Rules of Civility: A Novel

( 429 )

Overview


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 ...

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Rules of Civility

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Overview


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.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Consider 1930s New York: the era fascinates, and this debut novel likely will, too. Starting on New Year's Eve in Greenwich Village, smart, cool, and ambitious Katey Kontent makes a mad dash from the secretarial pool to New York high society and starts learning that it is her choices that matter. Less fairy tale than the sort of dry-eyed look at American social structure that James or Wharton might provide, this book seems set to recall a glamorous time and place just out of reach.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143121169
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 6/26/2012
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 41,552
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Amor Towles

Amor Towles was born and raised just outside Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale University and received an MA in English from Stanford University, where he was a Scowcroft Fellow. After working more than twenty years as an investment professional, Towles now writes full time. He is also the author of the novella Eve in Hollywood, available as an e-book. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 429 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(205)

4 Star

(139)

3 Star

(54)

2 Star

(17)

1 Star

(14)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 431 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 27, 2011

    Saucy and sophisticated: highly recommend!

    I flew through Rules of Civility in two sittings -- two, only because I had to go to work in between! It's the kind of book you hope for in a summer read but can never quite seem to find: witty and fun without leaving you feeling like you've eaten cotton candy or insulting your intelligence. Towles' New York City is so textured -- from the gritty Lower East Side of the 30s to the smooth-like-velvet Upper East and West -- I found myself wanting to go back in time and drink a martini with his heroine, Katy Kontent and the wacky cast of characters she finds herself among. What a pleasure to have found a smart summer read!

    28 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    My FAVORITE book of 2011 so far!

    Type: {Impress Your Friends Read: notable; prize-winner or all around intelligent crowd conversation piece.}
    Rating: {An Unputdownable: Couldn't eat or sleep until I finished this book.}

    Why You're Reading It:

    - You want to read the book that I am calling my favorite of the year, so far!
    - New York City, 1930's? You're hooked!
    - A smart, witty, & complex variety of characters are enough to convince you to read a book.
    - Beautiful prose, continuously moving plots, rich details, and convincing story lines make a book a keeper in your eyes.

    What I Thought:

    Hello, and welcome to New York City in the 1930's. Not only will you find the glamour, the music, the lingo, and the romance of one of the golden ages of the city, you will also meet one of the most refreshing protagonists in literature - Katey Kontent. Let's follow Miss Kontent through a flashback to the year of 1938 - a year that defined her life - and meet the exquisite cast of characters that Amor Towles creates on the pages of his debut novel, The Rules of Civility. Against the backdrop of a time when anyone could become anything and women were starting to make their own paths to the top, Towles creates a peephole back through time that has you turning page after page wishing you could actually be there, even just for a moment, to catch a glimpse of the sleek and confident Anne, the charming Tinker, the lively Eve, sweet and sincere Wallace, or intelligent, witty, down-to-earth Katey. (This is the second book of the year with a character named Wallace. Though I'm still waiting for a female Wallace to emerge in literature - this book's Wallace was a tribute to the name!)

    My very favorite read this year, landing a spot on my favorite books ever, I was absorbed by this delicious novel. Balancing the thin line between eating it up in one bite but knowing how much I would regret doing that once it was finished - I paced myself so that I could enjoy the company of this book for as long as possible. Towles did an extraordinary job of creating the scene, making realistic characters, and spinning a plot that a reader can care about. The lessons in these pages are timeless even if the era in which they are portrayed is exact (and thoroughly enjoyable). I highly, highly recommend this book to everyone. There are very few books that I re-read, but this will be one of them. The charming dialogue, the poignant passages, the intelligent references, and the three-dimensional characters make this poetic, philosophical book, about life and the individual experiences that shape it, fun to read and easy to digest.

    Over and over, I exclaimed to myself (out loud of course, because it doesn't count if people don't think you're crazy), "I love this book. I LOVE this book!" I also can not get over how much I adore the character of Katey; and how fast they will probably turn this into a movie (and probably should), but how very, very sad I'll be because this is a book that belongs to the imagination - it's that magical.

    26 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    An sxciting book!

    In Rules of Civility the setting is Manhattan in the late 1930's. I enjoyed the history of what New York City was like during that era through the eyes of a young woman surviving on her own in the city. The description of the culture of the carefree young in an exciting city was exciting to me. Kate, the main protagonist, is a smart, sassy independent girl who takes charge of her own life and if she isn't happy about something she fixes the problem. Frankly, I was surprised at the freedom women had from the perception I've always had before women's lib. I enjoyed the penetrating storyline so much, of its setting and the bigger ideas that are presented in the mix of people and social organizations, introspection, question of civility in all things. It was a much more social time when technology seems to limit the necessity. Madison Pridgen, A member of Between the Lines book club

    16 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2011

    The Stunner of the Summer (and beyond!)

    An utterly satisfying, elegant, literary and delicious novel that puts front and center one of the most charismatic narrators I've ever had the pleasure of spending time with. This is the story of Katey Kontent, inauspiciously born and raised by a Russian immigrant father on the Lower East Side, she's made her own way through gritty, Depression-Era New York to find herself holding her own in the secretarial pool of a white collar law firm. With her endlessly curious mind, originality and irreverence, she's clearly made for more, but it's not until a chance encounter with the patrician banker, Tinker Grey, that she is granted the possibilty of entree--for better and for worse--into an exclusive world of New York's Haute Monde. This is a coming-of-age novel, a love letter to New York City during a moment of artistic foment, a study of class and manners, and an unexpected love story wrapped in one. If you love Hornby, Nicholls, Melissa Bank, Midnight in Paris, Mad Men, Aaron Sorkin and/or Capote, you will not be able to resist this one.

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2011

    A sophisticated, historical, character-driven exciting romp through 1938.

    I didn't know what to expect from this book. But I can say I couldn't put it down. Following Katey Kontent (that's content like happy not KON-tent like content of a book thank you very much) and her friend Eve, whom she affectionately calls Evey, is full of twists and turns and surprises that I didn't even see coming. It's characters and scenery of NYC during 1938 are so well evolved and scandalous and rich and beautiful and sumptuous, you can almost feel what they are wearing and eating and drinking and seeing! The writing, the story, the words are so sophisticated, so dreamy, so lifelike, you can picture the entire story in your head. I even starting seeing is a movie in my head and thinking of stars who would play the parts because the book so vividly takes you back to a bygone era of gin and whisky and jazz bars and good ol fashioned blue blood antics and sassafrass. It's a must read.

    9 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2012

    In this story, the rules of civility and the rules of duplicity occupied the same space, living side by side, until the characters found themselves. Whether they were successful is subject to interpretation.

    In the mid 1960’s, at a photography show, Katey Kontent tells her husband that she recognizes one of the subjects in two pictures. He is shown in two versions of himself, one as a rich man and another as a poor one. His upper crust photo is not the latest one, as her husband thought. Katey’s memory is jarred and the story proceeds backwards. almost thirty years, to the 1930’s and the time she met Theodore “Tinker” Grey. America has come out of the depression. Young people are finding work. Women have few opportunities to advance in the working world; secretarial skills are paramount. Seeking a husband, preferably well-heeled, is the goal of many. Social climbing has become an art form. This is a story about ambition, about how people behave, about their hopes and how they go about achieving them, about social justice and injustice, perception, true and false. It is as much about class distinction as it is about the blurring of those lines. There is a proper way to behave befitting those in polite society and those imposters, as well, that seek to join that rarefied atmosphere. Running through the book is a central theme about manners, manners based on a little primer, handwritten by George Washington, containing 110 rules of civility. They govern every conceivable kind of behavior, public and private, which a lady or gentleman or impersonator of such, would follow, to appear well-bred. It is as much about the arrogance of the rich as it is about the impertinence of the poor. It is a story about real people, how they seek happiness, friendship, love, about rivalry and misunderstandings, hopes and dreams. It is about which of our goals are important and why. It is about Katy, and those of her era, coming of age, coming into their own. The book is about wealth, the kind one is born to, the kind one dreams about. It is about civility and also about duplicity. There is so much deception that no one really knows anyone’s true background. It would seem the characters have all written a portion of their own biographies as they all impersonate different persona, sneaking in and out of the world of the rich and famous with aplomb and then back into the world of the working poor. The book makes it seem easy. The author defines the characters so well, you can visualize them. He uses every world with precision so that it has perfect pitch and meaning. The times and places are captured perfectly. The expressive use of vocabulary was a listening extravaganza. Because I listened to an audio, and there were so many characters, I did sometimes lose the thread of the dialogue. Even when I rewound, I couldn't recapture what I missed. Sometimes, places and characters appeared, seemingly at random, then disappeared and reappeared again later on. Occasionally, I was left unable to remember what role they played in the narrative. In a hard copy, I could easily have looked back. In the end, however, all the characters were accounted for and all the missing pieces were tied together and explained so I lacked nothing for having listened to, rather than read, the written word. The reader was excellent.

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 16, 2011

    Best in awhile

    I was hooked from the first few pages. It had been awhile since I so fell in love with a main character. Such a great read, I felt like I was in 1938. I wish there was more!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 4, 2011

    A Great Summer Read!

    I enjoyed this novel more than I've enjoyed anything else, in a long time. The characters are believable and well developed. I was very sad to see 1938 come to an end!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2011

    Really enjoyable book - great read!

    RULES OF CIVILITY is fun, sophisticated and witty! A fantastic debut by Towles; I couldn't put it down! Definitely a must-read for the summer.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful!

    It took me two days to read this book I couldn't put it down! It was well written and expressed every emotion possible. I was surprised by the ending of the book it definately shocked me. The characters were engrossing and the details to the era down to the clothes were awesome. I am recommeding this to my friends and family.

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2011

    Don't miss this one!

    Having been a voracious reader in a reading slump for many months, I was so delighted to have found "Rules of Civility" in my new books bag. I purchased this book for a book club and I am the first to read it. I can't wait to report to everyone I actually finished a book and was sorry to see it end. I rarely give glowing book reports because I think other members may be disappointed when they take the time to read my recommendation. In this case, I have no doubt all the members of my three book clubs will be delighted with this selection. I agree with the other reviewers in their accolades about the characters, the writing style, the transportation to other places, etc. This book was a guilty pleasure that made me stop everything just to read and to get totally lost in another time and place. More than just enjoying reading, this book made me think about the choices I had made along the way.

    I know "Rules..." was carefully researched and beautifully written and must have taken some time to complete but I am just hoping that I don't have to wait too long for Mr. Towles' next book.

    P.S. I was definitely surprised that was a male author.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 19, 2011

    Entertaining

    This is the perfect book to read when you have a summer cold, which is how I read it. The heroine, Katey, has a pedigree that resembles Daisy Buchanan out of Lily Bart. Her moral compass in choosing among her options is almost too good to believe. The writing, particularly the dialogue and the descriptive evocation of place and time, is superb. (An example, summarizing a character's affinity for jazz: "It was everything he liked about the world: you could smoke to it, drink to it, chatter to it. And it didn't make you feel guilty for not giving it your full attention.") Nevertheless, I refuse to award more than 3 stars to any writer who doesn't acknowledge that "lay" is a transitive verb.

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2012

    Highly recommend

    Could not recommend this book more highly. Beautifully written.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2011

    Not believable

    Katie sounded like how a man thinks a cool girl would sound not like a real woman my discomfort with her voice was explained when I read that the author was a man

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2011

    Cannot live up to the title or era

    This book is a great disappointment. If you love Edith Wharton and are expecting to find more of the like, then don't bother. The text lives up to neither the cover photo or the title. The characters are flat and grossly undeveloped, and there is no sense of place, location, or period. I am forcing myself to finish ONLY because I spent $13 on the e-book and don't want to get in the habit of ordering and abandoning books just because it is so easy.

    4 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2011

    Simply a fantastic read!!

    Smart, witty, funny, exquisitely sophisticated and well written! Great characters set in the history of NYC truly evoke the aura of Fitzgerald & even at times a bit of O.Henry. One of the best books I've read in years, possibly ever! Mr. Towles would do the reading public a great service if he continued writing after this first novel...

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2011

    Loved it!

    Loved this book. I felt like I was actually experiencing 1938 in NYC. The book brought images of jazz clubs, the Plaza, and the 21 club to life. When people actually dressed up to go out and it was fashionable for women to smoke and drink gin. The only complaint, and it's not so much a complaint, is my expection of the book was that it was a story of a relationship between Katy and Tinker and that would be the main plot. But actually it was a year (1938) in the life of Katy Kontent and all of her relationships and experiences that year. Still a very enjoyable book. Made me think how I would be living in that era.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2012

    Great Book!

    Really enjoyed this book! If you liked The Great Gatsby - you'll enjoy Rules of Civility.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2012

    Highly Recommended!

    This story of the elite and the wannabees in 1938 Manhattan draws the reader into the golden age with its tapestry of youthful escapades. While painting a black-and-white visual of the characters, the book is rich in shades of grey - no one is all good or evil. The inclusion of literary references is plentiful, but not overdone, providing a beautiful backdrop of comparisons to aid in the understanding of the era.
    My only regret is that it ended too soon - I wanted more!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2012

    OH MY GOSH!!! What a read, absolutely worth reading. I was spel

    OH MY GOSH!!! What a read, absolutely worth reading. I was spellbound
    by the main character. You can see inside her soul. Could not put it
    down.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 431 Customer Reviews

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