The Last Best Book — Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

Any questions about what readers and reviewers mean by voice in a book? Read Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Penguin Books, 2011, now out in paper), and all will be revealed.

The premise of this stunning book is that in many lives, there is a particular year that changes everything. That sets the course for who one will be. For Katey Kontent, a 23-year-old orphan, American-born of Russian immigrant parents, it’s 1938 in Manhattan–the year she meets four extraordinary people also in their 20s: Tinker Grey, rags to riches and back; Eve Ross, opportunistic, ambitious, daring; the charming Dickie Vanderwhile; and the unforgettable sweet, solid Wallace Wolcott. And two influential older people as well: the devious and insightful Anne Grandyn and the exacting Mason Tate.

Take a wild ride back in time. It won’t take long–the book’s a page-turner–and you’ll have a grand time. Warning: even if, like me, you don’t like gin, you may crave a martini while you read. But Katey won’t mind if you pour champagne instead.

Amor Towles’ website — which looks like a drawing of the Manhattan skyline — includes an excerpt and a reading guide.

(And by the way, I bought this book with my own money — no free review copies here — at Bookworks in Kalispell, Montana.)

2 thoughts on “The Last Best Book — Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

    • Elaine, the best I can come up with is that voice is particular to the characters of a novel, so it varies from book to book (or series to series), while style is more particular to the writer and will remain somewhat consistent over all his or her work. So, in Rules of Civility, we get the very strong voice of Katey. Since it’s Towles’ first book — amazingly — we can’t really evaluate style. Where the two get hard to distinguish is a writer like Hemingway who has a distinctive style, recognizable in all his books. Do the books have different voices? Is Frederic Henry’s voice in Farewell to Arms much different from Robert Jordan’s in For Whom the Bell Tolls? It’s been too long since I read them for me to say, so I’ll let you decide!

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