Title: A Gentleman in Moscow
Author : Amor Towles
Genres: Historical, Literary
Publication Date: Sept 2016
My Rating: ★★★★☆
On 21 June 1922 Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol.
But instead of being taken to his usual suite, he is led to an attic room with a window the size of a chessboard. Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely.
While Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval, the Count, stripped of the trappings that defined his life, is forced to question what makes us who we are. And with the assistance of a glamorous actress, a cantankerous chef and a very serious child, Rostov unexpectedly discovers a new understanding of both pleasure and purpose.
This book took me a month to read, and that is a long time for me, it never grabbed me in as much as I had to read this book and ignore all others, but it kept my interest. This was my bedtime reading and has a slightly gentle feel to it.
The book is stretched out over 4 decades centered on the Count and as you would expect his character very well rounded and he is a personality that most people would be able to relate. He seems to cope with the trials of house arrest with a magnanimity that I personally would not have managed to achieve. But he is of course a fiction, which it is easy to forget this as Amor Towles is very adept at weaving a spell that everything we are reading is fact. This is probably down to the the fact that the book is very well researched and has an air of authenticity to it.
In many ways the 40 years that we are shown is fairly mundane. The count becomes part of the staff of the once exclusive restaurant and this gives him a sense of purpose. There are many lives that come in and out of a grand hotel such as the Metropol and this allows us to have some form of plot.
The character of Nina, a young girl who at the time of the start of the Counts imprisonment was also not allowed to leave the hotel was one of the most interesting, especially as she has somehow managed to acquire a key that will open any door in the Metropol hotel, and the Count frequently accompanies her on her adventures including spying on the meetings with the post revolutionary government held in the ballroom from the balcony.
The Metropol hotel once a grand and exclusive place, retains a certain grandeur after the revolution but the changes happening in the rest of Russia trickle down into it’s management.
Mr Towles writing style effortlessly conveys so much in the minuet of the details that he shares with us. The writing is very formal however, which I think is possibility a choice as the subject matter both the Metropol and the Count, formality is almost part of their nature due to history and upbringing. This is also a period piece where formality both in writing and behavior where the norm.
A Gentleman in Moscow was a nominee for Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction (2016) the category was won by the Pulitzer prize winner The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
If you are looking for a quick easy read to take to the beach then this is not it. If however you want a book to take your time with and savor every word then this beautifully written story of a man adjusting to whatever life has thrown him with grace and charm, may well fit the bill.