Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility cover

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles was first published back in 2011. I decided to request it from the library when I had so enjoyed his more recent book A Gentleman in Moscow. This one is very different from that book, but I ended up enjoying it almost as much, but not quite.

The story begins in 1966 when Katey Kontent and her partner Val are attending a photographic exhibition. Most of the photos in it date from the 1930s and Katey recognises one of the subjects of two of the photographs as Tinker Grey, a man she had known way back in the 30s. Katey and her friend Evey were both enamoured of him. He looks very different in each photo, in one he’s very svelte and wealthy looking in his cashmere coat and in the other he’s unshaven and wearing a threadbare coat, very much down on his luck.

Val is happy to see that Tinker has made good, but then they realise that it’s the other way around and Tinker has gone from cashmere to threadbare within a year. So begins Katey’s story of her earlier life in New York with her room-mate Evey.

The title comes from George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation and Tinker Grey is living his life adhering to this list as much as possible. At the end of the book there’s a list of all 110 of them. They’re just normal strictures of common sense or common decency – to me anyway.

I really like Amor Towles’s writing, his characters and his humour, so now I’ll have to track down Eve in Hollywood which he wrote in 2013. Have any of you read that one?

7 thoughts on “Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

  1. Hi Katrina,
    Yikes, you have read Rules of Civility fairly quickly. I hope that doesn’t mean that your weather has been dreadful, in one way or another? Maybe…? Do you read in your garden house? I’d love that, unless it was too hot or too cold and wet.

    I’m so pleased with the orange blimp that’s been made to resemble and “honor” our dastardly friend. I hope you’ve had the chance to see it on television. Ken and I think it’s splendid. I hope to hell that he does not visit Scotland. I do NOT wish him on you, and the idea that the UK will need to spend 6.6 million to have him visit is disgusting to me. He does not have a single redeeming virtue or value or anything. He stands for nothing. (Just me, blowing off steam.) I also write him hate letters at the White House. I spend more time though trying to communicate with our congresswoman, who is Republican. I think she will be sorely tested in the 2018 election in November. I hope so. I’ll be campaigning for her opponent, Tedra Cobb, door to door. I’m so sorry he’s visiting the UK. Don’t you have enough problems without him actually visiting?

    • Judith,
      I read it in about two and a half days, because my garden is south facing and it has been TOO HOT to garden during the day. At the same time Jack has been glued to the telly watching three football matches a day as the World Cup is on now. I’ve sometimes been reading in the garden in the wee summer house or under a parasol but mainly I’ve been in the sun room which is like a conservatory but it has a proper roof – doors and windows open of course and thankfully most days there has been a bit of a breeze.
      As it happens I signed an online petition about the Trump blimp as originally they were refused permission to fly it – obviously we won! I’m not going to any of the demos as I think it would annoy him more if people just ignored him. Silently turning their backs on him would have been good. We watch C-Span for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoons, it’s a phone in programme so has all sorts of people phoning in from all over the US. It’s interesting, and of course they have political guests there too. So I’m aware that there are plenty of very disgruntled and decent US-ians around. It’s those Born Again Christians many of whom are just racists and Nazis wrapped up in your flag. But fascism is on the rise everywhere, particularly in eastern Europe, no doubt the too will pass – but we can’t help thinking – oh no not again!
      Yes we definitely do have enough problems without him visiting too. I’ll look out for Tedra Cobb in the November election news.

      AND Trump is coming to Scotland, to play a round of golf at one of his golf courses – Turnberry. The most expensive round of golf ever – at our expense of course.

      • Oh, Katrina,
        I’m miserable that DT will be in your country tomorrow. I am so sorry that he’s decided to inflict himself on you. It’s bad enough what he does to us. But I HATE the way he’s behaved in the UK. I’m so afraid that people will hate all Americans, I really am.

        I’m also sorry that you’ve had such heat that it made it impossible to really garden. And I think your conservatory, which has lots of light(?), is a perfect place to be. Would you mind sending a picture of it sometime when you have time and feel like it?

        I think Ken and I could do more with our so-called “solar room,” which is unusable the way that the previous owners arranged it. Too overwhelmingly HOT in summer and on warm spring days, and too COLD on some fall and spring days. I would love to change that. Just maybe I can get Ken interested in hiring people to make it usable.. I don’t think that would be too hard, really–we just need to get motivated and hire the right people.

        • Judith,
          Fear not! Only eejits (idiots) would be against the US people because of Trump – and I don’t think there are that many eejits around. Actually a lot of people from the US have settled here and they’ve been protesting too. When Trump got to Turnberry someone flew a microlight over them trailing a banner which said – Trump – well under par!

        • Judith,
          Don’t worry – nobody sensible person would blame any US person for Trump, after all he didn’t even get the most votes – and that was after dodgy dealings – allegedly! I’ll take some photos of our sun room tomorrow and send you them. I love that you call yours a ‘solar’ – as they did in medieval castles.

  2. I was interested in what you thought about Rules of Civility, since you had liked A Gentleman in Moscow so much. Glad to hear it was good, if not as good. I will try one or the other someday.

    • tracybham,
      Rules of Civility reminded me in part of a very well known novel of the 1950s and I felt slightly miffed about that which is silly I know, as nothing can be completely new where storylines are concerned. I still enjoyed it though.

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