Welcome back! Thanks for checking out my guest post, I hope you had as much fun visiting the boys as I did! I’m working on a way to share that schedule with you, but in the meantime, let’s get on with today’s regularly scheduled programming.
Today we’re talking about book #2 in my Reading Challenge: Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles. (Man, is it just me, or are Funny Names everywhere these days?)
It’s interesting to note that so far, Shutterbug Sis and I are 0 for 2 in my Reading Challenge; she wasn’t a fan of The Night Circus, and she didn’t like Rules of Civility either. You already know how I feel about The Night Circus … and I liked Rules of Civility even more. Here’s your synopsis!
New York City, 1938: it’s a time of great jazz and great hardship, and Katey Kontent has plenty of both in her life. Convinced that a woman’s future should be determined by more than the number of words she can type per minute, Katey climbs out of the secretarial pool to live her life on her own terms. When a chance encounter on New Year’s Eve sets Katey’s life on a new course, she’ll have to rely on her quick observations and even quicker wit to navigate the upper echelons of New York society.
I mentioned Shutterbug Sis’s reaction because it’s going to be tough for me to talk about this book objectively: I just loved Katey so much! I thought she was quick, and funny, and principled, and fierce … I want to be like her when I grow up. Shutterbug Sis, on the other hand, was decidedly less impressed; she thought Katey was frivolous and “a bit of a flake”.
I wonder how much of my love for Katey stems for my love of the author’s writing style; as with Erin Morgenstern in The Night Circus, I thought Amor Towles used captivating, evocative language. I’m about as familiar with New York high society as I am with Victorian circus performers, but Towles writes with such a sharp eye for detail and such a keen understanding of time and place that it hardly mattered:
That New Year’s, we started the evening with a plan of stretching three dollars as far as it would go. We weren’t going to bother ourselves with boys. More than a few had had their chance with us in 1937, and we had no intention of squandering the last hours of the year on latecomers. We were going to perch in this low-rent bar where the music was taken seriously enough that two good-looking girls wouldn’t be bothered and where the gin was cheap enough that we could each have one martini an hour. We intended to smoke a little more than polite society allowed. And once midnight had passed without ceremony, we were going to a Ukrainian diner on Second Avenue where the late night special was coffee, eggs, and toast for fifteen cents.
But a little after nine-thirty, we drank eleven o’clock’s gin. And at ten, we drank the eggs and toast. We had four nickels between us and we hadn’t had a bite to eat. It was time to start improvising.
Since I have an affinity for both jazz and gin martinis, I was on Katey’s side right
away. And here we were, only on the first few pages of the first chapter! Like I said, perhaps I’m not being very objective here … but I had far too much fun reading this book to care.
Although I usually associate the term “historical fiction” with my beloved Jane Austen and sweeping, romantic tales of “marrying outside one’s station” it occurs to me that this is, in fact, as much a work of historical fiction as “Pride and Prejudice”. It was fascinating to be in a world that felt so old fashioned, and yet so familiar, at the same time. What about you? Do you read historical fiction? Is there a particular time period that you’re drawn to?
We’ll be talking about Book #3 in my Challenge in February. In the meantime, I’m trying something a little different with tomorrow’s Wordful Wednesday. I hope to see you there!