Title: Rules of Civility
Author: Amor Towles
First published July 26, 2011
335 pages, Hardcover
In Amor Towles’ debut novel, Rules of Civility, readers are transported to the glittering world of 1930s New York society. Katey Kontent, a quick-witted and determined young woman, finds herself propelled into the upper echelons of Manhattan’s elite after a chance encounter with the charming Tinker Grey.
As Katey navigates the complex social hierarchy of the city, she must rely on her wit and nerve to survive. With stunning imagery, intricate themes, and unforgettable characters, Rules of Civility is a captivating tale of transformation and ambition that will leave readers breathless.
About the Author
Amor Towles is a writer who was raised in Boston and attended Yale College before earning an MA in English from Stanford University. He spent more than 20 years working as an investment professional in Manhattan before turning to writing full-time.
His debut novel, Rules of Civility, published in 2011, was a major success, becoming a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback. The Wall Street Journal also named it one of the best books of the year.
Lionsgate optioned the film rights, and the book was also recognized with the 2012 Prix Fitzgerald for its French translation. Towles’ second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, published in 2016, was another bestseller and received critical acclaim from publications like the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the St. Louis Dispatch, and NPR.
Both novels have been translated into more than 15 languages.
Towles currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children. He has a passion for early 20th century painting, 1950s jazz, 1970s cop shows, rock & roll on vinyl, obsolete accessories, manifestoes, breakfast pastries, pasta, liquor, snow days, Tuscany, Provence, Disneyland, Hollywood, the cast of Casablanca, 007, Captain Kirk, Bob Dylan (early, mid, and late phases), the wee hours, card games, and cafés.
He also cherishes memories of the cookies his grandmothers used to make.
Amor Towles debut novel, Rules of Civility, published in 2011, is a beautifully written work of historical fiction that transports readers to New York City during the late 1930s. With this novel, Towles showcases his skillful storytelling and meticulous attention to detail, creating a vivid portrait of a bygone era and its characters.
The novel follows protagonist Katey Kontent, a young woman who desires to climb the social ladder and establish herself as a force to be reckoned with in Manhattans elite circles. Along the way, she meets her best friend, the charming and wealthy Tinker Grey, and becomes involved with a mysterious stranger, the banker Val, who introduces her to a world of glamour and sophistication.
Towles writing is impeccable, his descriptions painting a vivid picture of 1930s New York City, full of hustle and bustle, jazz music, and the city lights that illuminate its skyscrapers. His characters are well-drawn, complex and immersive, each with their distinct personalities and motivations.
Kateys character, in particular, is a refreshing departure from the usual heroines of historical fiction. She is not an innocent, naive girl but a strong, smart, and independent woman, determined to make something of herself.
The novel explores various themes, including class, ambition, identity, and the American Dream. The author does not shy away from addressing the troubling issues of racial and gender discrimination pervasive during that time.
Through his characters, he explores the importance of civility and the need to uphold certain societal norms, even in moments of great change. Towles writing style is engaging and full of surprises, keeping readers hooked until the end.
Despite its slow pacing, it captivates its audience and rewards its readers with an explosive ending that ties up all loose ends.
If there are any criticisms of the novel, it would be the lack of diverse voices and the atypical ending that seems to come out of nowhere.
However, these flaws do not detract from the overall quality of the narrative. Rules of Civility is a must-read for fans of historical fiction, as well as for those interested in exploring the complexities of human nature.
It is also an ideal read for anyone who wishes to escape into a different world, albeit one that is marked by glaring social disparities. Overall, this reviewer highly recommends Rules of Civility to anyone seeking a beautifully crafted, immersive, and thought-provoking novel.
It is a solid 9/10 score for Towles first novel, and we cannot wait to see what he will come up next.