I absolutely adored this book. The premise is simple - A young aristoctrat is caught in the aftermath of the Russian revoluition, and is arrested and put under houe arrest at the very hotel in Moscow that he has been living in since his return from France. Stripped of most of his possessions, he moves into a smaul upper story room in the grand Metropol Hotel. to begin to live out the rest of his life. Count Alexander Rostov is no ordinary man. He accepts his new position and house arrest with an admirable equanamity. He realizes early on that most of the Russian populace passes through the Metropol's doors at one time or another, and Rostov is an extraordinary people watcher, so he sits back and watches Russia through the aftermath of the Revolution, the Great Depression, a second world war and the beginning of the Cold War. The people that he considers friends are other Metropol employees, and he makes some lasting friendships. He takes on the job of Head Waiter at the premier dining room in the hotel, and comes into even more contact with various people, both Russians and foreigners. He even finds a love interest while in the hotel, and he becomes the guardian of a very precocious youg girl, who forever changes his life. What a warm, wonderful and amusing book! It is beautifully written and the characters are so real and alive! I loved this book! HIstorical fiction at it's best.
“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!