by Amor Towles
From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel
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.
A Gentleman in Moscow is my favorite new read of 2017. I have heard only wonderful things about Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility, which is currently sitting on my shelves waiting to be read, and decided to pick up A Gentleman in Moscow when my local library offered the audio version. And this novel will make my 2017 favorites list for sure!
I’m not going to provide a summary, because the synopsis is perfect. Instead I am going to share the number one reason I adore A Gentleman in Moscow: Towles’ imagery. Even now, I can taste the Latvian stew served at Christmas and the wild honey crafted from apple blossoms. I can feel the comforting atmosphere of Alexander’s sitting room. I can hear the echo of three decades of feet clicking against the tile floor of the Metropol’s grand entry. I know Alexander’s life and Towles’ writing has painted it for me.
A Gentleman in Moscow is a book about relationships…not necessarily about Russian history. It is a book about old friends and new, familial bindings, lovers, enemies, and the unexpected comrade. In a story that spans over 30 years we meet the people who call Count Alexander Rostov their friend. (I will not provide any details because you need to read of these relationships your self) A Gentleman in Moscow also takes an interesting look on how to handle imprisonment without going insanity. Because even though Alexander lives in a hotel, he is a prisoner. Some reviewers find this life unrealistic; that Alexander’s optimistic response is not natural. I refer the naysayers to the scene where Alexander tries the apple blossom honey. Towels spend the entire story showing readers how focusing on the small gifts of every day life can help a person get through any type of predicament (and I will agree that being imprisoned in a cush hotel doesn’t hurt!)
I do not have any negative comments to share. I will state the negative points brought up by other reviewers are valid, and yet I still find myself thinking of Alexander and his life in the Metropol weeks after finishing the story. I will note that I listened to A Gentleman in Moscow on audiobook and found it enthralling. I am not sure I would have been drawn so quickly into the story if I had read the physical book. This may not have been a book about Russian history, but it has inspired me to do my own research into Russian culture. And in my ‘displaced academic’ opinion…there is no better quality in a book.
Please let me know what you thought about A Gentleman in Moscow and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!