Well, that and a few others . . . . I don’t know if you’ve missed me, but if you have, maybe it’s some consolation that I’ve been hermitting away reading a lot of great books?
I finished Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles last night. (I picked it up after Anne listed it as a “book worth binge reading.” She’s right, and I did.) It left with me that familiar, bittersweet, sad-but-satisfied little ache in my stomach. A clear sign of a good novel.
In a nutshell (as summarized on the author’s website),
Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year-old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.
On the surface, Rules of Civility draws to mind The Great Gatsby. Most of the reviews focus on Towles’ glittering depiction of Manhattan high society in the late 1930s.
To me, however, Rules of Civility felt more akin to I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, with its themes of first love, loss,growing up, and moving on. I think, at heart, Rules of Civility is a coming-of-age novel, even though the protagonist is twenty-five and not the classic ingenue. (I suppose Great Gatsby is a coming-of-age story of a sort, so perhaps it’s not an either/or comparison.)
There’s a lot I could write about what I did or didn’t like about the book and its protagonist. And I question whether it’s as accurate a portrayal of the era as it’s made out to be. Regardless, it’s a gem.
If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you’ve read both Rules of Civility and I Capture the Castle, I’d really love to hear your thoughts. (Toward the end, of Rules of Civility has the line, “I have hoped; I am hoping; I will hope.” I Capture the Castle ends with the line, “I love. I have loved. I will love.” Could that possibly be a coincidence? C’mon!)
Linking up with Jessica for What We’re Reading Wednesday!