20 May 2012

Review: "Rules of Civility" by Amor Towles

Show me someone who claims to have never dreamed of time traveling and I will show you a liar - because come on people, time traveling would be so cool!! Of course we only dream of traveling to the good times in history, the masked balls, the celebrations and the events that will go down in the history. The lack of opportunities for a shower and brushing teeth and the option to pop a pain killer the day after the party is something that we conveniently forget.
Luckily we have books that allow us to travel through time from the comfort of our warm chair with a hot cup of coffee next to us and the opportunity to brush our teeth at any time we should feel so inclined. Thanks to the authors of historical fiction we get to soar through the most interesting parts of history and dream ourselves away. 

Recently I bought a ticket for the "historical fiction time traveling machine" when I picked up "Rules of Civility" by Amor Towles. The destination was New York in the 1930's and as soon as I had read the first line, I was lost in a different world, off on adventures with a young lady called Katey Kontent. 

Katey Kontent is in her 20's, a daughter of Russian immigrants who left the land of samovars and revolution to seek their fortune in the land beyond Ellis Island. She is a girl who knows how to have a good time and during night out with her beautiful, charismatic friend Eve, she treats New York as her playground. Thought money is tight, these girls know how to party and when on New Years Eve they meet the rich, waspy banker Tinker Grey, they become fast friends with him and doors are opened to a different type of life. 

The story follows Katey through that fateful year of 1938 where her life changes, some parts for the better, some for the worse, and where events transpire that will set her on the path that will shape the rest of her life. It is a year of sorrows and joys, of gin martinis and silk stockings, of country clubs and scruffy flats, of women in pearls and young men with the world at their feet. 
Katey becomes increasingly entangled in this world of privilege and Tinker is always there in the back of her mind... 

It is an amazing book, a really fascinating beautiful story of life and what it does to us. It is about surviving and making the best of what you get given. About grabbing life in the moment and shaping it to your wishes. It is a reminder of the importance of enjoying yourself even when you have little money for rent and food and none for martinis. 

This is retro Manhattan. It is the clever entertainment for girls who find Gossip Girl and Sex In the City a little too pop culture and glossy. 
It is the book that you long to come home to because it takes you to a different world - a glamourous, tough New York where men are gentlemen and women are enjoying an new-found freedom. It is the ultimate time traveling experience.

Read it if: You enjoyed "Valley of the Dolls" by Jacqueline Susann. You love New York and have a secret longing for a life full of martinis, silk stockings and elegance. 


  1. I have owned this for too long without reading it, I must fix that soon!

  2. I just adore that cover. I'm terrible at reading historical fiction- I can never manage! Just too grounded in the present. But this looks like a fun, light romp through 1930s NY, so I might just try it.

  3. I. Need. To. Read. This.
    Seriously. Glamourous NY, charming men, martinis and the opportunity to brush my teeth whenever I want...sounds like paradise!

  4. Sounds good, but I'm not sure because of the middle section. I enjoyed The Great Gatsby and love the cover of this book and the premise of it. I'll think it over... ;)

    Marlene Detierro (Parts Hummer)

  5. Highly recommended. Well-written and compelling. Interesting characters and an intriguing look into New York society during the late 1930's. One of the best books I have read.

    Best Reviews for Sacramento HVAC Company