Rules of Civility - Amor Towles
I wish there was a separate way of rating novels that are this outstanding. I seem to be somewhat generous with 5 star ratings, which I give to any book I would happily re-read. But there is a marked difference between enjoyable fluff where you like the characters and enjoy the ride to the end of the book, and a thoroughly satisfying and fully engaging story that allows you to immerse your senses as you are drawn into the narrative. As the characters are introduced, you feel like you are actually becoming acquainted with them. And like anytime you meet people, you like some of them, and you dislike others, and wonder how their friends put up with them. The setting is so expertly brought to life, that even though you've never been there, you can visualize it, smell it, feel it. This is what Amor Towles did with Rules of Civility.

I'll be honest, the blurb didn't do much to garner my interest. I only picked it up because of the rave reviews it's received. And up until halfway through the story, I was starting to feel that yet again, I would be bitten in the behind by trusting reviews (Goon Squad, I'm looking at you). Marking himself as an outstanding writer, Mr. Towles seemed to sense this, because as I was beginning doubt my decision to read this book, his masterful storytelling banked, and took a completely unexpected direction, leaving me quite unable to put my theoretical book (in actuality, my Kindle) down.

Most of the reviews have made such a big deal about the New York-ness of this story, that as I read the first half of this story (the half which caused me to form the erroneous belief that I would dislike the story), I thought that the city would turn out to be the central character. I am a Los Angeles bumpkin. I've never spent any significant time out of California, and certainly never as far away as New York, so from the start, I felt I was at a disadvantage. So let me make it clear: Rules of Civility is so much more than a story about New York and New Yorkers. It's a story with universal appeal, dealing with friendship, love, loss, attaining what we want (or think we want), choices (what are we willing to sacrifice to get what we want) and regret, because after you decide what you want most, you're going to have to give up something you value in order to have it.

The greater part of the novel takes place during 1938, as the narrator, Katey, relates how that year that set in motion the events that shaped her future. I don't want to give away anything else, because other readers should approach it as I did, knowing as little as possible about the story, so everything can be new and exciting to them.

This was Mr. Towles's debut, and I can't wait to see what he has in store for us in his follow-up!