Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
All right, I'll come right out and say it right away: I loved this book. Loved it.
The story follows Brooklyn-born Katy Kontent as she edges her way into New York society during the year 1938, first from a secretary pool and later in publishing. But work is rarely what's on her mind. There's Katy, her friend Eve, Tinker, an old-money type they meet on New Years Eve, the event that shapes all of their futures, and the year that ensues. Actually the cover of this book so perfectly captures the tone--where can I find the designer behind it? :)
The first thing this guy (a middle-age guy wrote this??) did well, even masterfully, is the dialogue. This book has written some of the wittiest, most fun back-and-forth I've ever read, whittled down and honed into fast-paced, moments of pure fun. I'd read it again on a beach, spending more time soaking in the descriptions.
The other piece of this book that caught by writer brain was its genre, literary fiction, and how it steered clear of the genre of romance. Because the story is, in fact, a romance, centered in many ways on Katy's love life, but I doubt many of its readers would consider themselves romance readers. And it doesn't fall in the genre of Romance. Why? First, there's not a happily ever after (not a spoiler--you find this out in the Preface. In fact, this seems to be one of his tactics to keep the book separated from the Romance genre). It could have been--there was a point where the book could have stopped for a HEA, but it didn't. But in some ways, it couldn't have stopped there--Towles' readers would have been horrified. Is literary fiction simply incompatible with unironic happy endings?
I'm beginning to think so. But I keep hoping I'm wrong.
Have you read the book? What did you get out of it?