Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Vices: A little too much adult content for me, including repeated use of the "f-bomb" which annoyed me since I don't actually own the book and couldn't use a magic marker to scribble it out and jot in my favorite substitutes.
Virtues: The writing is gorgeous. Gorgeous AND flawless. The story has a solid hook (the mysterious brother who doesn't show up on New Years Eve. Who does that?) The main character is likable and witty, the kind of girl you'd like to count as a friend. And the descriptions of New York made me feel not only as if I had been there before, but as if I had spent several years there. I had a hard time putting the book down, but had fun reading it slowly, savoring all that pretty language. Here are some of my favorite passages:
Of sleeping: "It's a purposeful irony of life, I suppose, that we never get to see ourselves in that state. We can only pay witness to our waking reflection, which to one degree or another is always fretting or afraid. Maybe that's why young parents find it so beguiling to spy on their children when they're fast asleep."
"She was like someone in mourning, only worse. When a mother loses a daughter, she grieves over the future that her daughter will never have, but she can take solace in memories of close-knit days. But when your daughter runs away, it is the fond memories that have been laid to rest; and your daughter's future, alive and well, recedes from you like a wave drawing out to see."
"As a quick aside, let me observe that in moments of high emotion--whether they're triggered by anger or envy, humiliation or resentment--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."
The book is filled with themes--religious, societal, literary--and makes a great book club read.
I recommend it for literary readers who don't mind some adult content, including some sexuality, repeated use of the "f-bomb," and a whole lot of drinking. Did anybody stay sober in the 1930's?
What is your latest read?