Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Kate Kontent is a twentysomething living in Manhattan in 1937.  The story starts off on New Years Eve.  She is at a small jazz club with her roommate, Evelyn Ross, rather than the big fancy parties as they don't have a lot of money.  Shortly after they arrive a young man comes in looking very out of place.  He sits down next to them and after a while joins them at their table.  He is Tinker Grey - a young banker who they assume is the stereotypical banker with a wealthy prep school and Ivy League background.

Kate grew up in Brighton Beach (her family immigrated from Russia) and works in the secretary pool at a law firm.  Evelyn grew up in an affluent family in Indiana but once she arrives in New York wants to prove she can make it on her own and refuses any financial support from her parents. She works for a publishing company.

Both girls are attracted to him which causes some tension between the two, and Tinker seems confused by who he likes more.  They are both quickly welcomed into Tinker's social circles.  In the beginning it seems they are using Tinker and his friends to some of them to enjoy opportunities that are beyond her budget, but no one seems to mind.  Certainly there are snobs in the bunch but Kate does also end up making some friendships that surprise her.  Certain opportunities also become available to them through their connections.  

Evelyn and Tinker end up pairing up, and while it upsets Kate a little in the beginning she soon finds a boyfriend of her own - Wallace Wolcott.  Through Wallace and her other new friends, Kate gains confidence and gets a new job, that she enjoys and thrives at.  The book is very well-written and the characters enjoyable.  

I picked this book as part of my Summer Reading Club for our local library.  I had never heard of it before but was supposed to pick a book from one of their book club lists and picked this one cause it sounded interesting.  I thought it would be more fluff than it was.  While there certainly were plenty of gin-soaked parties there is more substance to the book than I had expected.  Kate starts the book as fairly timid and naive and somewhat dependent on Eve.  As she explores different parts of New York and takes her new affluent friends to some of her favorite places she matures and starts taking more responsibility for herself.  By the middle of the book she has a better job and soon after her own apartment.  


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