Name: A Gentleman in Moscow
Author: Amor Towles
Number of Pages: 480 (Paperback)
Published: November 2nd 2017 by Windmill Books
On 21 June 1922 Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol.
But instead of being taken to his usual suite, he is led to an attic room with a window the size of a chessboard. Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely.
While Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval, the Count, stripped of the trappings that defined his life, is forced to question what makes us who we are. And with the assistance of a glamorous actress, a cantankerous chef and a very serious child, Rostov unexpectedly discovers a new understanding of both pleasure and purpose. – from Goodreads
A Gentleman in Moscow is utterly charming and an unexpected gem. It’s a novel you want to savour for the warmth and humour that flows from each page.
Placed under house arrest, the world of Count Rostov could become infinitely small – a disheartening set up, moved from his usual suite into a tiny attic room, robbed of most of his possessions, some of which are family heirlooms, and with the understanding that if he leaves the hotel again he will be shot – yet Alexander is of the mindset not to feel bitter, but to make the most and best of his new circumstances, acknowledging that if you don’t master them then they will master you.
Every aspect of the Metropol is bought vividly to life. Not only is it an upmarket hotel but, as the Count discovers, it is a whole world, with much hidden behind many doors that the average guest never even knows exists. In robbing the Count of his freedom to roam, his attention turns towards his new domain, and within the confines of the hotel his world expands infinitely; there is so much to discover, as revealed by the young Nina, who has an inquisitive nature and the master key to unlock any door.
Spending time in the company of Alexander Ilyich Rostov, even in such confines, is a total delight. His turn of phrase, his poise in the face of harm to his rather grand moustaches, splitting his trousers crawling around on the ballroom balcony, to various antics involving wardrobes, and unexpected arrivals, the whole thing is delightful whilst also covering upheavals and change over the decades of Alexander’s imprisonment, for that’s really what it is even if it’s a very grand prison.
I can’t say too much without spoiling this story, and while it may not hang on massive twists or revelations, there were certain points where I just didn’t see something coming, and each new discovery was a new pleasure. The Count is not one to sit idle, waiting on his status as ‘Your Excellency’, put it that way.
There are taunting one-eyed cats, out-of-control dogs, curious children, old friends and all manner of other creations. The Metropol’s door revolves and you just never know what or who is going to come into the Count’s life next, and how it will affect him.
In turning the final page of A Gentleman in Moscow I feel that I’m bidding farewell to old friends. I really didn’t want this book to end, and I can imagine venturing back into the world of Count Rostov for a re-read in the future.