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?