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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Review: A Gentleman In Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From Amazon: From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

My Review: Count Alexander Rostov is in the wrong place at the right time (or vice versa) at the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Saved from internment in Siberia or, more likely, death, a poem written in praise of soviet ideals has earned him a more comfortable prison – the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. For the course of some thirty years with only one extreme exception, Rostov, a “former person,” does not step outside the hotel. A rare combination of intelligent, wise, and kind, Rostov is the epitome of the perfect gentleman. In spite of one small lapse, he remains optimistic and self-reliant. And though the novel takes place almost completely within the walls of the Metropol, adventures and intrigue abound.

This is the best book I’ve read in recent memory – recent meaning probably ten years or more. The language is brilliant and beautiful. The characters are believable and delightful. I loved the enlightening historical footnotes giving insight into things going on behind the scenes. I can’t think of a single thing that bothered me as I read, and that’s saying something! I can’t help thinking Mr. Towles must have drawn deeply on his own character to write Rostov, as there is such a light but unerring touch to his prose. In fact, though it took a long time for me to finish the book, that’s because I have so little time to read, not because I was reluctant to continue. Reading this novel was completely enjoyable. It will have a permanent place on my shelves and I will return to it when I need a guaranteed great read. I had started Rules of Civility and was enjoying it before stopping to read Gentleman (as it was a book club read). So it is waiting in the wings. But I’m going to save it for a little while, like a treat saved for a special occasion. When I’m in need of another guaranteed good read, I will turn to it.

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