Amor Towles, Rules of Civility
Snappy dialogue and glamorous settings lend Rules the air of an old fashioned caper
Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility is a romp through the 1930s Manhattan glamour scene. His effervescent heroine, Katey Kontent (formerly known as Katya) manages to work her way up from law firm secretary to darling of Cond é Nast’s Gotham — a thinly-veiled New Yorker Magazine — and entangle herself in a tempestuous love triangle involving her best friend, Eve, and the exquisitely-named, Jay Gatsby-esque Tinker Grey.
After Tinker injures Eve in a car accident, he finds himself to be not only her generous benefactor, but a romantic conquest as well. However, Katey has already fallen for Tinker after a few chance encounters on the party circuit, and when she believes he returns her affections it becomes all the more difficult to be confronted with gossip about his and Eve’s escapades. The vagaries of love and money push the listener through a number of twists regarding who is really manipulating whom, which, combined with the ultra-snappy dialogue and glamorous settings lend Rules the air of an old fashioned caper.
Capably interpreted by Rebecca Lowman, Rules can feel at times like the ultimate 1930s literary pastiche, however Towles’ characters are charming enough to justify the plunge into familiar territory. Tinker may have the wealth and the mystery, and Katey may be the rags-to-riches American story, but it’s Eve — the child of Midwestern privilege — who gets all the best lines. It’s hard to resist a real broad in the tradition of Dorothy Parker — especially when she’s dropping bon mots like, “I’m willing to be under anything — as long as it isn’t somebody’s thumb.”