Title: A Gentleman In Moscow
Author: Amor Towles
Publisher: Windmill Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
First Publication: 2017
Major Characters: The Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, Mikhail Fyodorovich Mindich (Mishka), Anna Urbanova, Nina Kulikova, Sofia
Theme: Imprisonment, Freedom, and Purpose, Change and Adaptation
Book Summary: A Gentleman In Moscow
It’s 1922, Russia is experiencing an evolution in it’s politics, with Moscow the center of it all. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to living out the rest of his life inside the Hotel Metropol for writing a poem that was interpreted as politically incorrect. He was moved from his elegant suite to a small room on the attic floor, with just enough room for his most treasured possessions.
Count Alexander is not bitter, nor does he allow himself to wallow in self-pity. Rather he makes the best of his circumstances, maintaining friendships and relationships, eventually becoming a member of the staff. Through him we are given a glimpse of the changing landscape of Russia. His wit, kindness and philosophical musings make the Count an endearing and loveable character. Through Count Alexander, he offers an intimate look into the lives and service of those most essential for a well-run hotel, along with a few crucial guests who enrich his life.
You would think that being imprisoned in the Hotel Metropol would place great limitations on one’s life, but Count Alexander manages to live life to it’s fullest.
Book Review: A Gentleman In Moscow
I have been circling this book for ages, worried that I would not enjoy the slower pace, so I waited and waited until I was ready.
”If one does not master one’s circumstances, one is bound to be mastered by them”
Count Alexander is sentenced to house arrest in June 1922. He lives in the Metropol Hotel. The story is about his life being confined to this place only. Should he step out the hotel, he is to be killed on the spot. Slowly he gets people to known and gets accustomed with them and with his new way of life. It seems not a bad life, knowing what history still has in mind for mankind, more specific the Russian nobility.
But somehow it’s not a full life, being cut from all kind of things one was grown up with. No nobless, elegance, civility and art in all forms. Not his well-loved books within reach. It’s a novel about more hidden cruelty, about not being respected in all ways of life. The arrival of a little girl and her nanny is the beginning of the nobleman becoming to accept and love his new life, the beginning of a new storyline.
“…what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause; what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty of acclaim.”
I honestly thought A Gentleman In Moscow would be a bit dull and well not that interesting. I’m so glad I gave it a chance because it is now one of my favorite books. I found the Count to be funny, sarcastic, protective, smart and a well-mannered gentleman.
There is no doubt that the writing was beautiful from the start; but the first 100 pages felt like hard work. The story has meandered just for the sake of meandering; so for me the introduction of Nina was a turning point where it felt like a proper story finally started.
But like the cliché – this book is a journey not a destination – the more I read the more I enjoyed it.
“Fate would not have the reputation it has, if it simply did what it seemed it would do.”
The pace was a little slower than what I normally enjoy and yes, the Count’s way of speaking initially felt a little pompous; but somewhere along the line, I got caught up in the story and really started looking forward to my time with this book.
Count Rostov evolves during his incarceration as do those who meet him.
Far from having his sentence bring him down, the walls of the Hotel contained a life well-lived, a life full of adventure, surprise, love and delight. I also enjoyed the snippets of Russian history that filtered into his story.
Some of my favorite quotes/excerpts from the book:
When the Count sees Nina after a long time he realizes she “always was and would be a serious soul in search of serious ideas to be serious about.”
Talking with Marina the seamstress, she tells him, “If you are ever in doubt, just remember that unlike adults, children WANT to be happy. So they still have the ability to take the greatest pleasure in the simplest things.”
When Sofia tells the Count that her inspiration for the first piece she plays in the piano by Chopin is thinking about her mother. “I think of how my few memories of her seem to be fading, and then I begin to play.”
The Count admits he used to feel the same about his sister and feared that one day he’d forget her. “But the truth is: No matter how much time passes, those we have loved never slip away from us entirely.” (Loved this one)
And now this is an example of his sarcastic side. When he’s waiting for Sofia to return: he’s worried and has been pacing around the lobby, “‘like the wheeling of the stars,’ muttered the Count as he paced. That is how time passes when one is left waiting unaccountably. The hours become interminable. The minutes relentless. And the seconds? Why, not only does every last one of them demand its moment on the stage, it insists upon making a soliloquy full of weighty pauses and artful hesitations and then leaps into an encore at the slightest hint of applause.”
A Gentleman In Moscow may ask for a little patience, but you will be rewarded with memorable reading experience.
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