A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow

by Amor Towle

Overview: 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.

Judy Copek (01/14/18): This is a great story! I loved every word. The author has a terrific voice and his adventures in the Metropole Hotel in Moscow (across from the Kremlin) where he is under indefinite house arrest are not violent but very entertaining and even exciting. Into his life comes a little girl, and the love he experiences for this child and the subsequent events are delightful, scary and so imaginative. Count Rostov is an intriguing character that carries the entire plot. Loved it! You will not soon forget this wonderful duo!
Rating: *****

Elaine Marlin (12/25/17): This novel took a long time to read. I had to return it to the library after one check-out period, as there was no renewal, and a long list of readers waiting for it. I just put my name back on the list and didn't have long to wait before I had another library copy, but again, no renewal! At this point, I started reading in earnest! I rewarded myself when I finally got half way through! That being said, this was a fantastic novel, and worth reading!

I want to discuss specifically the Count's relationship with a young girl, age 5 or 6, who was literally dropped off by her mother, hastily, with a request, well, rather a statement, that the Count should take care of her daughter Sofia. The woman who made this request had been a young preteen girl who was also living at the Metropol with her own father, who befriended the Count. They were friends for several years before the young woman, Nina, now a young adult, left to pursue her destiny. I won't say what Nina's fate was, but the best part of the novel, for me, was the relationship between the Count, and Sofia. He called her his daughter, and she considered him her father. The adventures and conversations and relationship between the two very different personalities, was absolutely incredible. Many world events occurred before, during and after this period of time of raising Sofia within the Metropol. Much history will be learned. You will not soon forget this wonderful duo!
Rating: *****

Deanna Boe (04/17/17): Somehow I missed this author’s first book, RULES OF CIVILITY, and am anxious to read it after reading this wonderfully written book, A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW. It is enjoyable to read since it is creatively drawn on different eras in Russia that most of us probably know little. The plot is well developed and keeps your interest right to the surprise ending.

The main character is Count Alexander Ilyish Rostov. To his friends he is known as Sasha (the nickname in Russia for Alexander,) and to most others they simply address him as Count. When he was thirty the Count was sentenced to house arrest for being “corrupted” by his class, but more importantly he had written a poem that appeared to be a “call to arms” to overthrow the government. This was after the Revolutionary war. Because the Count had been living in the number one hotel in Moscow, the Metropol, for the last four years, he was sentenced to live there under house arrest. That doesn’t sound so terrible since he lived in a very large and well appointed suite in the hotel. The Count quickly discovered that was not to be the case. He was given a very small attic room where he was allowed to bring precious few of his antique belongings. He still had the privilege to go anywhere in the hotel as long as he didn’t step outside or he would be shot. No more opera, dining at the best restaurants, ballet, or revisiting the estate which had been in his family for generations. It was there the Count loved to view the thousands of apple orchards of his youth. This innocent statement is a subtle clue as to the ending of the story. Mr. Towles does an excellent job of dropping various clues throughout the story that only later do you discover why.

At first he reads and minimally converses with the staff but his sedentary life turns upside down with the delightful company of an eight year old girl, Nina, who opens up new horizons simply within the hotel. She had managed to “lift” a skeleton key that opened all the doors in the hotel. Together they explore everything that the hotel has to offer. She lived in the hotel with her father who was gone most of the time working. This friendship amazingly will provide the most important aspect of the Count’s life in the years to come.

The Count’s life is full with friendships he develops over the years. There is the highly placed Russian military man who seeks him out because he wants to learn English (he provides them with all the latest American films to view,) the head chef and number one waiter, the bartender, a seamstress, various guests of the hotel, which included a beautiful actress who bestows him with the romance the Count needs in his incarceration. Plus there is the friend he went to school with who comes to see him and tells Sasha that he was the “luckiest man alive.” Why? This friend had been sent to Siberia for years, but this still does not answer the question as to why the Count had been lucky. It is only as the storyline goes on do we find out the answer to that and what actually happened to make his life “complete” while living in the hotel.

While reading this novel I kept having the feeling it reminded me of something I had read before. Finally, it popped into my head it was the children’s book of Eloise who lived in a hotel. Obviously this is nothing like that but does provide a funny parallel. A GENTLEMENT IN MOSCOW is an extremely well written and pleasurable book to read.
Rating: *****

Debbie Weiss (04/13/17): Yes, I agree with Linda and Faith that this is a delightful read. At first I felt sorry for Count Rostov, sentenced to spending the rest of his life inside the Metropol Hotel in a small room, with no opportunity to experience life outside. However, as time passed and he made some amazing friends and established wonderful relationships inside the bubble of a community, it was a pleasure to see him not only survive, but thrive in his confined environment.

I learned a little about the Russian Revolution and I embraced the intelligence and ingenuity of the main character of this unusual novel. This was a book I discussed with my book club and I definitely think that other book clubs should consider this novel for their reading selection list.
Rating: ****

Faith Bowers (12/25/16): hough it is just his second book Mr. Towles writes beautifully. The story has historical fiction, family love, some romantic love, interesting food and wine descriptions, classical music and a wonderful sense of humor. In the beginning when you sense the Count is bored by his daily routine that may never change, the book is slow going. As the Count becomes engaged in all that is going on at the hotel Metropol, the book takes a turn and becomes intriguing and full of personality.

There is a formal and informal character development for every important friend of the Count. The antagonist, the Bishop is thwarted each time he looks to make trouble for the Count but we know little of who he is except that he is a buffoon of a party comrade. Nina saves the Count and so the Count must save Sophia. Being that the Count is an upperclassman of pre USSR, he can commune with others in his class from all over the world. He commands their respect because he is genuine, smart and caring.

I totally understand why Ms. Linda Smither wanted to listen to the book again once she finished. You want to be a part of his story. There were a few very good one liners that I will review once I get the book in print. Enjoy reading or listening to The Gentleman from Moscow."
Rating: *****

Linda Smither (11/01/16): I absolutely LOVED this book and award it one of my very rare 5 star ratings. I listened to the audio version and as soon as it was done,I started listing all over again, knowing how it ended, picking up glorious threads of clues. Packed with Russian history, unique and heartwarming characters with delightful relationships. The Gentleman truly is a gentleman in every sense of the word, you will enjoy spending time with him. Lots of ""visual"" effects allow the reader to experience Russian food, wine, weather, cultural at its finest. Read this book - you wont be sorry."
Rating: *****

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