Rules of Civility
Having read “A Gentleman in Moscow”, a real jewel of a book, I wanted to get to know Towles`first novel and I have tried to find out a bit more about the author. Like his hero Tinker Grey he earnt his money as investment banker, before he started writing. And he lives in Manhattan, New York, with his family.
Maybe he wants to pay tribute to New York and its glamorous history in the forties and at the same time intends to describe the risks of being in finance, anyway, he tells his story from the viewpoint of twenty-something Katey Kontent, who tries to make her fortune in New York and meets Tinker Grey in the process.
Like Truman Capote´s Holly Gollightly, Katey, daughter of Russian immigrants, tries to make ends meet with a humble secreterial job, but nevertheless she, her best friend Eve and rich Tinker Grey are dashing members of New York´s glittering night life.
When Eve is seriously injured in an accident caused by Tinker, he feels the obligation, according to George Washington´s “Rules of Civility”, to look after her and even to propose. Katey, who fell in love with Tinker and had the impression he felt the same about her, has to stand back and try to get on with her life, always on the lookout for the rich guys. It is always problematic and not a little weird to have a male author write about the feelings of his heroine, but so be it.
Eve refuses to marry Tinker and disappears to California, Katey and Tinker come together. But then Katey finds out that he has a long lasting affair with an older, very rich lady, whose protege´he has became.
All this is a story within the story of Katey and her husband who, 30 years later, go to a photo exhibition and see two photos of Tinker, one, in which he is the well off gentleman she used to know, the other where he looks like a tramp.
The story is not nearly as thrilling as “A Gentleman in Moscow”, a lot more self-centered, maybe a plot for a film or TV series, but not a fascinating read.