Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility

Book - 2011
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From the New York Times -bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow , a "sharply stylish" (Boston Globe) novel of a young woman in post-Depression era New York who suddenly finds herself thrust into high society.

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.

Publisher: New York : Viking, 2011
ISBN: 9780670022694
Branch Call Number: FICTION Towles 2011
Characteristics: 334 p. ; 23 cm
Alternative Title: Rules of civility: a novel


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Rules of Civility

It’s New Year’s Eve 1937 in New York City. Katey, the witty narrator, and her roommate, Eve, both in their twenties, find themselves enraptured by a smartly-dressed man who enters the bar. The three quickly form a friendship throughout the following year that takes the women into social circles far beyond their boardinghouse. The debut novel explores how encounters and choices made in your … (more)

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List - Melanie Recommends
OPL_MelanieS Mar 14, 2018

This debut novel explores how encounters and choices made in your 20s can have a lasting effect and shape your character in the years to come.
With traces of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – Midwesterners on the East Coast, high society and plenty of gin – and characters with names like Bitsy, Tin... Read More »

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Mar 17, 2018

I listened to this book over a period of weeks. It was interesting to read two books by this author. I found the voice in each book to be so different and to be a match with the period and place of each book in a unique way. Rules of Civility is in NYC during the 20s and on. The title refers to a list of rules written and followed by George Washington. They are in some ways the secret keys to joining privileged society. The story is of two young women, working in a typing pool, one from the midwest and a beauty, the other a local who aspires to being a journalist. The story starts with the journalist, late in her life and with her husband, seeing photos in a private exhibition. They are portraits in black and white and one is a man she remembers well - there are two photos of him, one in an expensive fur greatcoat and the other on a subway in rough working man's clothes. Her husband sees the progression from the working man to the wealthy, but she knows that the progression went the other way, and that the man's face on the subway shows a happiness he never felt in his riches. It is a complex story because there are shifting perspectives on who people are.

Feb 25, 2018

I read this after falling in love with Towles' prose style in "A Gentleman in Moscow." Reminiscent of Nabokov but just light enough to feel a bit like dessert as opposed to main course. Was interesting to see the crumbs in this book that led to writing a book about post-Trotsky Russia. I am absolutely enamored with Towles' style and will continue to read his work. High recommend.

AL_ANNAL Feb 04, 2018

In depression era New York City (1938) some live in abject poverty and others still revel in Jazz Age luxuries. The characters here are bright, quick, optimistic, stylish. By the end the reader may question which character's life is lived by "The Rules of Civility."

Nov 20, 2017

48 HOLDS ON 18 COPIES 11/17

Oct 30, 2017

I was prompted to read this after thoroughly enjoying this author's latest book called A Gentleman in Moscow. I didn't fall in love with Rules of Civility but it has it's own brand of charm and has a wonderful sense of time and place. Well worth reading.

Apr 08, 2017

A bit of a slow start, but soon enough I was drawn in to 1938 New York, with all the attitudes and mannerisms of the time effortlessly woven into the story by the author. It reads like life - one thing happens, then the next and the next, and sooner than you expect your life has been shaped by all your past experiences and acquaintances and you're on the road in a direction you would have never expected. And old acquaintances are not forgotten, but having made their contribution, become faded memories.

Apr 08, 2017

Above all, this book is about a time and a place: New York, 1938. Everything proceeds from that. Towles conjures up a wonderful cast of characters that could only exist in their particular form within the aegis of that iconic city and during that brief hiatus between the Depression and WW2. Best and most delightful of all is the style, both the style of the prose and the style of life embraced by those characters.
Midway through the book I found that it was losing momentum as Kate's life began to go sideways and I was regretting the loss of the sparkle that had pervaded the first few chapters; but then I understood that this dimming of the lights was entirely deliberate. Reality was creeping in, the party hats were beginning to look a bit tawdry and the book took on more substance.
This is not a simple story even though some reviewers have found it lacking in plot; it's a story of self-discovery, a re-assessment of values, expectations, goals.
One final word: a rebuke to those reviewers who question Towles' audacity in writing in the first person what is so thoroughly and intimately a woman's story. I think he has accomplished it brilliantly. Kate is utterly believable; her personality will stay with me for a long time.
A delightful read.

amf_0 Feb 23, 2017

Enjoyed immensely. Evocative of the Depression era, New York centred, lovely writing

Jan 15, 2017

Way better than expected. I only read it because I have some time on my hands and I saw this on a "best of" list. I liked the characters and the fact that it didn't talk about how depressing the Depression was a plus in my mind. It was a great story and made me want to go to NYC again.

AL_ANGELINA Sep 22, 2016

One of those books you'll want to read again. Beautifully written story about New York City in the 1930's. It has the same nostalgic feeling of "The Great Gatsby".

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