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Rules of Civility

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4.03  ·  Rating details ·  120,785 ratings  ·  12,633 reviews
In a jazz bar on the last night of 1937, watching a quartet because she couldn't afford to see the whole ensemble, there were certain things Katey Kontent knew. By the end of the year she'd learned - how to launch a paper airplane high over Park Avenue, how to live like a redhead, and how to insist upon the very best.
Paperback, 342 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by Sceptre (first published July 26th 2011)
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Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Carolyn This didn't spoil anything. You know she married someone else after the first 2 pages.
Judy Lindow (view spoiler) It was the son of the man who gave the party she went to as
Wallace's friend. The father suggested he take the sports car - but he…more
(view spoiler) It was the son of the man who gave the party she went to as
Wallace's friend. The father suggested he take the sports car - but he chose the conservative car. We see some matchmaking and in the last pages when she looks at the pictures, she revisits the memory of her and Val hugging him at their wedding. Val's looks are a cross between an aviator and a judge. We have evidence that she's attracted to both the free spirit (Dicky, Tinker, Hank) and the judges (Wallace, Mason, Anne) IMO, the 2 she loves most have both aspects: Eve and Tinker. I think it's important that Val makes a quick entry and exit. I know I've crossed paths many times with some people. Plus, with the lack of interest at that time - it's apparent that the timing would not have been right. Sometimes we have to live through different things before we're ready. In the case of these two we see and learn that they are both career oriented and not prepared to make their commitments until they did some more living on their own.(less)
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4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  120,785 ratings  ·  12,633 reviews


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Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
”She was indisputably a natural blonde. Her shoulder-length hair, which was sandy in summer, turned golden in the fall as if in sympathy with the wheat fields back home. She had fine features and blue eyes and pinpoint dimples so perfectly defined that it seemed like there must be a small steel cable fastened to the center of each inner cheek which grew taut when she smiled. True, she was only five foot five, but she knew how to dance in two-inch heels--and she knew how to kick them off as soon ...more
Anne
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, fiction, nyc
The prologue to this novel takes place at an exhibition of photographs by Walker Evans in 1966. The author tells us that Evans had waited 25 years to show these photos to the public due to a concern for the subjects' privacy. The photos are taken with a hidden camera in the NYC subway car and "captured a certain naked humanity." Katey sees an old friend, Tinker Grey, in two of these pictures. In one he's clean shaven, wearing a custom shirt and a cashmere coat. In a photo dated one year later he ...more
Elyse Walters
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
$1.99 Kindle Download special today! -- GREAT DEAL!!! (I spent more!)


FANTASTIC....FABULOUS!!!!!! I LOVED THIS NOVEL TREMENDOUSLY!!!!

This review is filled 'mostly' with quotes --as these are quotes I want to remember....yet without the context of the story itself ... there are NO SPOILERS.
Special thanks Sara. We are buddy-reading this together ..having our own private book club discussion....adds much richness to a novel like this one.

Whatever setbacks Katey's father faced in life, he said, "
...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is just delightful fun. It's a love letter, a limerick, a lollipop, a literary longing. Grab your shaker of martinis and your cocktail onions and take a ride with Katey Kontent through the streets of 1938 Manhattan. She's just a working girl trying to make it on her own, but with the right (or wrong?) friends, she manages to borrow a little glamour...and a helping or two of trouble besides.

The book is not without its flaws. I was only going to rate it four stars. After I read the epilogue
...more
Jennifer Masterson
I’m late to the party so there isn’t much to say about this book that hasn’t already been said. What I will say is that I absolutely loved the writing, the characters, New York City in the late 1930’s, and the story!

I was having a hard time picking a book and felt I was going into another slump so I went in a totally different direction and picked an older book on my TBR. I’m so glad I did because I loved it! I need to keep reminding myself that the newest books aren’t necessarily the best ones
...more
Candi
"The year 1938 had been one in which four people of great color and character had held welcome sway over my life."

Katey Kontent and Eve Ross are ready to ring in the new year of 1938 at The Hotspot in Greenwich Village when the devastatingly handsome and moneyed banker with a Central Park West address walks in the door. Tinker Grey: "He had that certain confidence in his bearing, that democratic interest in his surroundings, and that understated presumption of friendliness that are only found in
...more
switterbug (Betsey)
If a novel could win an award for best cinematography, this would take home the gold. Amor Towles's sophisticated retro-era novel of manners captures Manhattan 1938 with immaculate lucidity and a silvery focus on the gin and the jazz, the nightclubs and the streets, the pursuit of sensuality, and the arc of the self-made woman.

The novel's preface opens in 1966, with a happily married couple attending a Walker Evans photography exhibition. An unlikely chance encounter stuns the woman, Katey--a pi
...more
Elaine
Jun 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
This book was strange for me, at points, it was a 5, at other points a 1. There were passages (usually not parts of the narrative, but Katy's aphorisms - presumably the product of her middle-aged mind looking back) that moved me nearly to tears. These little nuggets are Katy's own "Rules of Civility" and they made the book worth reading. (E.g., "Right choices are the means by which life crystallizes loss.").

But those little tidbits are not the bulk of this quite plotty pacey novel, which is a fa
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Blargh, I'd been having such good luck with Goodreads Choice finalists.

I really should have put it down after page two, when the female, working-class narrator describes her roommate as follows:

"Eve was one of those surprising beauties from the American Midwest.
In New York it becomes so easy to assume that the city's most alluring women have flown in from Paris or Milan. But they're just a minority. A much larger covey hails from the stalwart states that begin with the letter I--like Iowa or Ind
...more
Sarah
Jul 31, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: most-hated
I waffled between a one or two star rating, but I'm not feeling particularly generous today, so one star it is.

Basically: upper-class middle-aged man tries to write as/about working-class young woman. And fails. I think I enjoyed about the first twenty pages of this one, and the rest just fell utterly flat. First of all, the main character (with the terrible name of Katey Kontent) was completely unconvincing and not at all compelling. It's rare that men can write convincingly in a female voice,
...more
Robert Davis
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, new-york
This is the rare example of a book that makes you appreciate the art of writing. It is indeed remarkable that this first time author has created a debut novel that succeeds in every way. Mr. Towles has crafted a true masterpiece. This stylish, elegant and deliberately anachronistic debut novel transports readers back to Manhattan in 1938, where authentic, human characters inhabit a playground that comes alive with the manners of a society on the verge of radical upheaval.

This book is art deco, j
...more
Olive (abookolive)
Year after year, this book always speaks to where I am in life.
Dolors
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Literary Sybarites
Recommended to Dolors by: Jeffrey Keeten
Shelves: read-in-2013
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

The road not taken by Robert Frost.

Katey Kontent stands on her balcony overlooking Central Park in 1966 and reflects on the journey of her life and the road she chose to walk more than twenty years ago. Vulnerable and voluptuous like Billie Holiday’s voice in “Autumn in New York”, Katey remembers the one and only genuine love of her life, the irresistible banker Tinker Grey. “For many are c
...more
Luffy
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rules of civility is a book by Amor Towles. He is an author whose best book is A Gentleman in Moscow. Armed with this endorsement I began reading. I realised then that this book will be unforgotten by me. Who knows, maybe when I'm in my deathbed I'll think of it and die.

I was thinking of giving the book only 4 stars. But how can that be, when I've read the book in two days flat? How can that be, when I didn't find one single page lacking in quality?

In the book, people are real. They make love, t
...more
Diane
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you, Amor Towles, for writing such a lovely and sophisticated novel. Your book was a soothing tonic for this bruised and battered reader.

Rules of Civility is the story of Katey Kontent in New York City. The novel opens at an art gallery in 1966, and then flashes back to 1937 after Katey sees a photo of her former lover, Tinker Grey. She thinks back to her single days and to the night she first met Tinker in '37. She remembers how getting to know him inadvertently set her on a path that cha
...more
Cynthia
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Immigrants or Trust Funds?

“Rules of Civility” is a love story for a city. Specifically New York City during the last few years of the 1930’s. That’s not to say that Towles's characters aren’t fully realized. They are. In fact the dialog is outstanding. When a character opens their mouth you know immediately if they haunt the docks or Park Avenue. At one point the three principle protagonists are out larking and sneak into a Marx Brothers movie. Think of how exaggerated the accents and mannerisms
...more
Margitte
I don't want to say a lot about this book. I'm a bit tired this morning. Wanted to finish this book and denied myself a few hours of sleep.

This is the story of Kate, Eve and Tinker in the New York of 1938, where it was possible to climb the social ladder with a few rules from the father of the American republic's, George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior; a few well-positioned social connections; and and a whiff of intelligence. Everybody had a chance if you knew the rules.

In 1
...more
Sara
New Year’s Eve 1937, Katey Kontent and Evelyn Ross meet handsome, well-heeled Tinker Grey at a bar and they see in 1938 together. They make resolutions for one another...and one of those resolutions is to get “out of your ruts.” Well, this chance meeting shakes up all their lives and not a rut is left when 1938 whistles itself into history. With New York City as a delicious backdrop, Katey navigates both the heights of society and the working class world, and along the way she learns a lot about ...more
Emma
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"If we only fell in love with people who were perfect for us, then there wouldn’t be so much fuss about love in the first place."

I first came across this author when I read A Gentleman in Moscow, which I absolutely adored. Reading this was my chance to see if he was a one trick pony. Let me tell you- he is not!
Amor Towles writes beautifully and evocatively of the late 1930s in New York. The book is an exploration of love, of choices made, of life fulfilled, of connections made and disguarded and
...more
PorshaJo
Rating 3.5

There is a movie by Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris (awesome movie), that many say 'its a love letter to Paris'. A love letter to a particular time in history, the roaring 20s, where many literary and artistic people socialized. The Rules of Civility, I felt, was Towles love affair. His love affair with New York city, his love affair with the late 30s, and his love of literature.

The story follows Katey Kontent (really?) who is twenty five, living in New York's Greenwich Village, moving
...more
Chrissie
Apr 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In summary, I loved listening to this audiobook. Why? First of all, this book is a must for anyone who loves NYC. Secondly, almost every line refers to places and books and artists. There is a wonderful message. The author is a master of metaphor. Most every sentence implies more than the bare words. One example: Katey pronounces her surname Kon-TENT. Don't you see the difference between that and KON-tent? Think about it. The plot throws you a looper. The characters become real people .In the be ...more
Erin
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-borrowed
Well, that debut novel was*ahem* interesting. A tale of three twentysomethings in New York in the 1930's managed to give this book a very "F.Scott Fitzgerald " vibe, but I just wasn't wooed enough to climb as high on the rating scale. If this was bookclub, I would probably be slinging bag G&T's like there was no tomorrow while all these 4 and 5 stars would be waxing on about this coming of age story with its beautiful prose. But the only things I walked away from this book is a reading list( ...more
Em Lost In Books
Loved the first half, and then it went downhill for me. :|
Lynn
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy character-driven novels. This one is made perfect by focusing on a specific time and place: 1938 in NYC. It's a year between the Great Depression and the beginning of WWII. Even the poised, reflective characters are carefree enough to hang out and drink, listen to jazz and have madcap adventures. Fun to eavesdrop on all that.

There's a wonderful device used to demonstrate one person's character. At the beginning of the book, our narrator finds Tinker Grey's picture twice in a photographe
...more
Kimber Silver
"I know that right choices by definition are the means by which life crystallizes loss."
― Amor Towles, Rules of Civility


Have you ever been immersed in something so enchanting that you have no idea how special it is until it’s over? This is the feeling I’m left with after reading Rules of Civility. Amor Towles’ dreamy lyrical prose is so beautiful that I was transported back in time to a glamorous life of martinis and manners. I could taste the bathtub gin on my tongue as the sultry jazz twir
...more
Sue
So much has been said about this book here and elsewhere that I'm not sure what else to add. I did love this book for many reasons: The sense of time and place, the wonderful use of language (love the use of metaphor), sparkling dialog and internal narration, and wonderful descriptions of New York City itself that raise its presence to another character.

We have all lived through our twenties (or most of us through most of that decade). So much happens, so many decisions are made that impact our
...more
BrokenTune
Oct 15, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
—Oh stop, Eve said. It’s dreadful. What is it?
—Virginia Woolf.
—Ugh. Tinker brought home all these novels by women as if that’s what I needed to get me back on my feet. He’s surrounded my bed with them. It’s as if he’s planning to brick me in. Isn’t there anything else?

Rules of Civility left me cold. I did not hate it, I did not like, I certainly did not love it as much as other people, including a lot of readers whose reviews I value, loved this book.

I don't even know whether it was the detache
...more
Howard
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, fiction
Update 4/23/2017

I need to clarify a comment I made regarding the prison population in my community. Since they are people and they are part of the population and the facility is within our city limits, for census purposes they are counted as part of our population. After all, they do reside within our city limits.
However, very few, if any, lived in the community or the surrounding area prior to their arrest and conviction. I assume that the prison population wherever it might be located is incl
...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Oct 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 1930's New York fan's
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Shelli Bentley
Entertaining - light but not fluffy - what it does best is capture the high drama of being a New Yorker during the late 30’s. A city where the upper class live large and lavish, hang out in jazz bars, frequent hotels like The Plaza & Essex House and generally fritter their lives away drinking & smoking up a storm. Katey Kontent, a social climber extraordinaire and her flaky friend Eve hobnob with rich elitists with names like (seriously) Tinker, Dicky & Bitsy… Throw in a bitter strug ...more
Liz
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes you’re fortunate enough to read a book that can make you gasp, make you laugh, and bring a poignant tear to your eye, all at the same time… your throat literally swells with it. If you have read such a book then I’m sure you know what I mean. Rules of Civility was not just a book to me, but an experience which embodied all those feelings.

If you’re wondering, Rules is written with the charm and imagination equal to that of A Gentleman in Moscow, but they are very different stories. Thi
...more
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5,931 followers
Born and raised in the Boston area, Amor Towles graduated from Yale College and received an MA in English from Stanford University. Having worked as an investment professional in Manhattan for over twenty years, he now devotes himself fulltime to writing. His first novel, Rules of Civility, published in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback and was ranked by the Wal ...more
“In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions—we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come.” 349 likes
“It is a lovely oddity of human nature that a person is more inclined to interrupt two people in conversation than one person alone with a book.” 286 likes
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