Rules of Civility, written by Amor Towles, takes place in the late 1930s and centres around the life of Katey Kontent, a young twenty-five-year-old living in New York City at the tail end of the Great Depression. It’s a tale of beginnings, endings, of finding oneself and losing oneself too.
This is one of those novels that you can start in December, get distracted by Netflix, school and other projects and come back to in April, then May and still enjoy it all. When this book came out back in 2011, I knew I wanted to read it. I am definitely a girl who judges a book by its cover, and I judged correctly with this one. I’m pretty sure I added it to my stack of books close to two years ago, but, like many of the books I buy, it took a while to get to it.
Like most novels set in New York, this one made me yearn to be there, especially during a different time. So, those of you with old souls who are true New Yorkers at heart, this one’s for you.
I was so inspired with Towles’ writing throughout. I actually had to remind myself that it was written by a man, not a woman, because he was that good at giving a female voice to the narrator. There were so many moments where I felt, “he gets it!”. Towles tells the stories of these characters in such a poetic and metaphoric way that it just gets to your heart.
It’s hard for me to adequately share how this novel spoke to me, so I thought I would share some of my favourite lines.
“It’s a bit of a cliché to refer to someone as a chameleon: a person who can change his colours from environment to environment. In fact, not one in a million can do that. But there are tens of thousands of butterflies: men and women . . . with two dramatically different colourings — one which serves to attract and the other which serves to camouflage — and which can be switched at the instant with a flit of the wings” (p. 117)
“I think your hair is super”, he said.
“Sorry. Was that unflattering?”
“Super’s not bad. But I also answer to gorgeous and glamorous.” (p. 174)
“You’ve got a … lot of books,” he said at last.
“It’s a sickness.”
“Are you … seeing anyone for it?”
“I’m afraid it’s untreatable.” (p. 184)
“If only we fell in love with people who were perfect for us,” he said, “then there wouldn’t be so much fuss about love in the first place.” (p. 297)
I especially relate to the books quote. I love that one so much.
Have you read Rules of Civility? What are you reading now?