Saturday, February 11, 2017

My review of Amor Towles' novel, A Gentleman in Moscow

In his sophisticated novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles chooses an unusual vantage point from which to offer glimpses of Russian and world history. That vantage point is an attic room of the Metropol Hotel, where Count Alexander Rostov was placed under permanent house arrest in 1922. In the subsequent 400-plus pages and forty years, all the Count’s adventures take place inside the Metropol. Considering his geographic limits, he has fascinating adventures with people working, staying, and eating at the hotel.

With his aristocratic roots, the Count approaches life with great gentility and philosophical curiosity. Pondering Michel de Montaigne’s Essais is a favorite pastime of the Count, who wants to be a man of purpose. He seems to always want to do the right thing and do it well, even in difficult circumstances. A refined man, the Count is intentional about cultivating relationships and knowledge.

Accounts of his pursuit (with friend Osip) of insights into Western culture are eye-opening and in some cases humorous. Also interesting is his pride in Russia’s contributions to international culture.

You can imagine that in forty years the Count’s experiences and friendships are many. I cannot begin to give examples. A Gentleman in Moscow delivers surprise after surprise. It’s a delightful read.

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