Also by this author: Rules of Civility, Eve in Hollywood
Published by Viking Adult on September 6th 2016
Genres/Lists: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
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A few years ago, I fell in love with a book called Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. At the time, I was hesitant to pick it up for a number of reasons but it ended up on my list of favorites that year and I knew that I would read Towles’ next book. It took a few years, but that book, A Gentleman in Moscow, is finally here. It’s a long, serious, novel that demands you pay attention, but it’s so wonderful that you will gladly do so. And although it’s long and serious, it’s shot through with a delightfully dry with that will leave you chuckling to yourself on more than one occasion.
A Gentleman in Moscow is about Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who was sentenced to life under house arrest at the Metropol hotel at age 33. Forced to live in a 100 square foot room, the Count’s world was in flux. After all, as an aristocrat, he was accustomed to grande suites and estates, not a hidden away room in the back of a hotel. But as a man who remained still as the world continued to revolve around him, he watched the evolution of Russia from a vantage point unique to his position. Unable to immerse himself in the intricacies of public life but allowed the daily interactions with hotel guests, he had a birds-eye view of the political changes and how Russian culture both influenced and was influenced by the West. This left him both distanced from his homeland and singularly qualified to comment upon it, and his observations about life, love, and Russia were insightful.Slow, steady, & unputdownable, A Gentleman in Moscow by @amortowles shines. Click To Tweet
There’s one stunning discussion of the relationship between the weather and human actions that I won’t spoil for you but if you’ve read it, feel free to email me so we can discuss. Then there’s his commentary on Russian culture, which was so nuanced that I sincerely hope Towles writes an entire book about the writing of this book because, as far as I can tell, he never spent much time in Russia. Here’s an example, in which he discusses the tendency for Russians to destroy their own works, from buildings to people to artwork:
The story is also filled with an eclectic group of characters, from Nina, a cunning 9 year old wise beyond her years; Mishka, his oldest friend and writer; Anna, a dazzling hotel guest; his friends who work in the hotel; those in the Russian government; the enemies who want to see him fail; and more. Each character affects the Count’s life in unexpected ways and watching it play out over several decades is a rare treat.
But perhaps my favorite part of A Gentleman in Moscow is how Towles tells the story. There are times when it feels as if a butler in the hotel is walking you down a hallway, opening doors, and allowing you to peek in on the experiences of others, and others when you are walking side-by-side with the Count, feeling and seeing what he feels and sees. The Count is the beating heart of this book and the struggle between adapting himself to his surroundings versus adapting his surroundings to himself is heartbreakingly real. And although this isn’t a fast-paced book, you will race through the pages. Fans of Rules of Civility may be thrown off for a chapter or two by the change in tone, but A Gentleman in Moscow was well worth the wait.
Recommended for: Anyone interested in Russian history, the story of making something out of nothing, and how one action can change your life, even if it’s pure happenstance.