Rules of Civility by Amor Towles Book Review

The New York Times bestselling novel that "enchants on first reading and only improves on the second" (The Philadelphia Inquirer) This sophisticated and entertaining first novel presents the story of a young woman whose life is on the brink of transformation. On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society—where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.
-Barnes & Noble

Quite simply, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles is one of the best novels I've read. Period. Not only is it filled with wonderful writing detailing the year long journey of a young woman discovering the upper echelons of 1930s New York City, it is filled with poignant meaning that I will ponder for a long while. There aren't many novels that I want to reread, but this is one that I'm sure I've missed something worth gleaning.

Katey Kontent, the protagonist of this novel, is keen, witty, and intriguing as we follow her through one life changing year. One moment, she and her best friend Eve, are working girls in New York City, looking to spend a night out, and in the next serendipitous moment, they've met the man that would change both of their lives dramatically...Tinker Grey. I enjoyed every single moment of this characters, music, and imagery. I enjoyed the sights and sounds evoked in this piece. Towles is a master of characterization and voice. I couldn't have imagined any other character narrating this novel other than Katey, whose voice has a journalistic quality to it, and a way of showing emotion without over sensationalizing. It worked so well that one could believe that Katey is a real person of which Towles is simply taking dictation.

Towles has painted New York in the 1930s to a tee. It's as if he has jumped into a time machine and zipped back give us a walking tour of this roaring city. Being a New Yorker, it was such an alluring experience to know I am within walking distance of many of the churches Katey frequents, along with many places that may have once existed. He paints New York almost as a love/hate relationship that tends to mirror relationships within the novel; The city can draw one in like a siren with its sparkling lights, exciting people, and promises of dreams while awake...yet it is a mercurial behemoth with so many facades that one may not be able to keep up. There were so many surprises to be uncovered that I  could not put it down.

Bare In Mind: This novel contains profanity, and adult content/situations.

Rules of Civility carries the weight of lives lived, pondered, and squandered. What most touched me was that I chose this novel as the one I would take into my next year (My Birthday Novel) hoping that it would carry some great meaning I could take with me. Katey is the same age as I am, and experiences a struggle that many of us do, with deciding what directions our lives will take, and who will come into these new dimensions with us. It felt for a while that I were going on my journey with another who understood, minus the many nouveau riche Katey meets. The novel contains all of the glamour, excitement, and secrecy, but also carries the question of its' worth. Is it worth what it might take to gain the American Dream? Is it worth squandering childlike wonder for the world around you? Do you really know who you are, and who your friends are? These questions and more define a beautiful experience with the novel!

I give this novel 5 out of 5 flutes of sparkling champagne and a night on the town.


  1. I still need to read this! And your review only confirms it. It sounds amazing, enthralling and wonderful.

  2. I picked this one up but haven't gotten to it yet. Good to hear that it was really worth it. :-)

    Marlene Detierro (Parts Hummer)

  3. I cannot fathom a poor review of this work - even taking into account differing tastes...the prose is magical, the characters sharply drawn, the setting evocative - pitch-perfect in every sense. There is wit and wisdom for the ages here. Honestly, the best book I have read since "Cutting for Stone."
    top voted sites, delicious BeefJerky