Top critical review
poor girl meets rich man and writes of her adventures
Reviewed in the United States on May 6, 2018
Rules of Civility (2011) is set over one year in America in 1938, during the Great Depression and after the 1937 Recession.
On the last night of 1937, poor 25-year-old Katherine (Katey) Kontent, and her friend Eve Ross, meet rich Theodore (Tinker) Grey, a handsome banker, at the Hotspot jazz club. Katey, the philosophical bookworm, has competition for Tinker Grey – the energetic, beautiful Eve Ross. Just as Tinker is getting closer to Katey, he becomes even more attracted to Eve after a car crash, fueled by his own guilt at causing the accident. Katey becomes ‘Waity Katey’ as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life.
Narrated by Katey, she describes her year-long adventures from a Wall Street typist to the upper echelons of New York society and Conde Nast, the magazine company, while Eve Ross is regularly travelling abroad for luxury holidays with Tinker. The male author, Amor Towles, is writing this ‘wanna-be-loved’ story from a female perspective, yet it works. Reminiscent of the 1973 movie, The Way We Were (Robert Redford as Hubbell Gardiner and Barbra Streisand as Katie Morosky), the themes of class difference, societal expectations, memories and regrets, and being true to yourself, continue throughout the novel.
Rules of Civility is the author’s first book, and although it is superbly written, his third book, A Gentleman in Moscow (2016), is the one worthy of 5 stars. This novel is less riveting, with a more circumspect plotline, but no less beautiful and poetic in its writing.