Summary and book reviews of A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

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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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. Readers and critics were enchanted; as NPR commented, "Towles writes with grace and verve about the mores and manners of a society on the cusp of radical change."

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count 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 a doorway 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.

Excerpt
A Gentleman in Moscow

There were two restaurants in the Hotel Metropol: the Boyarsky, that fabled retreat on the second floor that we have already visited, and the grand dining room off the lobby known officially as the Metropol, but referred to affectionately by the Count as the Piazza.

Admittedly, the Piazza could not challenge the elegance of the Boyarsky's décor, the sophistication of its service, or the subtlety of its cuisine. But the Piazza did not aspire to elegance, service, or subtlety. With eighty tables scattered around a marble fountain and a menu offering everything from cabbage piroghi to cutlets of veal, the Piazza was meant to be an extension of the city—of its gardens, markets, and thorough fares. It was a place where Russians cut from every cloth could come to linger over coffee, happen upon friends, stumble into arguments, or drift into dalliances—and where the lone diner seated under the great glass ceiling could indulge himself in ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In the transcript at the opening of A Gentleman in Moscow, the head of the tribunal and Count Rostov have the following exchange:

    "Secretary Ignatov: I have no doubt, Count Rostov, that some in the galley are surprised to find you charming; but I am not surprised to find you so. History has shown charm to be the last ambition of the leisure class. What I do find surprising is that the author of the poem in question could have become a man so obviously without purpose.
    Rostov: I have lived under the impression that a man's purpose is known only to God.
    Secretary Ignatov: Indeed. How convenient that must have been for you."
    To what extent is A Gentleman in Moscow a novel of purpose? How does the ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Although getting to the meat of the book requires some patience, it's definitely worth it. The Count is one of literature's more memorable characters, and A Gentleman in Moscow is a well-written novel worthy of one's time. The book is sure to win Towles new fans as well as satisfy those already familiar with his writing.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review (566 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Episodic, empathetic, and entertaining, Count Rostov's long transformation occurs against a lightly sketched background of upheaval, repression, and war. Gently but dauntlessly, like his protagonist, Towles is determined to chart the course of the individual.

Booklist

His latest polished literary foray into a bygone era is just as impressive ... an imaginative and unforgettable historical portrait.

Library Journal

Starred Review. As urbane, cultured, and honey-smooth as the count himself, even as his situation inevitably creates suspense, this enthralling work is highly recommended even for those unfamiliar with Soviet history.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. In all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight ... this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility

Town and Country

The book moves briskly from one crisp scene to the next, and ultimately casts a spell as captivating as Rules of Civility, a book that inhales you into its seductively Gatsby-esque universe.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

Simply wonderful!
‚ÄúSome 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...   Read More

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 ...   Read More

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...   Read More

Kate

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

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Beyond the Book

The Hotel Metropol

In A Gentleman in Moscow, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to live the rest of his life within the walls of his current residence – Moscow's Hotel Metropol.

One of the oldest hotels in Russia, the Metropol was originally named the Chelyshy after its owner, Pyotr Chelyshev, who opened the facility as a bath house and three-story hotel in 1838.

Its modern history begins in 1898 when it was purchased by the St. Petersburg Insurance Association and rented out to the North Homebuilding Society headed by wealthy railroad entrepreneur Savva Mamontov. Mamontov had a vision for the property: he wanted to turn it into something much grander than the current hotel, wishing to ...

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