Set across the span of several decades, A Gentleman in Moscow follows the life of Count Alexander Rostov. As a young man he is charged with by a Bolshevik tribunal with the crime of writing poetry as an aristocrat and only narrowly escapes an immediate execution. Instead, he is placed under house arrest at Moscow’s grand Metropol Hotel. There, he fills his days with reading, eating, making friends with the staff and other guests, and observing how the passing years change the political landscape of Russia.
Though the novel is almost entirely confined to a single building, the story never feels constricted; rather, Amor Towles finds a way to bring the entire world through the doors of the Metropol. An utterly absorbing read, A Gentleman in Moscow enchants from first page through the very last sentence.
“True, duels were fought by convention at dawn in isolated locations to ensure the privacy of the gentlemen involved. But were they fought behind ash heaps or in scrapyards? Of course not! They were fought in a clearing among the birch trees with a dusting of snow. Or on the banks of a winding rivulet. Or at the edge of a family estate where the breezes shake the blossoms from the trees . . . . That is, they were fought in settings that one might have expected to see in the second act of an opera. In Russia, whatever the endeavor, if the setting is glorious and the tenor grandiose, it will have its adherents. In fact, over the years, as the locations for duels became more picturesque and the pistols more finely manufactured, the best-bred men proved willing to defend their honor over lesser and lesser offenses. So while dueling may have begun as a response to high crimes — to treachery, treason, adultery — by 1900 it had tiptoed down the stairs of reason, until they were being fought over the tilt of a hat, the duration of a glance, or the placement of a comma.”
Amor Towles is the author of the novels Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he now lives in New York City.
Length: 462 pages
Set in: Moscow, Russia
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