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A Gentleman in Moscow

by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
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  • Published:
    Sep 2016, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Power Reviewer Cloggie Downunder

Simply wonderful!
“Some might wonder that the two men should consider themselves to be old friends having only known each other for four years; but the tenure of friendships has never been governed by the passage of time. These two would have felt like old friends had they met just hours before. To some degree, this was because they were kindred spirits – finding ample evidence of common ground and cause for laughter in the midst of effortless conversation; but it was also almost certainly a matter of upbringing. Raised in grand homes in cosmopolitan cities, educated in the liberal arts, graced with idle hors, and exposed to the finest things, though the Count and the American had been born ten years and four thousand miles apart, they had more in common with each other than they had with the majority of their countrymen.”

A Gentleman in Moscow is the second novel by American author, Amor Towles. At the age of thirty-two, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov finds himself under house arrest in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol. It’s 1922, and the Bolsheviks are in charge; as an aristocrat, Count Rostov becomes a Former Person. Rostov has been occupying a suite on the third floor; now he leaves behind for “The People” all that he cannot fit into a tiny attic room three floors up. A good friend states, much later “Who would have imagined, when you were sentenced to life in the Metropol all those years ago, that you had just become the luckiest man in all of Russia.”

Towles drops his readers into Rostov’s life every few years, bringing them up to date on significant events and people. If his detention is meant to be a punishment, Rostov is determined to make the best of it, and does so, despite some shaky times and one suicidal moment. Already well respected before his confinement, within a few years Count Rostov’s role goes significantly beyond that of an involuntary guest held in great affection. For loved and respected he indeed is, by guests and all bar one member of the Metropol’s staff.

This is not an action-packed page-turner, although there is a good dose of intrigue, some romance, plenty of humour and a rather exciting climax. This is a novel that meanders along at a gentle pace. Towles is a skilful storyteller: even seemingly unimportant details woven into the narrative prove their significance if the reader is patient. As well as exploring the philosophies of friendship and of politics, his setting facilitates a suitably nasty and vindictive petty bureaucrat, and a very fine example of communist equality policy at its silliest.

This is a novel with love and loyalty, compassion and quite a lot of wisdom, all wrapped is beautiful prose: “For if a room that exists under the governance, authority, and intent of others seems smaller than it is, then a room that exists in secret can, regardless of its dimensions, seem as vast as one cares to imagine”. David Nicholls describes Towles’s first novel as “terrific”; his fans might think this one is too. Simply wonderful!
Sarah

Lessons on living
This is one of my all-time favorite books. The Count is an example of a person who knows how to live life. Despite confinement he loves his adopted family and friends, and finds pleasure in the simple aspects of human existence. History and culture are also abundantly represented in this beautiful novel
Alice

A Gentleman in Moscow
One of the best books I've ever read! Savor each chapter.

Short ones lead us into more serious chapters which lengthen with the depth of the story and the times.

We are confined to the Hotel just as is the Count and I marveled at his patience, joy of living, and philosophical insights during the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia. From a grand suite of rooms to a tiny attic with him we meet many interesting characters.
Kate

A gentleman in Moscow
Wonderful, smart writing - great story. One of my new fav writers.
takingmytime

Lifetime Exile
Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to life, a life lived in the Hotel Metropol - never to leave its doors. Then taken from his elegant suite and relegated to an attic room to spend his life.

It is through his various friends and acquaintances, Nina, Sophia, Anna, Osip, Mikhail and the staff at the hotel that Sasha survives this exile.

This book is breathtaking. The lyrical prose of this novel lulls you into the early 20th century as you image the sights and sounds of Russia. It flows so smoothly that the words just seem to melt away, leaving you with a contented feeling, a need to continue with this mellow hazy sensibility, eating in paragraph after paragraph and continually seeking more.
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Beyond the Book:
  The Hotel Metropol

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