Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: Buddy Read

It's the 1930s. Katey and her friend Eve are trying to make it in the Big Apple but they always have time for jazz.  Kelly from The Written World and I read Rules of Civility as a buddy read. The first half of our discussion can be found on Kelly's blog, the rest is here.

Kelly: I didn’t really understand Eve, either. I think one of my disappointments with the book is that we never really get a chance to come to terms with her. In the beginning she is a main character, but the next thing you know she is gone and I had lots of questions. I agree with you on Tinker, also. Katey had a preconceived notion of who he was and then when you find out the truth, well, it is a bit shocking. He played a role so well that I was surprised by who he was. I definitely felt bad for him. He worked really hard to get where he was, but at the same time he didn’t go about it in the best way.

Wallace was an interesting character. I thought he was just going to be mentioned in that one scene and then never heard from again. The chance to get to know him a bit better was a great idea. He turned out to be a very interesting character and quite a contrast to what we knew about Tinker at the time. I have to say that all of the characters were written very well. It was an evident gift to be able to have so many and manage to bring all of them to life without bogging the story down. I enjoy good characterizations. Anne was another character that I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of in the beginning. I was not expecting her to play as big a role in the book as she did, but when the truth is revealed it makes a lot of sense. What did you think of Anne? Any other secondary characters that come to mind?

Chris: Anne was a character where I had to wonder what her deal was. There has to be a lot to her. She comes off as so sophisticated but I think she’s really needy. She has to have someone under her thumb. The story she told Katey about living with her nanny (I think) was really telling. You are right about all the characters being well written. They seemed to have lives beyond the page. Henry was another character I had trouble with: was he acting the part of the brooding artist or was he just a jerk?

I mentioned listening to this as an audio book, I wonder how that compares to the text version. I heard that there were no quotation marks. How was that for you?

Kelly: The no quotation mark thing didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Those sections where someone was talking were clear, so I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I have read books with no quotation marks before. It is preferable to me than incorrect spelling, grammar, etc. I always have a hard time getting into books of that nature because I keep getting pulled out when I hit a word or phrase that isn’t ‘correct’. I actually enjoyed reading this book. It flowed well and when I had the chance to sit down with it, I have no problem reading large sections in one sitting.

What did you think of the audio performance?

Chris: The book was narrated by Rebecca Lowman. She had a very raspy voice, tough sounding. Very appropriate, I think, for Katey who is a tough cookie. She could turn her New York accent on and off to suit the characters. She was a good choice for the book.

Kelly: That sounds about right.

Did you have a favourite scene?

Chris: I think my favorite scene is right at the end when Katey gets a delivery. That part really got to me. How about you? What did you think of the title Rules of Civility? Do you think it was the right one for the book?

Kelly: I think my favourite scenes were the ones with Wallace. I find that now that some time has gone by, they are the ones that are sticking in my mind the best. He got Katey outside of her box in such interesting ways. I enjoyed the scene where he takes her to learn how to shoot. That ties in with your favourite scene. In the beginning I thought it was going to be Tinker that I was rooting for, but as the story progressed I rather lost interest in him as the ‘love interest’.

As to the title of the book, I enjoy how it ties in with Tinker’s character, so yes, it was a fitting title. I enjoyed how the ‘Rules of Civility’ were included at the end of the book in their entirety so you could see the ideals that Tinker was attempting to live up to. This book definitely takes place during a time of social standards and rules, so I think it is fitting.

Without giving too much away, did the ending surprise you?

Chris: When the revelation happened I was surprised but it all made sense. There were plenty of clues dropped throughout the story. Katey was quite harsh so I was glad when she came around. After that nothing much surprised me. Towles tied up most of the loose ends and that made me happy. I was happy for Katey.

Kelly: I was happy for Katey, too. It seemed like she spent most of the book trying to find something and I think she found it near the end. I was very happy for her and liked her a lot more as the book progressed than I did in the beginning. I think in the beginning I was just not sure what to make of her.

The last thing that I wanted to mention was the cover. What did you think of it?

Chris: I like it. The very 20s photography and text. The way the lady is laid back while the guy talks to her. I could see Katey doing that with her wealthy friends. What did you think of it?

Kelly: I liked it, too. I think it captures the times and the book itself really well. Plus, it is different from the common covers you see nowadays and I enjoy when things are different.

Chris: I think we’ve covered everything we liked about The Rules of Civility. I hope we’ve convinced the people who haven’t read it to give it a try. Thanks for discussing the book with me!

Kelly: I hope so, too! It was a lot of fun. I look forward to another buddy read soon!


  1. I love the buddy review. I may have to try that one day. I haven't read a book with no quotation marks in a long time, can't remember if it bothered me or not. The cover has an old classic feel to it. Goes with the title very well.

    Thanks for the review, I enjoy the buddy system.

  2. Eve is one character that I wish had more resolution, because I never understood her and she kind of irritated me.

  3. I love the buddy review as well. Great Job! I haven't read Rules of Civility yet. I know the reviews I've seen have been kind of a mixed bag.

  4. Lena- I've done a few with Kelly. She's very good at them.

    Lola- I felt the same. Eve was someone I could never figure out.

    Teresa- I really did enjoy it.

  5. This was a lot of fun. I am glad we did it together! I look forward to our next one!


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