Book Club Reflection: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

7 Nov

Sometimes, I’m overly excited to talk to my book club about a book I liked and that was the case with Rules of Civility. I may or may not have skipped out on another meeting to come to this book club. (OK, I did.) I was so glad to hear that a lot of the other readers really enjoyed it as well. Sometimes I think I’m in my happy reading bubble and it will be popped at the meeting, but not this time.

We all agreed the writing was great. It was clear Towles is very well read. There were loads of literary references dropped into the book but it never seemed forced or snobbish. The one complaint a reader had about the book was that the end was not satisfying because a lot of the characters’ plotlines didn’t have sufficient closure. They seemed to wander off on their own paths but, in reality, that happens in life sometimes. Another small complaint was that it was harder to relate to the characters because of the period. That can be a struggle when writing a period-specific piece. I personally didn’t have that problem but I can see how some would.

Many of us felt Katey was far too modern to be believable in the 1930s. Her rebellious attitude and confidence are more reflective of young women today than those 80 years ago. Some of us hoped for a little more insight into her background and why she was the way she was. We wondered if her father had more to do with it than we gathered. Katey rubbed us the wrong way a few times. The first was when she was cruel to Charlotte, the other secretary on the train, and the other (which bothered me most) was when she used Dickey. She was social climbing but she was slow to admit it to herself and to the reader. It hurt that she left other people in her dust in the process.

Tinker was such a central character in the book. One scene that stuck out to us as a good reflection of Tinker is one he wasn’t even in. When Wallace and Katey are looking at the picture of the boys’ years in school, Katey sees two Tinkers. He had run so fast that he appeared in the picture twice. We thought that was a very true reflection of how two-faced he was. He was somber-faced on one side and blurry and smiling on the other. You had to wonder, which was the real Tinker. I’ll argue it was the solid and stoic one.

A lot of us were put off by the scene where Anne hit on Katey. She’s a woman who aggressively goes after what she wants, but we didn’t understand why she wanted Katey. Anne’s appetites were confusing and, if I’m going to be honest, I started getting hits of a 50 Shades of Grey relationship between the two of them. It was surprising when Anne turned her eyes to another woman.

We started to speculate on why Eve left so suddenly. We understood that she didn’t want to marry Tinker but she moved very suddenly from being happy with him to fleeing to the other side of the country and trying to forget about her life in New York. One of our readers speculated that Eve might have found out about the relationship between Tinker and Anne. I think it makes a lot of sense. We read in an interview somewhere that Towles is looking to write a book about Eve’s time in Hollywood. (He previously wrote a short piece but is looking to turn it into a longer one.) Maybe we’ll get some answers.

This was a great discussion and we used our entire allotted time to discuss it. I’m looking forward to our discussion again next month (and I’m glad it’s a short read).

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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