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Rules of Civility Hardcover – 21 Jul 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (21 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444708848
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444708844
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 22.3 x 3.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 484,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amor Towles has written fiction which has appeared in The Paris Review. This is his first novel. He lives in New York.

Product Description


'Achingly stylish...witty, slick production, replete with dark intrigue, period details, and a suitably Katharine Hepburn-like heroine' (Guardian)

'Written with a light, witty touch.' (The Age)

'Put on some Billie Holiday, pour a dry martini and immerse yourself in the life of Katey Kontent, a smart young woman trying to find herself in Manhattan in the late 1930's' (Who Magazine)

The summer's must-read: gripping and beautiful (Sunday Times)

'Terrific. A smart, witty, charming dry-martini of a novel' (David Nicholls, author of One Day)

'This novel looks at how spur of the moment decisions can define life for years to come against the backdrop of 1930s New York City' (The Newcastle Herald)

'Towles has written a sophisticated novel about a fascinating but underappreciated moment in US history' (The Sydney Morning Herald)

'This is a flesh-and-blood tale you believe in, with fabulous period detail. It's all too rare to find a fun, glamorous, semi-literary tale to get lost in... While you're lost in the whirl of silk stockings, fur and hip flasks, all you care about is what Katey Kontent does next' (Viv Groskop, Observer)

'Take The Great Gatsby, throw in a little Breakfast At Tiffany's and mix with a lot of attitude in a cocktail shaker, and you've got Rules of Civility, a sophisticated coming of age story set in 1938 Manhattan' (The Australian Women's Weekly)

'Irresistible... A cross between Dorothy Parker and Holly Golightly, Katey Kontent is a priceless narrator in her own right - the brains of a bluestocking with the legs of a flapper and the mores of Carrie Bradshaw' (Elena Seymenliyska, Telegraph)

'Because who doesn't want to be transported to Thirties Manhattan?' (Lucy Mangan)

'You want hotly anticipated? Towles' prose is mesmerising and the descriptions so vivid you can just about taste the cigarettes and gin martinis on your tongue. Enjoyable, fast-paced and wholly cinematic' (Madison)

'Katey's story is lubricated with plenty of martinis, she is kitted out in spot-on vintage fashion, and lives in New York where improvisational jazz is in its infancy. Rules of Civility is full of natty dialogue, crisp prose and some thoroughly memorable characters. 5 stars' (Manly Daily)

'Jazz-age New York is the setting for martinis and girls on the make in Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. As glamorous as it is gut-wrenching, this is the summer's must-read' (ELLE) book of the year. If the unthinkable happened and I could never read another new work of fiction in 2011, I'd simply re-read this sparkling, stylish book, with yet another round of martinis as dry as the author's wit (Jackie McGlone, Herald)

'This book feels special...Towles was born to write.' (Sun Herald)

'Set against a soundtrack of clinking glasses and saxophones, the book is a love letter to the city and the era, so confidently written it instantly plunges you into Thirties New York. Towles creates a narrative that sparkles with sentences so beautiful you'll stop and re-read them. A delicious and memorable novel that will leave you wistful - and desperate for a martini' (Stylist)

'Rules is more of an homage to an era, a ballsy treat of a novel with a pinch of mystery and oh so many neat one-liners.' (The Times)

This book feels special...Towles was born to write (Sun Herald)

'Even the most jaded New Yorker can see the beauty in Amor Towles' RULES OF CIVILITY the antiqued portrait of an unlikely jet set making the most of Manhattan.' (San Francisco Chronicle)

Book Description

For fans of Fitzgerald and Capote, a witty, elegant fairytale of New York, set in 1938.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Jun. 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Clever, witty and very well written, this is the tale of a year in the life of Katey Kontent, an ambitious, intelligent young New Yorker. The year in question is 1938, when the Depression is beginning to lift and war has not yet cast a shadow. Life is full of possibilities and Katey and her friend Eve are determined to live it to the full. A chance encounter with handsome, rich and single Tinker Grey is destined to change all their lives in the course of the year and set them on the eventual paths they will follow into the future.

The American Dream is encapsulated in this novel, in all its naked ambition and superficiality. To be rich, to be beautiful, to be successful - these are the things that are important. And does it matter how these things are achieved? Manhattan seems to think not, and Katey and her friends want to live the dream. Social climbing is everything and has never been more frothy or more fun - the jazz clubs, the martini drinking, the partying.

Extremely well crafted, full of `fabdabulous' language and witty, memorable turns of phrase, I enjoyed reading this book very much. Comparisons have been made to The Great Gatsby and indeed it would be hard to read this and not think of Jay Gatsby. In fact, I felt that I was making this comparison more and more as the book went on and ultimately that didn't work to the advantage of this book. Jay Gatsby has stayed in my heart for many, many years - I'm not sure that either Katey Kontent or Tinker Grey will. But I had great fun spending a little time in their company - and I'm sure you will too.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Frost VINE VOICE on 16 Mar. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This isn't the kind of book I would ususally go for, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised. It was quirky and whilst written in quite a light-hearted style it caught my attention straight away. However, the plot seemed a bit lacking after a while, so I found that although when I picked it up I wanted to carry on, some nights I couldn't be bothered to pick it up before bed. It is by no means a "chick lit" book, but I would put it in the same easy-reading kind of mood.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Looking back in one's life can be triggered by a chance glance at a photograph. Visual reminders of a person or place can - if the subject of the picture was of importance - take you back in an instant to both painful and joyous times. Amor Towles first novel, "Rules of Civility" is the story of one such journey back for Katharine Kontent, who, while viewing a photo exhibit by Walker Evans in 1966, spots two pictures of a young man she had known and loved in the late 1930's. One picture in the exhibit was of the young man in prosperous circumstances and the other was of him in much poorer ones. As Kontent tells her husband about her life in those years, memories triggered by the pictures, she talks about the young man - Tinker Grey - and her best friend, Eve Ross, and the other friends and acquaintances she had then.

"Rules" is written in the first person, for the most part, and that voice is of Katherine Kontent.

Katharine was a social chameleon. Born from poor Russian immigrant parents on the Lower East Side, the reader doesn't learn til the end of the book her exact background. But Katey is a smart gal, a "comer" in terms of social advancement, and she wants very much to fit in with the Social Register crowd. She has a respected job in a law firm as a secretary and she manages to promote herself and her best friend and roommate, Eve Ross. A "meet cute" moment by Katey and Eve with Tinker in a bar launches them both into a wealthy group of 20-somethings. She meets - and melds - with many of the crowd and she tells their stories, along with hers. Most people weren't what they first seemed to Katey, but that's true of most of society. We all put on a "face" and tell a "story" of who or what we'd like to be, even if we're not quite that person.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Asphodelia TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 May 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I decided to read "The Rules of Civility" because the blurb on the Amazon page mentioned a jazz quartet in 1937 and stated that the protagonist, Katey Kontent, knew " how to type eighty words a minute, five thousand an hour, and nine million a year and that if you can still lose yourself in the first chapter of a Dickens novel then everything is probably going to be fine". With those two lines, I had already identified with Ms Kontent, despite the fact that I have never been to New York City. If you are a male reader, please do not click away now as this is most definitely NOT chick-lit. In fact, there is plenty of drinking (Martinis and Champagne, primarily), there are cars and even a few guns here and there. Oh, and jazz.

In brief, the plot revolves around Katey and her friend Eve; they meet Theodore `Tinker' Grey, a wealthy young man while celebrating New Year's Eve in a dingy jazz club and, without giving away the story, the encounter will change their lives for ever. A love triangle is among the central elements of this story, but the triangle changes shape at one point and anyway, this is a novel with a story, rather than a plot. It's about love, of course, but also about ambition, social mobility, and that aspirational quality that is quintessential to the mythology of New York City and that will inevitably bring up comparisons with F.S. Fitzgerald's 'Great Gatsby'. Indeed, it would be hard not to see the similarities between Tinker and Jay Gatsby - young men who pretty much incapsulate the American Dream of the early 20th century at the start of the novel and who, by the end, confirm that the dream is just that: an illusion.
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