The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I have an admission to make. I’m very geeky, I really am, and now I’m reading sci fi and watching a tv show about vampires (yes, The Vampire Diaries, I’m not even sorry) and dorking out over Tom Hiddleston aka Loki’s face (it is a lovely face) and generally speaking I am nerdy in my tastes and distractions, but I’ve just read Rules Of Civility and do you know what, I recommend it ever so much.

I first picked it up because of the cover, I freely admit

It’s got a gorgeous cover which suits the novel so entirely – it reads like a glass of prosecco tastes, if you know what I mean. It’s crisp and fizzy and handles heavy things with such lightness and dexterity that it’s a joy to read, tremendously diverting without having the solid weight of a Fitzgerald – still sparkling and intoxicating, just without that slight edge of oh-crap-there’s-a-bad-hangover-coming.

Some of my favourite main characters are the ladies (of any age) who are spirited and will stand up for themselves and have something of a sense of humour about them. Katey, this protagonist, is a fabulous creation of just this type, both observant and witty and proactive and interesting, damnit, without being insufferable. The dialogue is absolutely cracking and definitely one of the book’s strongest aspects to the point that I was sitting in my room trying some of the phrases out loud, because I am a nerd, I have totally mentioned this. It’s so strange a feeling to have such strong visuals and characters and sounds and sensations in what’s quite a svelte book. It’s suitably economic with the language while still retaining a lyrical quality, with Katey ruminating on scenes and people using quick, clever little phrases that sum up so much in so few words so skillfully that it makes me green with envy.

So, yes. It’s a great book, especially if you have an interest or fondness for 1930s New York, the 1930s in general, or those addictive tales about high society and social climbers. It’s a witty, pretty book, and has strong echoes of everything from Fitzgerald to Hemingway to Christie and wears all those influences openly without getting too deep or dark. The main way I’ve described it in the bookshop has been the glass of prosecco line because that’s the first synaesthetic reaction I got within the first chapter, but it’s also been touted as the women’s version of The Great Gatsby – it certainly isn’t that, but it’s a lovely little perspective of a fascinating point and part of American society.

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