’t spend much time with Eve and Tinker due to some circumstances that arise, and it was at that point that the book sort of went downhill for me. While I still liked the rest of the novel, I wasn’t as enthralled with it as I was hoping to be because, quite simply, I didn’t connect with Katey as I had hoped to. I was much more interested in Eve and Tinker, so when they went away, so did a lot of my interest in the story.

That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy and appreciate Rules of Civility overall, because I definitely did. I just wish the story would have gone in a different direction; or alternately, that I was able to form a stronger connection with Katey than I did. As I said, I loved the setting, the writing was fabulous, and I loved the relationships between the three main characters. Also, the plot redeemed itself toward the end. So while I didn’t love Rules of Civility, I really did appreciate it as a whole. And to be honest, many people have been over the moon with this one, so you may enjoy it more than I did.

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7 thoughts on “Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

  1. You aren’t the first person to have issues with some of this book, then there have been others that said it was one of their favorites of the year. Generally though, when there are enough people that speak up, I back off. At this point, I would probably only read it if it were for a book club.

  2. Hmm, well it’s good to hear a genuine opinion about the things you didn’t like. I still plan on reading this one but I won’t let myself be surprised if I don’t love it as much as some of the other reviews I’ve seen!

  3. I have this book, and had been really excited to read it, but your honest and candid thoughts on it have me wondering if I should wait for awhile. Most others have said that this was a flawless read, so I really appreciate you detailing why some things just didn’t work for you. I am going to have to reconsider on this one and see how I feel about it a little later.

  4. I’m one of the “over the moon” readers of this book. I loved it, so much so that I sought out its inspiration – the Walker Evans photos of people on the NYC subway taken in the 30s. I thought the characterizations were strong, the dialogue snappy, the story bittersweet. But this is what I love about book reviews: they give me the opportunity to see books through other eyes.

  5. The book definitely changed after the accident and I was so surprised to have Eve just drop out of the story. I had to really wonder about Katey’s state of mind in the end – she hadn’t struck me as the kind of person to end up where she did.

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