BONUS READ + #DREAMCAST: Rules of Civility | 2011
"In that sense, life is less like a journey than it is a game of honeymoon bridge. In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions - we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come."
-Rules of Civility, p. 323
The Sum of It:
Last summer Emily and I fell in love with A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, and, as a result, were desperate to get our hands on anything else he had written. We both quickly purchased Towles's 2011 novel, Rules of Civility, and, just as quickly, both copies settled in for a long sit in our TBR piles. That is until by chance THIS summer, Emily decided to dust off her copy. There's nothing as thrilling as getting a text from your bestest book buddy saying "OMG START READING THIS BOOK IMMEDIATELY IT'S LIKE IT WAS MADE FOR US!" And that's the feeling that I had from cover to cover of Rules of Civility: it's like a book that was written just for me. With that unabashed endorsement, let me give you a quick summary:
Rules of Civility follows a year in the life of New-Yorker Katey Kontent. Katey starts off 1938 with her bestie, Eve, spending the last few dollars in their pockets on a New Year's Eve to remember partying at a jazz club. By chance they meet a handsome young banker named Tinker Grey. Enthralled by his charms and the good times his wealth can offer them, the pair spends the next few weeks growing closer to the elusive Tinker, both girls trying to pretend they aren't vying for his affection. However, an unexpected tragedy suddenly changes everything for the carefree trio, throwing all relationships involved askew, and leading Katey down a path of life choices she never expected. By the time year 1938, and the book itself, draws to a close, nearly everything in Katey's life will have changed, and we as the readers are lucky to witness the evolution.
Katey is an easy character to love - she's genuine, smart, and the dictionary definition of plucky. Towles has written her tale in a way that is both heartbreaking and empowering. We see Katey's honesty about her devastation of loss, her terror of reaching out for the things she wants in life - her job, her love life, her guilty pleasures, and the loyalty she so willingly gives to the friends she meets along the way.
Please get yourselves to your local bookshop STAT and pick up a copy of Rules of Civility - you will be so glad you did.
We are both pretty mad that this book isn't already a movie that we could watch on a daily basis, because we feel like the story and the richness of the characters lends itself perfectly to a period piece on the silver screen. We found ourselves imagining the key characters as certain actors while we were reading, and decided to outline our dream cast for the film version of Rules of Civility for you here!
The main character and narrator of Rules of Civility, Kate, whose given name is really Katya, came from a hardscrabble background in Brooklyn, but grew up with a sharp, clever mind and a love for literature. She's attractive, though not in the same glamorous way as her friend from the ladies boarding house she lives in when we meet her, Eve. We'd love to see the bewitching and talented Saoirse Ronan in this role.
Tall, blonde, gorgeous Eve knows how to enchant everyone she comes in contact with, from jazz musicians in dive clubs to the dapper businessmen lining up to date her. She's got personality to match her midwestern-pinup looks, is tough even in impossible situations, and is a loyal friend to Kate, though she expects loyalty in return when things get difficult. We need a glamorous blonde with some depth and a bit of edge in this role, so we'd love to see Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Eve.
Effortlessly handsome with laughing eyes, a quick smile, and warm, wavy brown hair, Tinker Grey is the perfect gentleman. From his perfectly tailored suits, cashmere coat, and gold, monogrammed lighter to his fancy car and courtly manners, Tinker seems to ooze charm and an ease with the world that only WASP-y privilege could afford him. For this handsome charmer, we can't think of anyone better than Pico Alexander, who was charming as heck in the Reese Witherspoon starrer Home Again.
Kind, quiet, down-to-Earth Wallace enjoys the outdoors and is devoted to his family, an East Coast dynasty with a home in the Adirondacks, friendships with all the right people, and a membership at a bucolic gun club. Wallace and Kate develop a close relationship, and when he decides to give up his fancy career in finance to go join the rebels in the Spanish Civil War, Kate helps him prepare. For this bashful, noble gent, we can't think of anything better than sweetest Eddie Redmayne.
Carefree, dashing Dicky Vanderwhile is the life of every party and takes every advantage of his family's wealth and relationships to live the life of a man on the town. He has a crush on Kate, a friend of his sister's from the publishing house, from the first night they meet over drinks. As they get to know each other, she finds a fondness for this young casanova with more to him than meets the eye. We'd cast the ever lovely and irresistible Harry Styles in this role.
Tinker's bohemian brother, Hank, or Henry, Grey, is a painter, and takes pride in living the life of a starving artist. He's full of disdain for Tinker's lifestyle, and adopts a gruff and enigmatic attitude towards him and his friends, though he and Katey develop a grudging friendship. He holds the key to the secrets of Tinker's past. For this tense character with the angry look in his eye, we'd love to cast a scruffy Sam Claflin.
Kate's bookish smarts eventually lead her to a dream career in the publishing world, and her boss is the finicky and fabulous Mason Tate, bent on opening a window on the real lifestyles of New York's rich and famous with a new magazine. Critical and exacting, with a biting sense of humor and an eye for quality, Tate is a benevolent tyrant who opens up a whole new world to clever Kate. We are bananas for the idea of casting Stanley Tucci in this role (with a fantastic Tan France wig).
The story begins at the end, with Kate and her husband visiting a newly opened photography exhibit at a glamorous gallery, mainly photos of New York subway riders in the 1930's. Tall, practical, no-nonsense Val also comes into the story in other ways, and though it's a small part, we can't think of anyone who could fill it out in a handsome, WASPish way quite how all-American male Armie Hammer could.
Kate's friend Fran is full of personality and constantly pushing Kate out of her comfort zone. She's funny and fun, and helps Kate navigate some tricky times in her life. While in the book Fran is of Italian descent, we would love to see the sparkling personality of Gina Rodriguez light up this role, and feel like a switch to a character of Puerto Rican descent would be a nice update.
When Kate starts her job with Mason Tate, he informs her that there's another girl who will be her compatriot at work, and that they're actually competing for one job. Alley, a quick, clever girl who knows how to keep a secret, quickly decides that she and Kate can be more successful as a secret team, and they quickly become friends who look out for each other. Diane Guerrero plays both funny and fiesty so well, we'd love to see her in a black Audrey Hepburn cigarette-pants-and-sweater ensemble and cat-eye glasses for this role.
When Kate first meets Wallace's friend Bitsy at the gun club, she is amazed that one person could so fully embody the healthy, attractive, comfortable privilege of the East Coast private school world so well. However Kate comes to learn that there's more to Bitsy than meets the eye, and finds a ready friend and partner in crime in her. Bitsy and Kate have a delightful exchange where Kate says, "I probably shouldn’t tell you this," and Bitsy responds, "Kay-Kay, those are my six favorite words in the English language," and we crack up every time we think of adorable Brittany Snow delivering this line in all seriousness.
Kate and Eve meet Anne early in their relationship with Tinker, but it takes quite a while to fully understand her role in his life. Anne is at once impressive and familiar, formidable and understanding, and she knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. She exudes wealth but also the unique image of a fully empowered woman, something that makes an impression on Kate in the world of 1938. We feel like Vera Farmagia could fill this unique role and achieve an appropriate air of warm mystery.