Author: Armor Towles
Publisher: Viking July 2011
I’ve got to be honest and tell you that I first read a review of this book in one of the other local newspapers. I don’t remember which one. I have now read it and loved it and figuring that not everybody reads all of the local papers decided to review it myself. Even if you have already read the other review, you might not have realized this is a real keeper.
Always the gentleman, even at the age of sixteen, George Washington himself wrote one hundred and ten “Rules of Civility.” Teachers today would be well served to post them in their classrooms as they are all as relevant today as they were almost two hundred and fifty years ago. And they set the basis for a dandy story set in the late 1930’s in New York City. It has been frequently mentioned that there are touches of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in this book. I hate to admit it, but I have not read Gatsby, required reading in many high schools in the past. That oversight will be remedied as soon as my local library has a copy available.
This compelling story starts in the ‘60s when Katey Kontent and her husband are viewing an art show where she sees two separate photographs of a man she knew well in her earlier life. Each of them was obviously taken at different times in his life as in one he is well dressed and glowing with health and wealth and in the other he appears as someone with little money or much to look forward to. Her husband is relieved to see that this man rose out of his earlier hard times to do well, but is quickly corrected by Katey that it is, indeed, the other way around.
Set in 1938 at the end of the depression, Katey and her roommate, Eve Ross, met “Tinker” Grey, the man in the photo, in a low class bar where they had gone to hear authentic jazz being played. He came in late in the evening, appeared to be waiting for someone and when no one arrived, was invited by the two young women to join them. He is obviously a man of money and the three of them hit it off almost immediately, despite the fact that the two young women are not at all in his social class. They have perfected the art of stretching every penny to live life to its fullest and, in fact, have carefully allotted $3 for their evening’s entertainment. He quickly succumbs to their quirky ways and they become almost inseparable. Of course, both girls fall in love with him.
A terrible automobile accident, with Tinker at the wheel, changes the future for all three. Eve is horribly injured and scarred and uses Tinker’s feelings of guilt to steal him away from Katey. But Katey is able to take advantage of all the wealthy socialites she has met through Tinker and his friends and becomes a part of their world, too. Because of these connections, she leaves her former futureless job and joins a, yet to be published, new magazine to be called “Gotham.” Her idea to interview the former doormen of famous hotels in the city, like the Four Seasons and the Ritz, and extract from them untold, embarrassing stories about previous guests solidifies her position on the top editorial staff.
Rules of Civility has love, pathos, stories about the rich and famous partying and working, infidelity and more. I have read a number of reviews of this book since reading it myself and every one has loved it. I would hate to think the reviewers would lead us astray. I am pretty sure that you are going to love it too.
Diane Bostick has lived on Marco Island since 1987. She was the Founder and President of Ft. Myers chapter of the Association of Children with LearningDisabilities, President of Jr. Welfare League, Ft. Myers Chapter, and served on the board of Art League of Marco Island. She is an avid reader, fly fisherwoman, tennis player and crafter.