A Gentleman In Moscow: Book Review by Dinh.
When in 1922, the thirty year old Count is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, he is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. An indomitable man of erudition and wit, Rostov must now live in the attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors.
Unexpectedly, the Count’s reduced circumstances provide him entry to a much large world of emotional discovery as he forges friendships with the hotel’s other denizens, including a willful actress, a shrewd Kremlinite, a gregarious American, and a temperamental chef. But when fate suddenly puts the life of a young girl in his hands, he must draw on all his ingenuity to protect the future she so deserves.
If you are going to read one book this year, make it A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles!
This is the first best book of 2017 that I have read and can’t say enough how brilliant it is.
What a wonderful, humorous, uplifting book. It is this kind of book that propels and inspires me to read!
I am basking in this amazing book.
Here’s why I loved it so much!
This novel is superbly crafted.
Towles writing evokes a sense of euphoria in me. Can reading make me happy? This novel, hands down gets the award for making me happy and it should get the Pulitzer or something.
I love the way Towles pays attention to details, and the descriptions are so well done that you can feel, hear or taste whatever he’s describing. I enjoyed every nuance and sentence in this book!
I enjoyed the evocative food descriptions, especially the food and wine pairing. I was salivating for a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape!
Towles super power is writing – he can transform each scene and make it pulse with life. The novel is whimsical at times.
The tone of the book is light, at times humorous, and engaging. I especially enjoyed the positivism that came out of it even though the backdrop was not pleasant at times.
I wasn’t expecting much with the plot because we know from the book jacket that Count Rostov is under house arrest by the Bolsheviks and has to stay at the Metropol hotel where he was living.
Though the setting of the imprisonment seems nice, the Count is not living in the luxury suite after the sentencing, but in the attic where he barely has enough space – Just enough room for his bed and his desk.
Towle’s novel is character driven rather than plot driven. We see what’s going on in Russia over the span of 32 years through the eyes of the Count from the guests in the hotel.
The story is linear and is presented sequentially. Book 1 starts in 1922 with the Count’s arrest.
It then progresses to Book 2, 1923 when the Count meets actress Anna Urbanova in the hotel.
Book 3 follows the Count’s life in 1930s when he becomes a waiter at the Boyarski hotel restaurant, Book 4 his life in 1950, and the final Book 5 in 1954.
Though linear in nature, the story line does go back in time when the Count reflects on certain events or persons. The flow between the narrative was seamless and kept you engaged. These digressions were a breath of fresh air.
I also loved that whilst the author pulls you in with the story of the Count’s life we get a glimpse of what’s going on in Russia. In the background is the upheaval and change that Russia is facing, yet it’s at the periphery, only does it stand out when it impacts the Count.
Whilst it seems that it’s all good in the Count’s life, the disappearance of Nina and then later his friend Mishka, pulls us back to reality.
The novel has some wonderful, interesting and memorable characters.
- Count Rostov
Towles has imagined a really fantastic character with the Count.
Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov from the Nizhny Novgorod province is an aristocrat who becomes waiter after his house arrest at the Metroprol hotel. The Count is a gentleman at heart and continues to live like one even though there’s a change in his situation.
I liked that the Count is erudite and his life before was leisurely. He is full of knowledge whether it is how to find if a number is prime numbers to chronometry.
What I liked best about the Count is his ability to adapt to the changes that he is faced with.
After all, he’s confined to the Metropol hotel and could have easily slipped into the abyss of depression and not enjoyed life for what it is.
Yet with all the challenges he faced, he met it gracefully and succeeded the imprisonment of the hotel, made friends, became a surrogate father, and enjoyed good food and drink!
- Nina Kulikova
Nina, who has a penchant for yellow, is one of my favorite characters.
Nina befriends the Count when she was a young girl. She is curious by nature and helps the Count make the most out his situation.
Towles has crafted a beautiful relationship between Nina and the Count. We see a wonderful symbiotic relationship between the two. Nina is able to help the Count open his eyes to the wonder of the world, and change the way he looks at his imprisonment at the Metropol.
- Anna Urbanova
Anna is an actress that the Count meets at the Metropol. They have an on-off long affair through out the Count Rostov’s house arrest.
I liked the fact that the Count also finds love when it might not have be possible.
- Emile Zhukovshy
Emile is the head chef at the Boyarski and works closely with the Count and the maitre d’
Andrey is the maitre d’ at the Boyarski. The Count, Emile and Andrey make the ‘triumvirate.’
- Mikhail “Mishka” Fyodorovich Mindich
Mishka is an old friend of the Count from his days at the University of St. Petersberg. Mishka visits the Count at the Metropol when he can.
Sofia is Nina’s daughter who was left with the Count when she was 5 years old. She grows up under the Count’s care.
All these characters had a backstory and what was satisfying was how they all connected with the Count and gave him a rich life in the Metropol.
The characters were brimming with warmth and depth.
One of my favorite theme in the novel is friendship.
The Count develops numerous friendships that are long lasting and significant. I liked that the bonds of friendships are also diverse in background.
Another major theme was socialism, philosophical and political ideology. The story is set in post revolutionary Russia where the Bolsheviks have gained power so Mishka’s ideology presents one view, the Count presents another.
My Finals Thoughts:
A Gentleman in Moscow is a charming book that celebrates the little joys of life. It is brilliantly written in a comical and whimsical tone that brings everyone to life.
I loved that it pulls you in with humor and charm. This is a character driven story so don’t go in expecting action. You’ll turn the pages because you’ll savor the sentences.
I highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction and those looking to read something uplifting.
I will be definitely checking out Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility and adding it to my reading list!
Explore your next great read.