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Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility

Book Review - Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I found this novel by Amor Towles on a list of "unputdownable" books compiled by Modern Mrs. Darcy - and this book was definitely unputdownable. It is about a young secretary on Wall Street trying to navigate life, love and NYC in 1938. Also, who can resist the glamorous 1930s fashion on the cover? The novel is full of the glitz and glamour of NYC that I love reading about, but isn’t without the hard realities of the world that add depth to a story.

One of my favorite things about Mr. Towles’ writing is his ability to write such memorable quotes. Had I read this book with a book club, I would have wanted to pick apart and discuss certain quotes in more depth. Take these, for example:

“It is a lovely oddity of human nature that a person is more inclined to interrupt two people in conversation than one person alone with a book.” 

What is it about coming across a person with a book that makes us think twice about interrupting them? Is it that we suspect they aren’t actually in the room with us? Rather they are far away in whatever world the book has taken them. A person alone with a book is likely to be taken by surprise by the interruption, whereas two people in conversation are likely to see the interruption coming.  Are you more likely to appreciate the interruption more while alone with a book or in conversation?

“If we only fell in love with people who were perfect for us...then there wouldn't be so much fuss about love in the first place.” 

Prior to reading this quote, I never thought about there being a “fuss” over love. Love is just so engrained into our society, I never gave it a second thought. But it is true, isn’t it? We make such a fuss over love, especially new love. Adults like to tease kids about being in love. Whether it is a playground crush or a first date, the first inclination is to tease the person, even if the intentions are in good fun. Why is that? Were you ever teased as a kid for liking someone? Or have you seen others teased for being in love for the first time?

“As a quick aside, let me observe that in moments of high emotion....if the next thing you're going to say makes you feel better, then it's probably the wrong thing to say. This is one of the finer maxims that I've discovered in life. And you can have it, since it's been of no use to me.” 

I would love to share this advice with the world of Facebook. We all have those friends, right? The ones who post cryptic Facebook messages clearly directed at a particular individual. Or who have snide retorts to a post that otherwise was garnering intelligent discussion. But of course in the book this maxim referred to conversation off line, it just seems that social media has increased the ease for which people say these things that make them feel better in the moment. Have you regretted something you’ve posted online that made you feel better in the moment? Or have you recognized a post on social media that clearly was written in a moment of high emotion?

I thought this book was beautifully written, as illustrated by the quotes I pulled for this review. Although, given my love for history, I’m partial to period pieces. Especially periods with beautiful fashion, elegant dinners, and fancy parties.

Rules of Civility: A Novel
$10.11
By Amor Towles

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