Rules of Civility

A book for book nerds, Mr. Towles knows his audience, reeling us in with bits of Dickens, Thoreau, Christie, Plato, Tolstoy. I was absolutely mesmerized by the book for the first half, and then took a peek at the back flap, to see who this “Amor Towles” (pseudonym? A-Mortal?) was who was wrapping my eyes with spellbounding words. The spell broke as soon as I read the author blurb… the head of an investment banking firm who lives in NYC with his wife and kids. For some reason, since that revelation, the voice of the narrator as a spunky, fierce, intelligent woman seemed a little off, the dialog seemed anachronistic to the year 1938, the drama seemed overblown.
Katey Kontent and her roommate Eve go out on New Years Eve 1937 to ring in the new year at a Jazz club, quickly blowing their wallets on drinks and it not being 10pm yet. In breezes Tinker Grey, all monogrammed and well dressed, looking for his brother but ending up joining their party. The three of them become fast friends, then Eve gets thrown from the car in an accident where a milk truck hits them from behind, scarring her face for life and with permanent limp. Tinker insists she move in with him to recuperate, then they eventually become an item. When Eve moves out of the boarding house and into the wealthy stratosphere, Kate quits her legal secretary work and pursues a well known editor for a job. She ends up working on a new magazine at Conde Nast, long hours but adores the work. She lives alone in a crappy apartment she can barely afford, plays 4 hands of bridge by herself, drinks gin and wine and reads a lot. She dips in and out of the social circle, meeting various folks through Eve/Tinker or work. An ill-fated “romance” with Wallace, Dickie, countless others. Tinker proposes, Eve runs away, Tinker becomes a stevedore on the docks. Wallace dies in Spain. The overwhelming maudlin quality of the last half had me skimming for plot points.
Tragically disappointing, considering the rapture I began it with.