A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is a remarkable work of fiction. Original and heartfelt, this is one to savor.
On the surface this is a simple story. A Russian aristocrat living under house arrest in a luxury hotel for more than thirty years. But a unique premise morphs into a stunning story that is engaging and even adventurous, too.
The year is 1922 and Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal. He is then sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. While most people would be devastated, he accepts his fate immediately—almost in a sense of “well, might as well make the best of it.” Still, Rostov 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 entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery. A man like Rostov is not content will simply starting at wall the rest of his life. He’ll become close with several workers at the hotel (a true joy and highlight) and guests— he even experiences a romance. And when fate intervenes to put the life of a young girl in his hands, he must draw on his integrity and smarts to protect her future.
A Gentleman in Moscow is split into five sections with also an afterword. It starts with the Count’s arrest and then each section is a new development in his life: from changes in the political landscape, his relationship with others in the hotel to even starting a new career while at the hotel—each section is a theme of sorts. It also rings true to memory. While certain events in our lives we can remember all the details including what someone wore—there are some memories that group together.
The book sits at 462 pages and it’s not one you’ll want to run through quickly. But rather you’ll want to spend time in this world as it slowly unfolds.
Culture, humor and kindness
There’s much about Russia’s extremely complicated history in the 20th century and its impact on daily life, even at the hotel. There’s quite a few dedicated sections to life as a Russian and what that meant in that era. And while that is expected for a historical fiction read, I did not anticipate how much humor this book will have, oftentimes unintentionally by the Count. He’s a likable character and has plenty of interesting perspectives on life. I also loved the cast of characters that are rich and felt real. Some key aspects of the entire story is about the importance of kindness, human connections—and of course, love.
This one is hard to review because I would hate to spoil anything. So you simply must read it, if nothing else, to find out why someone tells the Count:
[blockquote align=”none” author=””]”Who would have imagined, when you were sentenced to life in the Metropol all those years ago, that you had just become the luckiest man in all of Russia.” [/blockquote]
Read this one, my friends. You won’t regret it.