Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 2011
Read by: Rebecca Lowman
The Short Version:
New York in 1938 is the background to a story of a year that changed the lives of Katey Kontent, her roommate and the handsome banker they met on New Year’s Eve.
Why I Read It:
A friend mentioned that she’d read this and liked it a lot. When I looked it up on the library website it sounded interesting and when I saw that the audio edition was available I knew I’d get to it sooner if I got the audio edition.
On New Year’s Eve 1937 Katey Kontent and her boardinghouse roommate Eve Ross meet Theodore (Tinker) Grey in a Jazz club. Their chance meeting turns quickly into a friendship and surprising circumstances that will change all of their lives.
Although the story begins as the story of three people it soon becomes Katey’s story. She begins the year living in a boardinghouse and working in the secretarial pool of a high powered legal firm. As the year goes on, she changes jobs, encounters a wide variety of people from all social classes who have varying levels of impact on her life and future. Through her friendship with Tinker Grey she meets people she might never have encountered. Some of them turn out to be positive encounters and others bring more trouble than she expects.
The city of New York, the era of the late 1930’s, the social class structure and the people who inhabit its layers as well as the lasting impact of both conscious choices and fate are all a part of the year this book chronicles.
I’m actually glad that I decided to get this in audio format. Rebecca Lowman tells Katey’s story (the book is written in first person narrative) with a voice that fits perfectly in my opinion with Katey’s cool reserved personality but at the same time is able to express her quick wit and sense of adventure. It was a book that I enjoyed listening to because I was able to visualize much of it in my head. For most of the time that visualization was in the form of a 1940’s era black and white movie which was obviously influenced by the cover photo of the book.
Speaking of the cover, I thought it was great. It perfectly sets the tone for the book.
The book begins with a prologue set in 1966 when an older Katey is at an exhibit of 1930’s photographs and is reminded of the events of 1938. This leads into her telling her story and an epilogue fills in a bit of ‘what happened later’. As soon as I was finished with the last track I went back to the beginning and listened to the prologue again to hear it a second time with full knowledge of what Katey knew when she was at that exhibit.
I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s always interesting to me when a man writes a book from the point of view of a female main character. Towles manages to pull it off for the most part, but there are times when Katey is a little too cool, too smart, too attractive and too vulnerable all at the same time. I’m not sure I liked Katey as a character but I liked hearing her story.
I was a little disappointed in the way that some characters were dropped out of the story. I would like to hear the rest of Eve’s story from her own perspective but perhaps that’s another book.
SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.