Kate's Reviews > Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
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's review
Feb 14, 12

Read from February 12 to 14, 2012

Loved it Loved it Loved it. From Harlem to Gaansevort. From the Brooklyn Bridge to Hells Kitchen. From Central Park West to St. Patrick's Cathedral. I loved this book.

Our main girl Katey Kontent is having the kind of year we all know well -- a single year in which well-timed introductions and shrewd decisions catapult her into a new life trajectory. She begins the year counting nickels in a divey jazz bar and ends it with a job at Conde Nast and a coterie of high society admirers. She has partied in the Hamptons, slept with Manhattan's most eligible bachelors at its most exclusive addresses, and had the unique opportunity of dropping am apartment key into the panties of one of the city's most conniving millionaires. Katey's composure and compuncture had me saying "Damn, girl!" often and audibly.

As Katey moves it and shakes it in New York's high society, she is doing more than collecting experiences or tagging along. She is seeing into the sad hollow heart of the lives of the rich. Katey Kontent might be a working class orphan, but her wit and moral fiber still make you prefer her to every other character.

There are a couple of things about this book that I will be talking about a long time from now. First, the story is a framed by an evening at Walker Evan's exhibit in 1966. Frame stories almost always annoy me -- but this one was good: appropriate and not overly saccarin. Second, this is most intelligent female character I have read in ages... confident, true, witty, steady, well-read, with none of the near-hysterical inner dialogue that haunts so many single women characters. Why did it take a man to write such a smart cookie? And where can we find more of these?

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