Rules of Civility follows twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent as she experiences New York City in 1938. The author vividly describes for the reader New York City social scenes-clubs, fashion, music-and the battle to improve one’s class status. Readers cannot help but feel nostalgic for 1930’s New York. Clever and unexpectedly engaging writing make this a great book to pick up this spring.
The story starts in 1966 at the Museum of Modern Art. Val and Katey view an exhibit of photographs showing 1930’s New York City. Pictures show champagne flowing, men in black tuxedos, women in brightly colored dresses that showed off just enough, and musicians play swinging jazz. When Katey sees a photograph of an old friend, Tinker Grey, memories of 1938 come flooding back. That is when the story flashes back to New Year’s Eve of 1937.
Katey and her roommate, Eve Ross, are out a nightclub in Greenwich Village on the last night of 1937 trying to make a few dollars last the night. They meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker who sat a table next to them. Naturally, they start talking, not knowing that this chance meeting will change Eve and Katey’s lives in the upcoming year. Katey will leave the typing pool at a law office and break into the upper ranks of the city’s social class. She will be courted by an upper-class millionaire, survive a car accident that nearly kills them, and meet an ornery artist who will round out her year. There is a bleak reminder that even though America is thriving and swing dancing through the 30’s, there is a deadly world war raging across the ocean, claiming the lives of young men in every social class.
This book ends with Katey longing for Tinker to cycle back into her life as he has throughout the year. However, she realizes that the choices she has made have put her on a different path than Tinker and Eve.
Clever and unexpectedly engaging writing make this a great book to pick up this spring. It may even get you to listen to some late 30’s jazz or stop by a nightclub or pop some champagne!