Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Rules of Civility
I am so far behind in writing about what I've been reading that I thought I'd just start with the most recent and add things in as I get time. I think it's because sometimes I'm in the mood to talk about books -- and at others, I'm just in the mood to read one after another, in a haze of characters and settings and the continuing mental travel and reading affords.
So here's the book I finished last night: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I found it on the new book shelf at the library, and picked it up based on the cover and the flap but without knowing much about it. It's set in 1939 in New York, so there's a pervasive sense of life in the big city. The main character, Katie Kontent (that name made me want to gag every time, it was so K-K-Kute), is a young single woman working in the secretarial pool at a big city law firm, while finding her way into the social world of the young, monied folk. The story starts with a suggested competitive triangle between her friend Eve and the handsome Tinker, and then a car crash takes place that changes everything.
So far so good, right? Promising premise. It had a vague F. Scott Fitzgerald feel to the story, and the delicious promise of moral doom to come. But despite a variety of good reviews on Amazon and elsewhere (which I've read since finishing the book), it just feel flat for me. It hit one of my pet peeves: male authors writing about women from a woman's point of view and just missing things badly. The tone and the voice was all wrong and it just felt, well, MALE for this woman's voice. There was a coldness to all of the characters that prevented me from caring much about any of them.
And that turning point of the car accident? Yes, the plot line took a turn, sort of, but it was relayed so remotely that it ended up feeling almost irrelevant, more as if the author decided he didn't want to write about the triad any more so he tried to think of a device to separate them.
I was disappointed in this. You can tell, yes? Really, if you're tempted to read something like this, go read Fitzgerald again. It's far better use of time.
Posted by Diane Perin at 10:08 AM