Synopses & Reviews
A sophisticated and entertaining debut novel about an irresistible young woman with an uncommon sense of purpose.
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.
"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
"Put on some Billie Holiday, pour a dry martini and immerse yourself in the eventful life of Katey Kontent....[Towles] clearly knows the privileged world he's writing about, as well as the vivid, sometimes reckless characters who inhabit it." People
"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
"Terrific. A smart, witty, charming dry-martini of a novel." David Nichols, author of One Day
"Part love story, part social observation, 100 percent absorbing." Redbook
"It's the Depression, and a gal Friday with a mouth like Dorothy Parker's is dallying with the smart set...turns out she's not the only climber. A joyride through the ups and downs of 1930s high society." Good Housekeeping
"A smashing debut...remarkable for its strong narrative, original characters and a voice influenced by Fitzgerald and Capote, but clearly true to itself." Publishers Weekly
"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
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.
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.