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Rules of Civilityby Amor Towles
Synopses & Reviews
Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year- old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.
The story opens on New Year's Eve in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, where Katey and her boardinghouse roommate Eve happen to meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a ready smile. This chance encounter and its startling consequences cast Katey off her current course, but end up providing her unexpected access to the rarified offices of Conde Nast and a glittering new social circle. Befriended in turn by a shy, principled multimillionaire, an Upper East Side ne'er-do-well, and a single-minded widow who is ahead of her times, Katey has the chance to experience first hand the poise secured by wealth and station, but also the aspirations, envy, disloyalty, and desires that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her orbit, she will learn how individual choices become the means by which life crystallizes loss.
Elegant and captivating, Rules of Civility turns a Jamesian eye on how spur of the moment decisions define life for decades to come. A love letter to a great American city at the end of the Depression, readers will quickly fall under its spell of crisp writing, sparkling atmosphere and breathtaking revelations, as Towles evokes the ghosts of Fitzgerald, Capote, and McCarthy.
"In his smashing debut, Towles details the intriguing life of Katherine Kontent and how her world is upended by the fateful events of 1938. Kate and her roommate, Evelyn Ross, have moved to Manhattan for its culture and the chance to class up their lives with glamour — be it with jazz musicians, trust fund lotharios, or any man with a hint of charm who will pay for dinner and drinks. Both Kate and Evelyn are enamored of sophisticated Tinker Grey, who they meet in a jazz club; he appears to be another handsome, moneyed gent, but as the women vie for his affection, a tragic event may seal a burgeoning romance's fate. New York's wealthy class is thick with snobbery, unexpected largesse, pettiness, jealousies, and an unmistakable sense of who belongs and who does not, but it's the undercurrent of unease — as with Towles's depiction of how the upper class can use its money and influence to manipulate others' lives in profoundly unsavory ways — that gives his vision depth and complexity. His first effort is remarkable for its strong narrative, original characters and a voice influenced by Fitzgerald and Capote, but clearly true to itself. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The new novel we couldn't put down...in the crisp, noirish prose of the era, Towles portrays complex relationships in a city that is at once melting pot and elitist enclave — and a thoroughly modern heroine who fearlessly claims her place in it." O, the Oprah Magazine
"This very good first novel about striving and surviving in Depression- era Manhattan deserves attention...The great strength of Rules of Civility is in the sharp, sure-handed...evocation of Manhattan in the late '30s." Wall Street Journal
"Even the most jaded New Yorker can see the beauty in Amor Towles' Rules of Civility, the antiqued portrait of an unlikely jet set making the most of Manhattan." The San Francisco Chronicle
"The best novels are the ones that completely transport you to another time and place. This beautifully written debut does just that. With wit, wisdom, and rich language, Towles introduces a cast of unforgettable 1938 New Yorkers, who change the book's heroine in surprising and absorbing ways." J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine
"The characters are beautifully drawn, the dialogue is sharp and Towles avoids the period nostalgia and sentimentality to which a lesser writer might succumb. An elegant, pithy performance by a first-time novelist who couldn't seem more familiar with his characters or territory." Kirkus Reviews
A sophisticated and entertaining debut novel about an irresistible young woman with an uncommon sense of purpose.
In her first novel since The God of War, the critically acclaimed author Marisa Silver takes Dorothea Langes Migrant Mother” photograph as inspiration for a breathtaking reinvention—a story of two women, one famous and one forgotten, and of the remarkable legacy of their chance encounter.
In 1936, a young mother resting by the side of a road in Central California is spontaneously photographed by a woman documenting the migrant laborers who have taken to Americas farms in search of work. Little personal information is exchanged, and neither woman has any way of knowing that they have produced what will become the most iconic image of the Great Depression.
Three vibrant characters anchor the narrative of Mary Coin. Mary, the migrant mother herself, who emerges as a woman with deep reserves of courage and nerve, with private passions and carefully-guarded secrets. Vera Dare, the photographer wrestling with creative ambition who makes the choice to leave her children in order to pursue her work. And Walker Dodge, a present-day professor of cultural history, who discovers a family mystery embedded in the picture. In luminous, exquisitely rendered prose, Silver creates an extraordinary tale from a brief moment in history, and reminds us that although a great photograph can capture the essence of a moment, it only scratches the surface of a life.
In her first novel since The God of War, critically acclaimed author Marisa Silver takes Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” photograph as inspiration for a breathtaking reinvention—a story of two women, one famous and one forgotten, and of the remarkable legacy of their singular encounter.
In 1936, a young mother resting by the side of a road in Central California is spontaneously photographed by a woman documenting the migrant laborers who have taken to America’s farms in search of work—little personal information is exchanged and neither has any way of knowing that their chance encounter has produced the most iconic image of the Great Depression.
Three vibrant characters anchor the narrative of Mary Coin: Mary, the migrant mother herself, who emerges as a woman with deep reserves of courage and nerve, with private passions and carefully-guarded secrets. Vera Dare, the photographer wrestling with creative ambition who makes the choice to leave her children in order to pursue her work. And Walker Dodge, a present-day professor of cultural history, who discovers a family mystery embedded in the picture. In luminous, exquisitely observed prose, Silver creates an extraordinary tale from a brief moment in history, and reminds us that though a great photograph can capture the essence of a moment, it only scratches the surface of a life.
About the Author
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. He is a Principal at an investment firm in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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