Friday, July 29, 2011

Rules Of Civility by Amor Towles

The year is 1938 and three young people are thrown together on New Year's Eve in a jazz bar.  Eve Ross and Katy Kontent are young women who have come to Manhattan to make their way in the world.  Eve is from a rich family in Indiana while Katy is the daughter of Russian immigrants and grew up in Brighton Beach.  They met in a boardinghouse and soon become fast friends, recognizing a fellow feeling of joy and determination to take life on their own terms.

Tinker Gray is the man the girls meet.  Obviously from wealth, his every move betrays perfect manners and a sense of belonging wherever he is.  They become a trio and the book follows them throughout the year, as they form alliances, come together and move apart, and go through the changes common to the young as they make their way and choose their life paths.

Eve and Tinker are together for a while, leaving Katy behind, then the pieces are shaken up and new alliances form.  Along the way, the reader meets other people; the rich widow who takes what she wants with no regard for the opinions of others; the ultra-rich who assume the world is theirs for the taking and are distinguished by their manners; the hard-driving boss determined to make a go even if it kills his workers, the artists who portray the lives around them; the working class individuals striving to improve their lot.

Amor Towles has written a fascinating look at the moneyed class in the era coming out of the Depression and between the two great wars.  His characters are finely drawn, especially Katy, who is the mirror through which the reader experiences this world.  This book is recommended for lovers of historical fiction, and those interested in a great story that transports the reader to another place and time. 

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