Book Review

Rules of Civility


I didn’t want to like Rules of Civility.  It’s set largely in the late 1930s and deals with the lives of the rich in New York City, neither of which are generally my cuppa.  I also read the opening pages online and wasn’t wild about the characters.  But this book was the October pick of my book group, and since I hadn’t read the September pick, I stuck with it.

I’m so glad I did.  I admire a well-written book, and this one was that. The prose was smooth, the dialogue catchy, and if the metaphors came a little too close to one another, they were clever nonetheless.  Once past the intro, the characters took hold.  I came to really care about them.

I had a few problems with the depth (or lack thereof) of characterization.  Perhaps this was the effect of a male author trying to see the world through the eyes of a woman.  But Rules of Civility is enough of a well-written, well-paced story to make up for that.

New York is a fully-developed character in this book.  The author clearly adores it and certainly did his homework when it came to capturing what (I imagine) New York was like in the 30’s.

That said, I loved the timelessness of this book.  The observations of human nature were spot-on.  Change the background, and these characters could have experienced similar challenges in most any time period, including the present.  There were coming-of-age elements, unrequited-love elements, decadent-aristocracy elements.  All are timeless.

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