Tuesday, August 30, 2011

{read: debut novel} Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

This crisp debut novel by Amor Towles will transport you into the world of New York City in 1938. Katey Kontent (pronounced like the state of mind) and her roommate, Eve, are two secretaries trying to stretch $3 in a bar on New Year's Eve, 1937. Tinker Grey, a man of obvious means, buys them drinks, and this meeting ends up changing all of their lives. The three are just beginning to get to know each other when a terrible mishap alters the balance among them. How this affects the three of them and the choices they make during the rest of the year is told by Katey. I loved everything about Katey except her  name, which seems to belong in a comic strip. She's sharp, she's funny, and she's willing to take a chance to try to get what she wants. She'll sometimes surprise you with what she says and does. I could have read 100 more pages in her voice, but 1938 came to an end and so does this story. I especially loved these two paragraphs on p. 323:

It is a bit of a cliche to characterize life as a rambling journey on which we can alter our course at any given time--by the slightest turn of the wheel, the wisdom goes, we influence the chain of events and thus recast our destiny with new cohorts, circumstances, and discoveries. But for the most of us, life is nothing like that. Instead, we have a few brief periods when we are offered a handful of discrete options. Do I take this job or that job? In Chicago or New York? Do I join this circle of friends or that one, and with whom do I go home at the end of the night? And does one make time for children now? Or later? Or later still?

In that sense, life is less like a journey than it is a game of honeymoon bridge. In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions--we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come.

Don't miss this chance to immerse yourself in this era of New York City. You'll taste the martinis, smell the cigarette smoke, and hear the music from the clubs and parties that keep everyone up til the wee hours before they head into work, again, the next day.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Viking Penguin, 2011)
My rating: 4 stars

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