REVIEW: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I first read Rules of Civility in 2013, and since then I have loosely thought of it as my favorite novel.

This is one of those books that I loved so much I wish I could read it again for the first time. I have always been afraid that I would like it less the second time around.

So it felt strange reading this book again. In the prologue, Katey Kontent sees a photograph of a friend she knew 30 years earlier, in her twenties. Her thoughts then turn to the events and people of 1938, a year that changed the course of Katey’s life. As Katey and her roommate, Eve, meet Tinker Gray on New Year’s Eve, I feel like I am also remembering long forgotten friends.

“Yes, my thoughts turned to Tinker and to Eve—but they turned to Wallace Wolcott and Dicky Vanderwhile and to Anne Grandyn too. And to those turns of the kaleidoscope that gave color and shape to the passage of my 1938.”

The details in the writing are so rich and evocative they transport me to 1930s New York, just as the window displays at Bergdorf’s offered glimpses of possibility to all.

The photographs in the book are from the actual Museum of Modern Art exhibit that Katey and her husband attend at the start of the novel: hidden-camera portraits of people on the New York subway from 1938 to 1941. Another little touch that adds to the authenticity of the reading experience.

I am very happy to report that this book has not lost any of its original magic for me. I predict that this won’t be the last time I read it. I will relive all the sweet uncertainties and chance encounters of a bygone year with Katey again and again.

Rules of Civility
Amor Towles
Published July 26th, 2011 by Viking Adult
335 pages


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