Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Hardcover, 462 pages
Published September 6th, 2016 by Viking
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. 

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

My thoughts…

A Gentleman in Moscow was selected by my library book club for the month of January and I was hesitant to read it. What could possibly happen living in a hotel for over 30 years?

In 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov was sentenced by a Bolshevik tribunal for rebellious poetry. He was to serve his sentence of house arrest at the famed Moscow Hotel Metropol. Taken from the suite he had occupied for four years, he is brought to the attic and given one of the rooms as his new home. Even though he cannot leave the hotel, he always seems to have something interesting going on. Throughout his time, he always remained a true gentleman. 

Over the span of decades Count Rostov serves his time and relationships are made with a handful of hotel employees, a famous actress and two young girls. The first girl Nina, a nine-year-old who has an extended stay at the hotel, encourages Alexander into spying on the hotel employees and guests by making a game out of it. They dine and study together, Alexander explains to Nina the characteristics of being a princess. They become inseparable.

Years later, Nina returns to the hotel and asks Alexander for a favor. Nina must leave to go in search of her husband who has been taken by the regime, she needs someone to care for her daughter Sofia. He agrees, in the beginning it’s a bit difficult for him adjust his schedule to care for a young child. As time passes he hears nothing from Nina, Alexander then raises Nina’s daughter as his own. Sofia is brought up to become a proper young lady who the hotel staff adore.

This book did start out a bit slow for me but once the story evolved I became more interested in reading on. It has some laugh out loud moments; Alexander discovering the labels were removed from the wine bottles, Alexander’s keeping ‘buttons in his boxes’ and Mishka’s greatest work, Bread and Salt. I did find the discussions between Alexander and the kitchen staff of food and wine pairing a bit tedious. Overall, it was beautifully written and well worth the read.

Happy Reading - J  

2 comments:

  1. I find stories about artist [including authors, poets etc] persecuted and incarcerated for their expressions so emotional. I'll add this one to GR! Great review Jovita

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    1. I recently read an article on line about writers that are imprisoned for their use of digital media, and some that were on trail. It was very eye-opening that it still happens in other countries, especially with photographers. Thank you Daniela, I hope you enjoy it as well.

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Have a wonderful day - Jovita