A Dry Martini of a Novel


A recent release of a must-read for those aesthetes who believe in putting real swill back where it belongs. The book is aptly entitled, “Rules of Civility,” by Amor Towles and it is speaks to the return of the time-honored cocktail soiree where old world charm, grace, manners and just a touch of larceny ruled the day.

Set during the hazy, enchanting, and martini-filled world of New York City circa 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year- old, Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, our complicated heroine embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future that begins with a chance encounter at a jazz club on New Year’s eve. Let the incantations begin.

What the collective “we” are saying:


“Everything about this novel,
set in 1930s New York, is achingly stylish –
from the author’s name to the slinky jacket design.


If you want shopping at Bendel’s,
gin martinis at a debutante’s mansion
and jazz bands playing until 3am,
RULES OF CIVILITY has it all and more.

…While you’re lost in the whirl of silk stockings,
furs and hip flasks, all you care about
is what Katey Kontent does next.”


A cross between Dorothy Parker and Holly Golightly,
Katey Kontent is a priceless narrator in her own right
– the brains of a bluestocking
with the legs of a flapper
and the mores of Carrie Bradshaw.”


“Towles creates a narrative that sparkles with sentences so beautiful
you’ll stop and re-read them. A delicious and memorable novel
that will leave you wistful …and desperate for a martini.”


My book of the year. If the unthinkable happened
and I could never read another new work of fiction in 2011,
I’d simply re-read this sparkling, stylish book,
with yet another round of martinis as dry as the author’s wit.”


And in breathless summation:

“Elegant and captivating, Rules of Civility turns a Jamesian eye on how spur of the moment decisions define life for decades to come. A love letter to a great American city at the end of the Depression, readers will quickly fall under its spell of crisp writing, sparkling atmosphere and breathtaking revelations, as Towles evokes the ghosts of Fitzgerald, Capote, and McCarthy.”

Another one bartender, please.

These reviews are as frothy as the cocktails they invoke.


REVIEWERS (quoted): Guardian




~ by eaesthete on 02/29/12.

6 Responses to “A Dry Martini of a Novel”

  1. sounds like a delicious MUST read :) THANK YOU!

  2. Brilliant – I will certainly seek out this ‘Jamesian’ read….lush, in the errant aesthetic sense.

    Merci beaucoup!

  3. Perhaps I am the only person in America who found this book cloying. I wanted to LOVE this book. I think having a man write a female protagonist set my teeth on edge. The gun obsession seemed so very strange to me. And then there’s wanting prose like The Great Gatsby. Or in slghts like House of Mirth. It is a valentine to New York. It may be a movie script. It did not make my heart sing

    • The froth arm of publishing spins its literary gossamer with the comparisons to Fitzgerald, the tendrils of Capote’s Holly Golightly, all playing out against the backdrop of the “achingly stylish” and nostalgic 30’s in New York. Who could resist? I sometimes wonder if our own expectations set us up for disillusionment. What a blow to read of your own tepid response. But valued nonetheless.

  4. Oh, Errant Aesthete! Forgive me for not realizing you had returned! ‘Tis I who have been the errant one…

    Since my last visit, I’ve shuttered Chateau Thombeau and opened a classier joint. Do stop by! In the meantime, I shall peruse what I have so dearly missed. xoxo


  5. Thanks for the suggestion — I will most definitely put this on my reading list. RD

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