""In all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight.this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility."--Kirkus Reviews (starred) From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility--a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. Readers and critics were enchanted; as NPR commented, "Towles writes with grace and verve about the mores and manners of a society on the cusp of radical change." A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count's endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose"--
“If patience wasn’t so easily tested, then it would hardly be a virtue...”
In 1922, at thirty years of age, Count Alexander Rostov, is placed under house arrest, for being a unrepentant aristocrat. He is to spend the next thirty years at the Metropol, a grand hotel, across the street from the Kremlin. This wonderful, beautifully written novel, chronicles the count's life, over these decades, inside this enclosed interior. As history unfolds outside, life remains insulated, although the Count learns to evolve with the times, in quiet, subtle ways.
I am going to be vague on the details of this story, so the reader may experience it, the way I did, with glorious ignorance, but there is so much to admire, between these pages but the biggest joy is seeing this world, through the eyes of the Count, one of the best fictional characters, I have ever encountered and it sure helps, that the Count is an obsessive reader, which we can all relate to.
Alexander Rostov, the unrepentant aristocrat who begins his house arrest in 1922, views the events of Russia's big change from an agrarian society to a world power with curiosity and humor against the backdrop of the Kremlin while enjoying exquisite meals and fine wine. It's amazing what can be seen from the lobby of a hotel. Count Rostov notes changes in literature, art, music, and fashion along with keeping an ear tuned to the political situation which was on everyone's mind and openly discussed in the comforts of the hotel. The supporting characters were a compelling cast of children, staff members, cultural icons, and the Russian bigwigs who commandeered the services and conveniences of The Metropol. Count Rostov interacted with all of them with the grace and charm of his upbringing and his love for country and the people in it.
I don't give many 5-star ratings; however, this is a book I could read over and over again and still be under the spell of the Count and his entourage. Most heartwarming was his relationship with his adopted daughter who gave him purpose in life and made him an even better man. There was so much warmth and love in this book juxtaposed with some of the horrors of living under a Bolshevik regime that it kept my interest piqued from beginning to end. I loved this book!
Edit | More
Publisher’s Summary: adapted from Audible.com
A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in an elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
“… if a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.” (18)
The Count’s elegant, impeccable manners and his distinguished diplomacy are a delight. And the novel’s numerous and varied characters are the perfect companion to the his endeavour to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose. In one of my favourite scenes, Rostov is explaining to young Nina how we owe the generations that have come before us a debt of gratitude – not simply the grand dukes and grand duchesses, but elders of all social classes who have come before us:
“The principle here is that a new generation owes a measure of thanks to every member of the previous generation. Our elders planted fields and fought in wars; they advanced the arts and sciences, and generally made sacrifices on our behalf. So by their efforts, however humble, they have earned a measure of our gratitude and respect.” (50)
Beautifully written, and so memorable. I was reminded more than once of Chekov’s short story “The Bet,” in which, ironically, a man’s imprisonment leads to his discovering the true meaning of life. Narrator Nicholas Guy Smith is extraordinary! Highly recommended.
A Gentleman in Moscow is not at all what I had expected, and I'm glad. Because it is that delightful kind of literary surprise that simply enchants its readers. I'm not often "enchanted" by a book, crusty old fart that I consider myself, but this book had that kind of magic to it, all 460-plus pages. That's quite a hat trick. But I loved all of it. Bravo, Mr. Towles. And all those rave reviews? Well deserved. My highest recommendation.
- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
From 1992, at age 30, until 1954, the count nurtures a talented young student, balances his old friends and the new authority, maintains a quirky romance with a passionate movie star, and eventually becomes the Head Waiter at the renowned Boyarsky Restaurant at the hotel.
The tale is told with such warmth and humor that we must forgive the author for going on a bit too long - it is to savor, like all the fine cuisine, drink, and loyal friendships that permeate this extraordinary novel.
This is an intelligently written book that manages to grab your heart as it teaches you about the Russian world and people. The cast of colorful characters are all absolutely delightful. There is much more humor in his newest effort than in his first book. This is also a very personal insight into the horrors of Russian rule. But the horrors don’t take center stage in Mr. Towles’ latest; rather the indomitable human spirit is in the spotlight and truly shines in this compelling book.
Amor Towles has surpassed his debut novel with this one and I don’t say that lightly as I loved “Rules of Civility”. I long to see “A Gentleman in Moscow” made into a PBS series. An uplifting, wise, completely charming novel and one of my personal favorites of 2016. Highly recommended.
This book was given to me by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I could not forget the realities of Stalinist Russia, the purges and genocides, the suspicions, the starvation. And World War II passes with barely a "poof." These horrors were always in the back of my mind as I read this book, and I found the novel to be a bit of a fairy tale. I guess I'm just a curmudgeon who doesn't do well with fairy tales--especially shortly after reading Darkness at Noon.
Apparently there is a more realistic book, a memoir, called The Girl from the Metropol Hotel, which is more realistic, and which I will seek out.
The superlatives reviewers have lavished on this novel are well deserved. This is an enthralling, all consuming window into life in Moscow from the pre 1920's through to the 1950's, from Stalin and the Bolsheviks through to Nikita Khrushchev.
We view the microcosm of what's happening in Russian history through the eyes of the man 'in the bubble' Count Alexander Rostov, who in 1922 was confined for life to the Metropol Hotel, across from the Kremlin, by a Bolshevik tribunal.
Mentored by his godfather and guardian, the Grand Duke Demidov, Alexander recalls the Grand Duke's words, 'if a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.' These words mark the way Alex moves forward.
How the sophisticated, urbane Count Alex handles his incarceration is wonderfully told. His acquaintances are like a panoply of stars spread out beneath Alex's new sky, the ceiling of the Metropol.
His meeting with, and continued relationship with the fascinating child Nina, the harsh realities of the changes in the politburo, the advancement of small minded individuals like the inept waiter the Bishop, contrasted to the kindliness of some of the more urbane true believers.
Of the many friends Alex makes amongst hotel staff four stand out; Andrey, the maître d’ of the Boyarsky Restaurant, Emile the chief, Vasily the concierge and Marina the hotel seamstress.
His world, in one fell swoop narrowed, is in reality enlarged through the people he becomes acquainted with. There are his friends from the past. The angst of his writer friend Mishka, an expert on Chekov. And not to be disregarded a new friend, the actress Anna Urbanova.
There's Nina the young girl who grows into a fervent young woman, typical of her generation committed to the communist ideals. Her fanatical absorption with change for the common good that at times prove disastrous reflecting the broad sweep of political, social and economic change that forgot to involve the people and it's way replaced one tyranny with another.
A startling set of circumstances give him Sofia, the child he was to mind for a month, the daughter he unexpectedly acquires. She brings light and meaning to his life.
Abram the handyman he encounters on the roof and from whom he learns the secrets of coffee and the miracle of the bees. A wonderful interlude that helps Alex retain his equilibrium.
And the others, Osip Ivanovich Glebnikov, a former colonel of the red army, a Party man who comes to Alex to be educated in understanding the privileged classes of those countries Russia wants to enter into economic and political discussions with. England, France and America...and how they view the world. The American psyche needed to be understood. For over fifteen years they read literature, discussed and watched films together. Their run down on Casablanca is superb.
A life lived within the confines of the hotel that Alex somehow ironically lived to the full, discovering new emotional truths, new revelations.
Layers within layers are revealed within the story like the Russian nesting dolls Alex at one time unwraps, layers of meaning and revelation that are just as painstakingly and beautifully crafted.
This novel is pure poetry, gift wrapped in vivid and taut prose.
An amazing read!
A NetGalley ARC
What in the world takes up the next 440 pages? How can one man's years sequestered in a Moscow hotel be that interesting or absorbing? Here is the genius of Amor Towles - to so completely inhabit the cheery, cosmopolitan character of Rostov: his viewpoints, his musings over his past years & the twists and turns of Russian history, his enjoyable and serendiptious friendships with hotel staff, with regular and irregular visitors to the Metropol, with a famous Russian actress, with a curious 13 yr old named Nina, a frequent longterm guest with her parents, with an American ambassador, an American military attache, & even a powerful Politboro apparatchik who requires monthly dinners with Rostov, for years, to educate him in the viewpoints of "the privileged classes", especially of French & English. His extended observations (on points of honor, of the pleasures of good wine/ well prepared food, the delights of both the Russian countryside and its customs as well as those of Moscow, & the ebb and flow of consequences and human nature, for ex) are not tiresome, but so entertaining I willingly went down any rabbit trail from the plot. Stylistic masterful, subtly insightful, with a quietly heroic gentleman of Moscow- the book requires unhurried time, but once you submerge, you'll be glad you did!
Towle's writing is superb. The characters are vividly drawn, the mundane becomes interesting, and the history is fascinating. Well-researched, well-written, probably the book I have most enjoyed reading this year.
The writing here is impeccable. Many times I was tempted to turn to those around me to read a particularly enchanting passage. It was hard to do so, because such lines are the fulfillment of a chain of description and preparation, of which the felicitous ending is but the fitting culmination. The prose is charming, concise, unadorned, and elegant.
This is a book of sublime miniatures: A sister’s silver scissors fashioned in the shape of an egret has a golden screw at the pivot representing an eye. And immense ideas as well. The vastness of inner life confronts the constraint of the external. Enduring values are set against the inevitability of change. Tolstoy’s view of history gurgles always in the background, as the reader grapples with the relationship of individual action with the impenetrable play of events.
I laughed, I cried and I called out in appreciative satisfaction. Loose ends duly tied up, with interest. A banquet served in words, best savored slowly. This is everything a book should be. Run, don’t walk.
Towels deals with the many upheavals in Russia during the period covered by his novel (1920’s-1950’s) obliquely. These events are there, but become just background noise for the Count’s efforts to be a man of purpose and not just “former person.” Rostov is indeed a renaissance man. He knows wine, food, literature and especially manners. Despite being confined to a small former maid’s room, Rostov makes do with humor and probity and in the process, transforms the servants of the Metropole into confidants and friends. Along with Emile and Andre, he forms the triumvirate of the hotel’s Boyarsky restaurant. He develops a close and romantic relationship with the stunning actress, Anna Urbanova; has a tense relationship with the bumbling Bishop, the restaurant’s loyalist headwaiter; and supports Mishka, his poet friend while he battles governmental censorship. These pale, however, by comparison to the close ties he develops with two precocious young girls, Nina Kulikova and her daughter Sofia. These intelligent and gifted girls give the Count a much needed sense of satisfaction and the courage required to resist.
Towles’ third person narrative is episodic and provides enough wonder and entertainment to satisfy any reader. We have secret panels filled with gold coins, closets that open into adjacent rooms, jugglers in the kitchen, pass keys that allow all kinds of shenanigans, one-eyed cats, dueling pistols, stolen passports, a ruby necklace, a small attic room with a suspended bed, a barbershop reminiscent of Switzerland (“a land of optimism, precision and political neutrality.”), thirty phones ringing simultaneously, and on and on. The narrative moves playfully backward and forward to provide enough backstory and character development to provide a charming and delightful read.
Grand Hotel, which was made into an Oscar-winning film in 1932 starring Greta Garbo, John Barrymore and Joan Crawford (among others!) is a wonderful 1929 classic novel by German author Vicky Baum set of course in the 1920s, and I am certain Towles must have studied this book closely for his latest novel. As it happens, I read Grand Hotel just this last year, and kept a very good memory of it (unusual, that). It roundly deserved to be included on my favourites of 2016 list and would have made the list of whatever other year I might have picked it up in. Visions too of Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel in its more sober moments perhaps (everything being relative). This no doubt because of the novels intense visual component, and I would be surprised if it wasn't eventually made into a feel-good movie. I'd say Towles' genius is that he takes familiar tropes and with his own very clever way twists them into pleasant tales that make us travel in time and feel hopeful about life. Not a bad thing at all, goes without saying.
A Gentleman in Moscow will stay with me for a long time. Amor Towles has written a beautiful, at times heart-breaking, story that I could not put down. Count Alexander Rostov has easily become one of my favorite protagonists of all time.
I was so excited to read this novel from the minute I learned it was being published. I loved Rules of Civility and could not wait to see what Towles would write next. The danger in such anticipation is that a book can rarely live up to that type of expectation. A Gentleman in Moscow not only met my expectations, but instead far surpassed them. I have read many wonderful books so far this year, and this novel is at the top. Towles writes so cleverly and lyrically, and I felt that I was at the Metropol with Rostov and his many friends. His use of footnotes and foreshadowing added so much to the tale. I have thought a lot about the ending, and without spoiling it, I have come to terms with it though I keep debating with myself whether I would have wished it were a little different.
Towles incorporates so much about life under Bolshevik and later Communist rule in Russia. While I was familiar with the general history of Russia during that time period, I certainly had not thought through how completely isolating it must have been to live there following the Russian revolution and how much truly changed for most Russian citizens (even those who were not enemies of the state).
If you do not read another book this year, read A Gentleman in Moscow. I give it my highest rating.
Count Rostov is an ultimate gentleman, a man of habits, good manners, and a positive outlook. He meets many individuals in the hotel and has occasional visitors including his long-time friend, Mishka, a poet. One very special "friend" is a young girl, Nina, whom he grows to love and enjoys many of her childhood adventures. Years later, Nina returns with her own daughter for Count Rostov to keep safely as she travels to where the husband/lover is imprisoned (probably Siberia). Sofia is five years old. The last half of the book is the life of Sofia and the Count as she grows into a talented and refined young woman thanks in part to the help of Anna, a glamorous actress who also becomes a vital part of the Count's life.
The story is interesting in that the background to almost all that takes place is the history of Russia through the War and the tenure of Khrushchev. Although not what I would call a page-turner, the story is "charming" in the relationship between Rostov and those around him. There is humor, history, and overall good writing.