A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles has been on my TBR list for awhile now. I have heard so many great things about it that I was concerned it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. In the end, I wasn’t sure if it did.
This book has been described as “beautifully written”…it is. The Wall Street Journal said “The novel buzzes with the energy of numerous adventures, love affairs and twists of fate.”…it does. I’ve heard that it “has all the feels,”…I laughed, I cried.
Yet still, I was a little unsure of it, until I started writing this post. At times it seemed a little long (the story spans 30 years). Yet I’m not sure what could be cut without damaging the story. Some of the “addendums” felt a little tiresome, but yet I learned so much of Russian history and about the characters themselves. Looking back, they do seem necessary.
There were some great quotes to be found among the pages:
“Imagining what might happen if one’s circumstances were different was the only sure route to madness”
“Jazz seemed a naturally gregarious force – one that was a little unruly and prone to say the first thing that popped into its head…”
“Judge a gentleman by his bearing, his remarks and his manners. Not by the cut of his coat.”
And many more that I just can’t recall.
The story itself is long and twisting, with many interesting characters, all described from Count Alexander Rostov’s point of view. Who is he, you ask? He is an aristocrat, sentenced to a life sentence under house arrest in the luxury hotel across from the Kremlin. Except for a few brief paragraphs here and there, the entire story takes place over 30 years, inside the Metropol. This high-end hotel boasts suites, a bar, two restaurants, a barbershop and a huge wine cellar. Do a quick google search of the Metropol, the pictures will amaze you!
As the reader, we spend all this time with the Count, as he creates a very habitual existence in this limited space, conversing and building relationships with both staff and hotel guests. I love his pretentious observations, so much so he often made my chuckle out loud. In one scene in particular, during the rising of the communist party, he is attempting to order a very specific wine to pair with his meal. He and the waiter spar back and forth until it is finally clear to him that his choices are now only red or white. How would one know, “A Chardonnay to complement a Camembert or a Sauvignon Blanc to go with some chèvre?” (trust me, it was funny)
I listened to A Gentleman In Moscow as an audio book, and I loved the narrator (Nicholas Guy Smith). His accent was wonderful, and added to the amusingly pretentious quality of the Count. It was a pretty hefty time commitment, almost 18 hours, and throughout the entire book I wondered if it was “worth it”. But now, I can’t help but think I would actually like to re-read it. Reading it in book format would allow me to appreciate the quotes, the descriptions and anything else I may have missed while listening. I do happen to own this book, so guess what was just added to my Fall TBR list?!?!?
Grab your own copy and you can read it with me. When the days start getting shorter and colder, you’ll be looking for an excuse to snuggle with a blanket and a cup of tea. Or better yet, grab a nice bottle of wine. This bottle would have pleased Count Rostov, and it’s only $250 a bottle!