A Gentleman In Moscow Book Review

A Gentleman In Moscow: Book Review by Dinh.

5 out of 5 stars for A Gentleman in Mosow

Synopsis:

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.

Synopsis from hardcover version, 472 pages, copyright 2016 and published by Viking. For more information, visit Amor Towles on Facebook and his website.

A Gentleman in Moscow Book Review

Review:

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!

Beautiful Written

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.

Plot

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.

Towles 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.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Interesting Characters 

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

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

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.

Themes

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 gain power so Mishka’s ideology presents one view, the Count presents another.

The Metropol Hotel In Moscow

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!

A Gentleman in Moscow is available here. Check out the excellent audio book version; free with an Audible trial.

Check out A Gentleman in Moscow book club discussion questions!

Explore your next great read.

14 thoughts on “A Gentleman In Moscow Book Review

  1. Sounds great! A work of fiction mixed with the realities of living in Moscow. Was he able to leave his little room and have freedom of the hotel? The author seems to have such a gift of description!

    Linda

    1. Hello Linda B!
      Yes, Towles has a fantastic gift of descriptive writing. The food and wine described was evocative and I could just taste it. 🙂

      The Count was under house arrest so he was not allowed to leave the Metropol but he did leave it one time in all those years. It was an emergency; he had to bring Sophia to the hospital because she fell on the stairs and cracked her head.

      Can you imagine just staying in one place all those years? I get cabin fever if I stay in my house more than one day!

  2. I really liked reading your Count Alexander character description. And I really appreciate about how he adopts changes in life. I think we sometimes need to do the same thing.
    Actually there are so many things going on with my life and I try adapting the changes as well. It is really not an easy task. Anyway I think I will definitely read Gentleman in Moscow.

    1. Hello Furkan!
      A Gentleman in Moscow is a positive book and I think you will enjoy it. It’s all about how you make the best of your life given your circumstances. In the Count’s case, he does make a big change and has lots of help along the way.

      I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. I thought it was superb!

  3. I’m usually a fan of books set in and around the Russian Revolution but this one just doesn’t seem to interest me at the moment *shrugs*.

    Still, I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

    1. Hi Cee!
      I am a mood reader and can understand if it doesn’t interest you right now. Maybe later.
      It’s definitely worth a read though.I love it!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  4. Oh great! The synopsis and review got me hooked and I’m surely going Moscow in a few minutes! I have a great passion for emotional intelligence and I’m sure going to get more of it in the book.

    Going to get into right now!

    Thanks for the review. This is what I wanted to keep me busy during the holiday.

    One question though, should I expect a twist? (I love interesting twists of fate and events)

    1. Hello Dave!
      I’d love to go to Moscow and check out the Metropol too.
      Towles describe the hotel so vividly that I felt I knew the place. It’s now on my bucket list.

      The ending was not what I had expected and I guess that’s because I was just enjoying the book as I went along rather than thinking about how it would end. I liked the ending though. I liked that the Count takes over and not let fate decide his or Sophia’s ending…That’s all I will say.

      Thanks for stopping by at Arlene’s Book Club! 🙂

    1. Hello Becky!
      A Gentleman In Moscow was a fantastic read. I just loved it!

      I didn’t find the book at all heavy. The political ideology was there but I didn’t find it heavy. I thought the focus on love and friendship was more prominent and because the tone was comical and light, the political stuff wasn’t heavy.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Yes, reading is highly euphoric and can create a buzz for sure! =) I wan’t sure how this story would turn out, especially with the main character confined to one location. But, the Count sounds infinitely interesting. Great review!

    1. Hi Lonna!
      I going in I wasn’t expecting much because I thought it might be a bit boring? A leisurely life of a gentleman? Well, it proved me wrong. The Count has some interesting adventures and the book is so well done.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading the review. 🙂

  6. Ohh, this sounds really interesting. I like the backdrop of house arrest in a fancy hotel, during some of the most insane and tumultuous periods in history. Is the book always told from the Count’s perspective? It would be interesting to be “imprisoned” there with him, if so.

    1. Hi Penny!
      The narrative is told in the third person but it sorts of become the Count’s perspective as it’s about him and his life.
      The Count is a very interesting character. He’s a gentleman from that era and being a gentleman is not only about manners but a way of life. It’s a beautiful tale of his life and all the interesting characters in his life.

      I love how he enjoys it whilst imprisoned in the hotel.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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