Book #51: A Gentleman in Moscow

I was intrigued by the premise of A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and the fact that it was wildly popular when released about a year ago. A friend of mine bought, read and loved it, so I finally borrowed the book to satisfy my curiosity. The novel begins in 1922 when Count Alexander Rostov is put under house arrest in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel following the social upheaval of the Bolshevik Revolution. I was very curious to know how such a limited and simple plot could be engaging and take up almost 500 pages. I was delighted to find that Towles’ writing is beautiful and masterful. Not only can he write about the most mundane things in the Count’s day in such an interesting way (One of my favorite passages is a whole chapter where the author describes the Count’s agony of trying to make the time pass while reading a very boring book – an experience we can all empathize with.), but he also is able to draw out large, overarching themes from the ordinary.  The novel deals with the bitterness of loss – not only of liberty but of family, tradition, and purpose – while also considering what we gain in difficult situations that we would not have had otherwise. There is also a good bit of social and political commentary which taught me much about that time period in Russia. In addition, the Count along with his cast of hotel employees and guests are skillfully fleshed out and delightful to read about. It is a wonderful, beautiful book and I was glad I persevered through. It’s not action-driven, but if you appreciate great writing and charming characters, you’ll enjoy this.

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