Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I loved this book! I kind of wanted to read it already (especially after reading the reviews) but it just didn't make the cut given the length of my To Read list, so when my book club picked it, I was actually quite happy. Plus, I've been reading (Birds of a Feather) and watching (Upstairs, Downstairs) a lot set in the 1930s which made this all the more interesting to me.

To start, it is refreshing to hear a story set during the Depression where people actually have jobs! To hear any History Channel show about the decade, you'd think unemployment was at 90%. It was 23% in 1932 (this book takes place in 1938), which still does mean that 77% of people did have jobs. Including Katey and Eve, a legal typist and publishing assistant respectively. On New Year's Eve, they meet Tinker Grey in a downtown jazz bar, and the three become fast friends. Their lives will come together, split apart, and come together again in surprising ways throughout the year. I don't want to give away too much, although the plot twists, to quote Tinker are "surprising right up until the moment you heard it." Which is only to say that while there are twists, many of them, and several took me by surprise, they characters were so well-developed that as soon as you heard what they did, you realized there was nothing else they could have done.

Another book without quotation marks! I read two in as many weeks. And again, it didn't bother me at all. I thought it made it seem more like Katey was talking to me, relating the story, as opposed to me watching it happen as an outsider. But I hope authors don't get the idea that just because a couple of writers broke the rules successfully, that others who might be less talented should try it. I have heard that this book is just as good, if not better, upon a second reading, once you know everything. And one women in our book club did reread the first half of the book immediately upon finishing it, and agreed.

The book was smooth, charming, felt like an accurate slice of real life from the era, and also from an interesting segment of society - a freshly middle-class girl, and one who came from money but had rejected it (not that New York City would recognize Iowa money anyway) who are both striving for more, and also debating whether they really want to take the step on the next rung, and the price it will cost them. A wonderful book, perfect for book clubs, or just for anyone interested in the era or just in a well-written novel to get lost in.

I bought this book at the new independent bookstore in my hometown, Parnassus Books.


Kimberlee said...

Glad to see you enjoyed it. I really liked reading it earlier this year. It's easy to get lost in that time period and the author creates a vivid setting. I loved it also. Great review.


Carole said...

Hi there, the December edition of Books You Loved has just gone live today. Here is the link Books You Loved December Edition Please do pop by and link in a post about a book you loved. Maybe this one? Cheers