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?

Library Haul

I have been doing really well recently at concentrating on reading my own books but I’ve had a terrible relapse culminating in me borrowing five books – they were all absolutely necessary though! I did have ‘borrower’s remorse’ as soon as I took them home, but I got over it.

Haul of Library Books

I went into the library only to pick up one which I had reserved – Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I wanted to read this one as I really loved his book A Gentleman in Moscow, this one is very different but still good.

Then the librarian told me that Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce was also waiting for me. I have no idea if I’ll like this one but several bloggers that I trust have enjoyed it and as the setting is London 1941 its sounds like it’ll be right up my street. I’m the first person to borrow this one too – always satisfying.

I’m working my way through Helen Dunmore’s books and Zennor in Darkness just about jumped off the shelf at me. The setting is Cornwall in spring 1917 where ships are being sunk by U-boats, strangers are treated with suspicion and newspapers are full of spy stories.

Stet An Editor’s Life by Diana Athill is one I’ve wanted to read for a while but hadn’t got around to requesting it. When I visited the library in St Andrews the other day it was sitting on the shelf, obviously waiting for me.

I borrowed A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny thinking that it was her latest book but I’ve just realised that it’s one that I’ve already read and it was first published in 2006 with a different title – Dead Cold. I’m so glad that I only borrowed the book and didn’t buy it. I hate it when publishers do that and I can see no reason for it other than they want to con readers into buying the same book twice! At least that means I’ll get back to reading my own books quicker, but I had been really looking forward to being in Three Pines again for a few days. Have you read any of these ones?

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

The Ghost Fields cover

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles has been popular with some of the blogs that I visit, but it was when my friend Christine mentioned that she was enjoying it I decided to give it a go too and I loved it. It was published in 2016.

It begins in Moscow in 1922 where Count Alexander Rostov is in the Kremlin being questioned. Surprisingly he survives the experience but is declared to be a non person and soldiers escort him back to the Metropol Hotel where he has been living in a luxurious suite. He has been sentenced to indefinite house arrest, so if he ever sets foot out of the hotel he will be shot.

He has to vacate his beautiful suite and move into an attic room not much bigger than a cupboard. You would think that a man who had been brought up to enjoy the best of everything in life would find this intolerable but Sasha manages to make a rich and full life for himself and ends up having close relationships with the hotel staff who have become like a family to him.

With the Metropol being a favourite hotel of those in positions of power in the Kremlin over the years Sasha has plenty of opportunities to observe them – something which becomes very useful to him subsequently.

Sasha is a great character and I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I’ll be reading the author’s other book Rules of Civility soon, but I can’t imagine I’ll like it as much as this one.