Review: A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ tells the story of Count Alexander Rostov, who is sentenced to live out the rest of his life on “house arrest” in the Metropol hotel, following his “conviction” by a Bolshevik tribunal. He was convicted of being an unrepentant aristocrat and is stripped of his wealth by the new Bolshevik regime. From one of the hotel’s most prestigious guests, to a member of the wait staff, Count Rostov manages his fall from grace with poise and dignity.

This book provided beautiful imagery and a thought-provoking dialogue on the rise of communism in Russia over a period of about 30 or so years, beginning in 1922. I was amazed at the insights of Count Rostov related to world events, especially considering that he was confined to a large hotel for the majority of his adult life. He was an intriguing and remarkable personality.

Beyond all else, Count Rostov remained a gentleman. At times, his focus on manners and his devotion to various formalities seemed ridiculous. After all, he was essentially imprisoned in a gilded cage. What did he have to lose?

However, I came to appreciate the formal mannerisms of Count Rostov. He truly was a gentleman. By staying true to himself, he refused to let the regime win. He wasn’t bitter. He didn’t waste energy on blatant defiance of the Bolsheviks. He kept his head high and maintained his composure. It was truly impressive.

Over the course of the decades spent in the Metropol, a colorful cast of characters comes into the Count’s life. Despite the fact that he cannot leave the hotel, he always has something interesting going on. Most notable were a handful of the hotel’s employees, a famous actress and two young girls.

The first girl, a nine year-old named Nina Kulikova, becomes a constant in Alexander’s life when she has a prolonged stay at the hotel. Alexander takes her under his wing, becoming a mentor of sorts. Together, the two make a game of spying on the hotel’s various occupants and become virtually inseparable. Alexander counsels her on the characteristics of a princess. Nina breathes life into his day to day existence.

Years later, Nina returns to ask a favor of her old friend. She needs the Count to watch over her daughter while she goes in search of her husband, who has been taken by the regime. Alexander agrees.

As time passes and there is no word from Nina, Alexander raises her daughter as his own. Young Sofia is the source of his life’s joy and purpose. Along with the other members of the hotel staff that comprise his inner circle, Sofia is brought up to be a proper young lady.

Spanning decades, ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ provides romance and political intrigue. It certainly is no small undertaking. Accordingly, the story does seem to drag at times. There was just so much time covered and so many changes occurring, while the Count’s life remained rather stagnant at times. Truly, that was his punishment – to be excluded from life outside the hotel while having a bird’s nest views to watch it from the windows and balconies.

While I was taken aback by the beauty of this story at times, I also found myself bored for much of this book. Sure, there were many things that I found to be quite interesting about the Count’s life and the ongoing commentary on Russia’s Bolshevik-era politics. However, I found my mind wandering frequently.

That being said, I do think that this book is worth a read. It was interesting, if not always entertaining or gripping. I certainly feel more “enlightened” for having read this book. It was a nice change for me. Now, I think I’ll jump right back into my preferred romance genre with a feel-good story that is about as deep as a kiddie pool. LOL.

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