Rules of Civility
By Amor Towles
368 pp. Penguin Books. $18.
This is one of the most charming, enjoyable books I have read in some time. It’s not just that the characters are fun, the writing delightful and witty — it’s that the entire book feels like it belongs to another, better era.
The comparisons to “The Great Gatsby” certainly are apt. This does read like really good Fitzgerald, and the New York Towles writes about feels very Roaring Twenties, despite being largely set in 1938. You can’t read this and not want to be there, with Katey Kontent, Evelyn Ross, and Tinker Grey as they welcome in the New Year in one of the city’s jazz bars.
I find it hard to believe that anyone couldn’t like this, really. It’s not the story that makes this so good, but the world Towles conjures. It’s a world I wished I could have inhabited. And Katey Kontent … she’s as delightfully charming as her name suggests. How can you not just fall in love with her? With all of them really?
This is a book full of optimism and hope for the future, for the people we have yet to meet, the friends we have yet to make.