I heard of this book a while back, mostly because its author, Amor Towles’ recent bestseller and much buzzed-about follow up novel, “Gentleman in Moscow”, which I have yet to read. “Rules of Civility” was his debut novel, and such a great way to come out! I really enjoyed nearly everything about this book. The writing is beautiful, the characters develop throughout the story, sometimes surprising you, sometimes disappointing you, but never staying stagnant. The setting is late 1930s New York at the helm of World War Two. (P.S. Can I tell you how tired I am of books based during WWII?! not this one – it was just prior)
Honestly, a large part of me picked it up just because I’m a sucker for most things NYC, and it’s hard to resist books that surround you in a beautiful, rich setting, giving you imaginary access to exclusive clubs, restaurants and outstanding apartments. There’s a little part of me wishing I lived in a glitzy apartment in Manhattan where the doorman knows my name and hails me a cab as soon as he sees me coming. This book is full of those little touches. On the flip side, there’s also the beauty of ‘making it’; coming of age in the city, living, as a young woman in the 30s often did, in a boardinghouse with roommates, a curfew, and a job that you walked to each day.
The protagonist and narrator of ‘Rules’ is Katherine Kontent. She is a young 20-something making her way in the city with her best friend Eve Ross. They stumble into a friendship with a well-to-do young bachelor called Tinker Grey. The three become a unit and until a tragic incident, we are watching the beginning of Katy and Tinker’s budding romance. The relationships and dynamics between these three remain the focus of the book, even as their paths take some different turns.
Who Would Love This Book?
If you loved The Great Gatsby for the glitz and glamour, you will get that here. If you need a fast-paced page-turner, this is probably not your first pick. However, if you want a book that will completely transport you when you finally get a chance to sit down, or if you have a weekend where you want to stay in and cozy up, this would be a fantastic choice. In an ideal reading world, (because I would never insinuate that my life with loud, busy, wild monkeys is anything but perfect for me) I would have sat in a cozy chair with a really warm delicious cappuccino, rain outside, feet propped up with nothing else to do but hang out with this book. In an even more ideal world, I would have teleported to actual Manhattan, sat myself in a beautiful penthouse overlooking Central Park, and then had my personal valet bring me a perfectly heated cappuccino and some kind of amazing dessert while I read (still want the rain)… a foot massage would be nice while I was reading, too. One can dream.