Monday, 23 April 2012

Book #39 Rules Of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules Of Civility

Rules Of Civility by Amor Towles is a Thirties set society novel. It begins in the Sixties when protagonist Kate visits a photography exhibition with her husband. During the show Kate encounters two very different portraits of an old friend which sets her to thinking of her youth when she first knew him.

In the Thirties Kate lives in a Manhattan boarding house for women and works as a secretary. She rooms with Evelyn Ross who is from a wealthy background but wants to make it on her own. They are close and have a good social life.

When one night they encounter the wealthy and well connected Tinker Grey the girls find themselves rivals for his affections, but when tragedy strikes, the balance tips firmly one way. Or does it?

The frustrating thing about Rules Of Civility is its loss of focus which happens frequently. There are lots of dry passages, and uninteresting sections focusing on Kate's social circles and rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi which isn't where the story really lies. These sections reminded me of Edith Wharton's The House Of Mirth, a novel I didn't enjoy.

In truth the most intriguing characters in this story by far are Evelyn Ross and Tinker Grey. Evelyn Ross is quite obnoxious but makes you extremely interested in her thought processes, motives, and ultimate life story. Kate's thought processes are often filled with university student type opinions on literature, and even as a literature graduate and keen book lover I found this deathly dull.

As the reveals come about Tinker Grey in the final third, I found myself wishing that the focus had been on him, or at least large sections of the book. Kate makes a dull protagonist and should really have been the bit player and not the lead, though the introduction with the photographs was a good way to start. Not sure if I'd recommend this or not, certainly not an instant must read but I reckon about 7/10

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