A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow is the 2nd novel by Amor Towles and was published in late 2016. An unexpected delight, I stumbled into this novel accidentally and I’ve walked away with that feeling of enrichment that only great literature can provide. The main protagonist is Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov – sentenced to house arrest in 1922 for writing a poem. My kind of rebel. Rostov is sentenced to live out his days in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol and is labeled a “Former Person”. What was interesting to me was that while Russia’s political landscape changed outside of the Hotel Metropol (Lenin, Stalin, Malenkov, and Khrushchev all figure in this novel), the human interactions within the hotel are blissfully unencumbered by turmoil. How does an aristocrat go from traveling the world to living out his days under house arrest? “If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them” our main character tells us. Along the way we learn about Russian history, meet Rostov’s friends, lovers, and even his daughter. The family history and flashbacks were winning sequences. The frantic adventures and hipster intellectual dialogue reminded me quite a bit of a Wes Anderson film. I could see with my mind’s eye vivid colors, a soundtrack, and felt emotions rising within me as the novel raced towards its climax. The conclusion offers a bit of a twist ending that isn’t resolved in a deux ex machina way. The years pass quickly in the 400+ page novel and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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