It’s really amazing how NOT LONG a year actually is. I’m behind. But I still think I can catch up. For a long time, I was in this mindset where I knew I had to read a lot of books, so I would find time to read–at lunch, before bed. Then, I got a little ahead, and then it was Christmas, and then it was halfway through January and I’m still not back to reading like I was. I do think, however, that this book is helping me to get back on track.
I first heard about this book on a New York Times blog about the best books of 2012. Honestly, I wasn’t all that intrigued, but my Mom gave me a copy for Christmas, so I dove in. The most important thing to know about this book is that it’s a period piece set in New York of the 1920s and 30s. It’s an unabashed love letter to the city, and an era that defined the way that we still think of Manhattan. The setting is spot-on. It’s charming and nostalgic, just as you’d hope. However, I found most of the characters that populate the setting a little troubling.
There was one character that I liked, and his name was Wally Walcott. He was a minor character, a short-lived love interest of the protagonist, Katey Kontent, but he proved to be the most charming character of the book. I was frustrated that he wasn’t a more central figure, and that Katey spent the whole novel obsessing over one man, Tinker Grey, who wasn’t even very likable. In the end, it seems that all of the characters were more interested in their own self-gain and relative isolation than making lasting connections with one another. Katey repeatedly starts new relationships with men that she doesn’t really care for while still pining for Tinker Grey…but without ever admitting that that’s what she’s doing. Katey narrates the novel in first person, but still, the reader doesn’t really know how she feels most of the time.
The synopsis of the novel also suggests that a major event will change the course of Katey’s life in the first part of the novel, throwing her into the high-society world of New York City in the late 20s. However, the “big event” at the beginning isn’t really a game-changer. The trajectory that Katey’s life takes from that point is arguably exactly what it would have been if not for the disruptive “event.”
At the end of the day, I think I’d still recommend this book. Especially to someone who loves New York City.
The list so far:
19. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles