HOLY SHIT MR TOWLES THIS IS YOUR FIRST NOVEL ARE YOU AWARE. Because I was not aware, and now I am bedazzled.
Ok so. I was reading Three Men in a Boat (which you know I love both passionately and fondly) on the nook and the flight attendant made me shut it off and so I picked up Rules just until after take-off and NEVER PUT IT DOWN AGAIN. Seriously, I’m still holding it.
And I like to go into a novel knowing nothing about it (or remembering nothing, as is more usually the case, since I must have read a review somewheres or I wouldn’t be reading this but I have a mind like a salad spinner, so), and if you are similar and likewise then just READ THIS because the writing is both LOVELY and CLEVER and the characters are CURIOUS and LAYERED and also someone is hit by a milk truck.
And I was all, HUZZAH, because there’s no book so bad it can’t be at least partially redeemed by hitting someone with a milk truck (see also: The Elegance of the Hedgehog [except that then I saw also and realized that in Elegance it is a dry-cleaning truck. But the principle stands]), and then when you throw that into a book which already has all the capsy attributes above, you have a delighted Raych on your hands (and that shit stains).
But if you prefer a bit of plot with your shrill recommendations, it is the 60s and Kate is at a photography exhibit with her husband and they are happy and, like, probably rich and then she sees a photograph of an old friend and now (and for the rest of the novel [mostly]) it is 1938 and a YEAR OF TURMOIL for young Kate. Also, jazz.
Because Kate and her bff Eve (who are both good-looking and poor) meet Tinker (the old friend from the photo, who is feelthy wealthy) at a seedy jazz club on New Years Eve in 1937, and URRVRYTHING changes. Entanglements are romanced (but in ways you don’t expect) and ambitions are run over by milk trucks and/or stifled before rising GLORIOUSLY FROM THE ASHES or dying quietly in a corner, variously, and people have secret pasts with other secret pasts hidden inside those pasts and have I mentioned that the writing is very, very good?
I don’t know how to elaborate on this, and I realize that the hype is going to ruin this book for a lot of people so I hesitate to speak too flailingly. But I enjoyed the hell out of reading it, to the point where I finished and almost began again EVEN THOUGH I KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. And you know me. Plot or bust, n’est pas? But I munched happily on bits like this:
‘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.’
And I love that quote for its cadence, and for its sentiment, and for Kate’s smart cap at the end. Oh Kate, you unquashable thing.
So dive in, folks. There is something in this pool for everyone. We have a heap of Theme and Nuance in this corner, and then a pile of Genuinely Enjoyable Read over there. And underneath the diving board I believe I spied some Humor.