A jazz age summer

Midnight in Paris the "City of Light" never looked betterHot summer nights and lazy summer days are perfect for reading magical novels or taking refuge in dark theatres or dimly rooms, losing oneself for an hour in faraway places. So darlings, grab a good book and a cool drink to feed your imagination, or head to the theatre with a kindred spirit. Remember, all dashing fashion and passion have their inspiration – so feed yours!

 
If you haven’t seen it, try to catch Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. The City of Light never looked better, as Owen Wilson plays Gil, a young successful Hollywood screenwriter trying to write his first novel. As he wanders Paris at night, trying to find his spark of inspiration, he magically finds a portal to the Jazz Age, where he meets Ernest Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and a host of other literary and artistic luminaries.
 
Marion Cotillard is gorgeous as Adrianna, Gil’s flapper love interest. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sonia Grande, the costume designer for the film said, “The costume pieces were found through a tireless search of half the world’s antiques in Paris, London, Madrid, Buenos Aires and their sultry boutiques.” Cotillard looks divine in her couture flapper clothes. Carla Bruni, the model and wife of the French president, is beautiful as a chic Parisian tour guide.
 
The movie’s central theme is the romance of nostalgia and the idea that a past age is the golden age. Woody Allen’s treatment of the topic is amusing and thought-provoking. His deft hand and intimate knowledge of the period makes for a wry and literary comedy. Fans of Fitzgerald and Stein will be enchanted. This is one of the most stylish and charming films I have seen in ages. I left craving a cold aperitif and a copy of Tender is the Night.
 
Then there is Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, a fascinating first novel about Katey Kotent and her friends in New York City in 1938. I was struck by how Towles captures the rhythm of New York in 1938 as it was portrayed in newsreels, movies, and novels of the period. The tone and the "lingo" are pitch-perfect to my ear, as he tells the story of a remarkable year in the life of a New York “career girl”.
 
Katey Kontent is a working class Russian immigrant who moved out of her family’s crowded apartment to work as clerk in a law firm. She lives in a boarding house with other working girls, sharing clothes, going on dates, and stretching dimes to make ends meet.
 
One night she and her beautiful roommate Eve meet a charming young banker, Tinker Grey. He befriends them, but a tragic accident changes everything.
 
As a result of her chance meeting, Katey spends the year moving between a millionaire who has fallen for her, an older wealthy female acquaintance, as well a group of bohemian artists. Eventually, Katey leaves her clerk position to make a success in publishing.
 
Towles captures America’s unique and changing class structure at the beginning of 1938. It was a time when meritocracy was ascending and the middle class was staking its ground. Young women were becoming career girls and tackling the mean city in high heels and silk stockings
 
I loved the passage in the book when a wealthy older woman points out an engaged couple to Katey and says, “If I was a young woman starting out like you, I would not be trying to get in her shoes, I’d be trying to get in to his.” This older woman knows where the real power is.
 
Rules of Civility is compelling. Towles’s style is crisp and romantic at the same time.  The story moves quickly and he uses engaging emotional details to keep your interest. I was captivated by his ability to capture the period and yet keep the story and characters fresh and interesting. The adventures of Katey Kotent are every bit as sexy and scintillating as Carrie Bradshaw’s adventures in Sex and the City. How can you not love a character who says, "The problem with being born in New York is you’ve got no New York to run away to.” That’s a line Carrie would lift.

This is a perfect book to summer with.
 
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