Amor Towles Rules of Civility | SheSpeaks

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  • cambrownjax By  cambrownjax    
    11.12.11

    It's the story of how chance encounters can make a lasting impact for decades to come. Set in New York City circa 1938 just as the Great Depression is near its end, the story is told through the eyes of Katey Kontent, a young Wall Street law secretary who works her way into the executive suite of a Conde Nast tabloid magazine. The book opens in 1966 with an elegant middle-aged Katey at a gallery opening with her husband when she spots two distinctly different photographs of man of significant importance to the watershed year in her life. We are quickly transported to New Year's Even 1937 when it all began in a Greenwich Village jazz club when Katey and her boardinghouse roommate Eve meet and both fall for Tinker Grey, a handsome investment banker. A three-way friendship develops with Tinker as the pivotal character, along with a lot of martini drinking and life-changing events, as Katey enters the complex social strata of New York and is ultimately educated in the art of self-invention and derailed by a widow with single purpose. It's a rags to riches story of a quite surprising kind, with a story line that compels one to keep reading. The book's title is based on a teenage George Washington's 110 Rules for Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation which is intertwined with the story. They are also wonderfully listed in the back of the book. This is Amor Towles' first novel and I enjoyed it immensely. My only disappointment is that he referred to my former church in NYC twice as "St. Barth's" instead of its rightful name of St. Bart's, short for St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church. A small transgression for such a magnificent book.

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