"Uncompromising purpose and the search for eternal truth have an unquestionable sex appeal for the young and high-minded; but when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane-- in the cigarette on the stoop or the gingersnap in the bath--she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger."
I don't remember where I first saw this novel mentioned, and I'm not really sure what urged me to request it at the library, but I did. And my reading life has been all the better.
I managed to polish off Rules of Civility in an afternoon and a half. However, I can't fully attribute this quickness to the time I had available, but to the ease and cleverness of the novel itself.
Katey and Evey decide to spend that last night of 1937 in a nearly deserted jazz club. When they encounter the handsome, Tinker Grey, with his tailored suit and sparkling blue eyes, their lives are changed forever. Befriending the ivy league, well-to-do banker, they form a friendship while carousing their way through New York City. When they're involved in an automobile accident that leaves Evey almost dead and slightly scarred, the trio is broken and the story begins. Crashing extravagant parties, dating multi-millionaires, and busting behind at Conde Nast are just small snippets of Katey's fabulous life.
I was really captivated by the story for a number of reasons. Katey's character was perceptive and intelligent. A character I could imagine sharing an entire afternoon of uninterrupted, and oh-so-enjoyable, people watching. She was quick, but quiet, and could blend in with a crowd. She was determined and hardworking and knew how to party. There were other members that lacked as much color, but didn't diminish my thoughts of the novel as a whole. Tinker, for example, was a little grey (no pun intended), but really worked within the story, considering the situation we find him in.
Katey's new acquaintances, the cream of the crop, and wealthy beyond measure, are obsessed with living, the opportunities endless. She finds that despite her frugal background, she too, shares these desires. It's not so much a coming-of-age story, but a look back on the youthful years of adult life, getting a secure job, spending many hours in the company of a group of fun loving people, a time when hours don't matter and bedtimes don't exist. It's the promises of success and the endless possibilities spread out before your young life. However, it's also about remembering yourself and the things you want from life.
On the surface, Rules of Civility is a love story with many twists and turns. The audience witnesses the secrets that remain behind closed doors in a city that's always buzzing. The writing was beautiful and astute. The cast of characters may come and go, but I feel that it really worked to create a vibrant New York City on paper. The glitz and glam of New York Society during this period was really interesting and so much fun to read. While I'm not entirely convinced Katey could have been so easily incorporated into these circles, considering her background, which was so markedly different, it wasn't so far-fetched that it took away from the novel. An enjoyable read about a period just after the Depression and before the second world war-- a time so often forgotten. I strongly encourage you to pick this one up if you've had interest at all. You won't regret it!