A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel

by Amor Towles

Hardcover, 2016

Call number





Viking (2016), Edition: 1, 480 pages


"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..."--

Media reviews

Booklist July 1, 2016 In his remarkable first novel, the best-selling Rules of Civility (2011), Towles etched 1930s New York in crystalline relief. Though set a world away in Moscow over the course of three decades, his latest polished literary foray into a bygone era is just as impressive. Sentenced as an incorrigible aristocrat in 1922 by the Bolsheviks to a life of house arrest in a grand Moscow hotel, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is spared the firing squad on the basis of a revolutionary poem he penned as an idealistic youth. Condemned, instead, to live his life confined to the indoor parameters of Metropol Hotel, he eschews bitterness in favor of committing himself to practicalities. As he carves out a new existence for himself in his shabby attic room and within the magnificent walls of the hotel-at-large, his conduct, his resolve, and his commitment to his home and to the hotel guests and staff together form a triumph of the human spirit. As Moscow undergoes vast political changes and countless social upheavals, Rostov remains, implacably and unceasingly, a gentleman. Towles presents an imaginative and unforgettable historical portrait.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2016 Booklist

User reviews

LibraryThing member msf59
“Fate would not have the reputation it has, if it simply did what it seemed it would do.”

“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.
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LibraryThing member stellarexplorer
I’m not sure when I last read a book as delightful and smart as this one. Count Alexander Rostov, cultured young gentleman of the old Russian aristocracy, has run afoul of the new Soviet regime, and is sentenced to live under permanent house arrest in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol. And so ends the unfettered period in a formerly vigorous and expansive life. A novel that takes place almost entirely within one structure, however grand and intricate, might feel claustrophobic. Anything but! For the Count is a reservoir of deep inner strength, of manners, of commitment to an identity, and every page crackles with the authenticity of his personhood.

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.
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LibraryThing member tangledthread
I had a hard time getting into this book at the beginning, but as it progressed I became more engaged in the story and the many sub-stories within the book.

Resourceful 32 y.o. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the elegant Moscow Metropol Hotel and his residence is moved from a second floor luxury suite to the 6th floor belfry in 1922. His crime: being born into the Tsarist aristocracy. As Stalin's grip clenches Russia, the Count, after a bout of depression, goes about setting up a life within the confines of the Metropol. Nine year old Nina, who is also temporarily confined to the hotel, provides the key(s) that release him from depression and provides him with all he needs to create a world within the Metropol.

If one is confined, then one must set about establishing means to acquire life's essentials: food, beverage, clothing, meaningful work, and love. Alexander finds all of these things within the Metropol. He establishes relationships with the chef, the bar tender, the seamstress, a returning actress, and adult Nina returns to leave her daughter, Sophia, with the the Count.

There are many small stories within the larger story that enhance the entertainment value of the novel. There is a clandestine assembling of a secret midnight meal in the middle of the siege on Moscow during WWII. There is ongoing relationship with Soviet General Osip in which the Count mentors him in the underpinnings of western culture. That relationship turns to the Count's advantage in the end. There are several other entertaining sub-stories embedded in the book, which I found delightful.

The book is structured almost like Russian nesting dolls: time is condensed in the first and last part of the book, while the time periods between chapters expand outward in the center of the book, which is the time covering the Great Depression and WWII.

The author has done a great job of putting together a thought provoking, multilayered story, that requires a bit of suspension of disbelief.
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LibraryThing member TimBazzett
Hey, this book has already gotten over 2,500 reader reviews at Amazon and is still in the top twenty books there, so what the hell more can I say? Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian nobleman,is arrested by the Soviet secret police in the 1920s, designated a "former person," and summarily sentenced to permanent house arrest in the grand Metropol Hotel in Moscow, where he spends the next thirty years. Strangely, it is a richly full life, one which provides him with all kinds of loyal friends and even, most unexpectedly, a family of sorts.

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
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
2016, Penguin Audio, Read by Nicholas Guy Smith

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.

My Review:
“… 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.
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LibraryThing member Carmenere
"....several duly goateed officers of the current regime determined that for the crime of being born an aristocrat, I should be sentenced to spend the rest of my days....in this hotel." And so begins Count Alexander Rostov's peculiar/absurd punishment at the luxurious hotel Metropol in Moscow. A reader might think that a book of almost 500 pages recounting his day to day life in one building would be tedious, repetitive and dull. Not so! Rostov's imprisonment is anything but! In the early to mid 20th century, as the world outside the Metropol changes, the Count retains his aristocratic lifestyle while still befriending those from the working class. Intriguing, beautiful and beguiling guests of the hotel add spice to his life and there's never a reason for Rostov to be alone or listless. Author, Towles, delivers a masterful story. It's smart, it's well paced. The characters are lovable and there are some who are despicable. It is a marvelous read, one which should be savored and enjoyed.… (more)
LibraryThing member Clara53
A simply marvelous book: marvel of a plot and a distinctively uplifting writing style - mildly philosophical, but not overbearingly so. I have to say that the story simply tugged at my heart, without being melodramatic. The reader steps into the shoes of Count Rostov, a "Former person", an aristocrat, in those turbulent years after the Russian revolution and on, until 1954. What can be more inspiring than to find happiness in any circumstances, even under house arrest, to create a totally new life for oneself and not give your "prison guard" (KGB in this instance) the benefit of gloating over your circumstances that have changed so drastically with the change of government.... The character of Count Rostov reminds me in a way of another favorite protagonist - Erast Fandorin from Boris Akunin's novels (his ruminations, his sense of dignity, integrity and ethics have a similar feel...). A wonderful read.… (more)
LibraryThing member eyes.2c
Spell binding! Elegant!

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
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LibraryThing member EBT1002
Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is put under house arrest at a grand hotel in Moscow in 1922. This is the story of his life therein. The Count's life is peopled with a variety of engaging characters, exquisite wine and food, and all the usual travails of love and attachment. His heart is large, his capacity for joy and heartbreak consistent with his poet's soul. The story is wonderful. The writing is exceptional! I kept stopping to reread a sentence or two, relishing Towles' remarkable gift for putting a set of words together perfectly. This isn't stuffy, flowery prose. It is the finest application of the craft of writing. If I could give A Gentleman in Moscow more than five stars, I would not hesitate to do so.… (more)
LibraryThing member froxgirl
I flat out amor Amor Towles. I loved Rules of Civility and the followup e-story, but this might even be the better novel. The story itself - a White Russian count is sentenced to exile in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow (a real hotel, now in its 105th year!) when he returns from Paris during the Russian Revolution - is such a creative concept. But the execution is almost flawless, with the exception of perhaps a few too many characters. Count Alexander Rostov is everything one would want in a hero, and his family background, while privileged, does not seem to be excessively oppressive to the kulaks and peasants on the estate (although there is minimal information about this, so I judge only by his recollections). He is thoughtful, calm, and considerate of all whom he encounters in his limited hotel world. His flexibility extends to the Bolshevik regime, which is gently taunted by the count and the author.

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.
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LibraryThing member noblechicken
A bloated, bureaucratic novel, so much detail and some points a waste of words. The Count's story is an intricate one, and at times fascinating, quite visual and detailed. But sometimes it gets labored in the author's own sense of importance in the story. Sometimes the narrative flourish works charmingly well, other times it's just overblown, pretentious and wordy for its own sake. Clever or conceited? I'm obviously outvoted on this, but that is my take.… (more)
LibraryThing member sblock
Where to begin. I am a better person for having read this book.
LibraryThing member larryerick
Back in high school, one of my English teachers had us read a book by Nathaniel Hawthorne, which, as I recall, was The Scarlett Letter. When some of the students failed to go into rhapsody over it, she quickly informed us it was the perfect novel. I don't think any of us believed her, regardless of how much we may have tolerated having read the book. It didn't help that she never tried to explain to us why it was the perfect book, so... Up until now, I had no idea what she was talking about. This book may be the most beautifully crafted novel I have ever read. Is it new or exciting literature? Not really. One might go so far as to call it old fashioned. I thought back to Charles Dickens and George Eliot when I first started reading it. It has absolutely none of the flair of unreality that seems so popular now with the critics of modern fiction: Sanders' Lincoln in the Bardo, Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, Beatty's The Sellout, etc. On the other hand, this book has a consistently crafted and laid out narrative with a keenly distinguished set of characters throughout, all tied to together step by step with just enough new aspects and conflicts that the reader is rarely able to anticipate exactly what will happen next. Woven through out the book is commentary on communism, government in general, including bureaucracy and bureaucrats, and society's adjustments to whatever gets thrown its way. And yet, it never struck me as being the least bit preachy. Here's what people do, it would say, while letting the reader discover the judgments hidden in the string of words. Having said all this, I should acknowledge that this is one of those fairly rare times that I took the child's route to an adult book and listened to the audio book while reading along in the hardcover. An American writes a book about Russians and an Englishman reads it all to you. The audio narration was outstanding and a perfect complement to the words in the book.… (more)
LibraryThing member BDartnall
ount Alexander Rostov finds himself quickly becoming an anachronism in his own time: the Russian Revolution has resulted in a quickly changing political & societal landscape. Aristocrats and landed gentry families such as his are rapidly sinking in the rising tide of communist fervor and political change. In 1922, Rostov is found guilty by a Bolshevik tribunal (awkwardly, while he was a supporter of the pre-revolutionary efforts, noted by the committee, he continued to live as a gentleman, one of the 'leisure class' in a large suite at the Metropol Hotel). Rather than be sentenced somewhere in Siberia, the tribunal sentences him to indefinite house arrest: if he ever steps foot outside the Metropol Hotel, he will be arrested and shot. The Count is removed from his grand suite and takes up residence in some tiny garrett rooms near the belfry at the top floor of the hotel.
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!
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LibraryThing member ozzer
The film, Casablanca, plays a symbolic role in Towles’ engaging novel: A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW. The film serves to represent the book’s core theme: human connections and a well-lived existence can go a long way to redeem the cruelties of a blighted era. Nazis surround Bogart’s character, Rick, in one of the few remaining enclaves available to people seeking to flee the Germans. Yet he manages to survive quietly, even elegantly, running his café in Casablanca. Towles’ protagonist, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, is similarly trapped by the Soviets. His prison is Moscow’s elegant Metropole hotel. Like Rick, Rostov gallantly makes the best of his situation amply demonstrating humanity and resourcefulness. During one of his many viewings of Casablanca, the Count sees the parallel. In that scene, a group of drunken Nazis breaks out in a patriotic song. Rick’s patrons—most of whom are looking for ways out of the clutches of the Third Reich—begin to quietly respond with "La Marseillaise." Rick supports them by telling the orchestra to “play it.” As the patrons sing their now rousing version of the French national anthem, Rick uprights a tipped over glass while passing a table. For Rostov, this simple act says it all—“with the smallest of one’s actions one can restore some sense of order to the world.”

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.
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
I just finished A Gentleman in Moscow today. My general impression of his writing and overall approach when I read Rules of Civility, shortly after it was published in 2011, was that his work is highly readable, very enjoyable, filled with bookish references for steadfast booklovers and occasional readers alike. In this book, I felt throughout that I was listening to a beautiful fairytale which happens to be set in Moscow during the heart of the Soviet period, from the early 1920s through the mid-50s. That our hero, a former gentleman of consequence, has been put under house arrest for the rest of his life—at the risk of being instantly shot should he risk himself outside—is unpleasant enough, but our dear Alexander Count Rostov—and why is that name so familiar? Because of Nicolai Rostov in War and Peace naturally, W&P being among many great classics mentioned throughout the story; the Essays of Michel de Montaigne are also folded into the story; a similar approach was taken in Rules of Civility. The fate of such a man, forced to live in a tiny room in the attics of a luxury hotel, officially stripped of his title and social influence could have been rather glum, in a similar manner to one of the guests of Grand Hotel, whose days are uniformly lonely and predictable.

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.
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LibraryThing member ErickaS
A Gentleman in Moscow is a beautiful, engrossing story of Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat conscripted by a Bolshevik Tribunal to live out his days under house arrest in the Metropol, a luxury hotel within view of the Kremlin. Rostov, however, no longer is allowed to inhabit his sprawling suite, but must instead hole up in the small attic amongst the looming heirloom furniture. Rostov, however, maintains his dignity, never forgetting his ancestry or the honor of a gentleman.

Spanning the decades following the Russian Revolution, this is the story of Rostov as he experiences the changes in politics and society from the time of Lenin to Khrushchev. He maintains his sophisticated lifestyle; although he can never step outside the hotel. The characters within the Metropol show Rostov what life is like on the outside, and many become as close to him as family, especially a certain 8-year-old girl, who is both precocious and adoring, who changes his life forever.

This book is delicate, subtle, full of humor and pathos. Every small, seemingly insignificant detail has ramifications as the story progresses. This is an exploration of the changing political and social climate of Russia as it affected individuals, the importance of tradition, and the bonds that can form over the treasures of a shared past. Towles’ descriptions made the book come alive. I smelled the delectable bouillabaisse prepared with black market ingredients, I tasted the tartness of the whiskey sipped in the hotel bar after closing, I chuckled at the sharp retorts to uninformed politicos.

I absolutely adored this story. I hung on every word, every description of Russian delicacies, every anecdote of the Russian gentry. I recommended this book highly. Watch out 2017 Booker committee, you need look no further for your winner.
This review is also on flyleafunfurled.com.
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LibraryThing member Fliss88
Count Rostov is one of those special characters that some authors have the gift of bringing into our lives. He's a wonderful mix of personalities, a little bit Sherlock Holmes with an eclectic knowledge, a little bit Jeeves set in his gentlemanly ways and a little of the bon vivant Lord Peter Wimsey. He was a young man when accused by the Bolsheviks and forced to live for the next 30 years under house arrest in The Metropol Hotel. He lives a life of measured comfort, visited by his jailers, in the company of old friends and sees others come and go through his life like the seasons he watches from the window of his attic room. Life for Count Rostov is neither dull nor hash just controlled, yet in spite of all that is available to him he is lonely. Lonely until something unexpected happens. Something he never expected to happen. He gets a daughter.… (more)
LibraryThing member Dorritt
Unlike many of the novels I seem to end up reviewing, A Gentleman in Moscow doesn’t try to tackle big themes, instead devoting itself to an exploration of more modest virtues: humility, grace under pressure, moral courage, open-mindedness, empathy, the appreciation of beautiful things, modesty, loyalty, and love.

The book disguises itself as sociopolitical commentary – Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian nobleman of the old order, is forced to remain under “house arrest” in a Moscow hotel while zealous agents of revolution set about their communist agenda. Towles use of situational and verbal irony – applied with the deftest of brushes – draws attention to the absurdities and extremes of the socialist revolution without the necessity of crude satire or editorizing.

For the focus of this novel is not geopolitics, but the character of Count Rostov himself. How will the years of confinement shape him? Will he diminish as the world around him – his living conditions, his acqaintances, his access to worldly experiences– diminish? Or will he rise above the confinement to discover that “home” is a state of mind rather than a place, love a choice rather than a “fixed mark,” and grace a form of triumph rather than the embracing of defeat?

And then Towles surrounds the extraordinary character of Rostov with a cast of equally memorable and empathetic dramatis personae, each of them wrestling with their own versions of the same quandary: Anna Urbanova, the star of movies that seem to have no place in the “new order”; poet Mikhail Fyoderonch, whose passion for ideas tragically supersedes his passion for revolution; Nina, Rostov’s fellow confinee, whose proud self-assurance may result in her salvation or her destruction; Sofia, Nina’s daughter, whose gift for music may prove either a trap or a path to freedom; even the loyal and honorable employees comprising the hotel staff, struggling to adapt to a world in which service, quality, good manners and etiquette are gradually overthrown by crass convenience.

By almost any measure, A Gentleman in Moscow is a wonderful tale, made even more remarkable by Towles, exquisite prose, which is as infallibly erudite and self-effacing as Rostov himself. Let us not overlook, however, that it is merely the latest addition to a genre that includes such other remarkable works as Lampadusa’s The Leopard, Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, and Naipaul’s Mimic Men – all of which tell the story of extraordinary individuals facing the waxing of a new order and the waning of their own. As long as change and evolution remain inexorable, books will continue to be written about doomed causes mowed down by inescapable change – but, sometimes, we also get books like these, in which global uprisings and overturnings are made vividly and emotionally real, framed within the context of a single, extraordinary individual.
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LibraryThing member ethel55
This is the real deal. A story that builds a bit slowly at first, but becomes so mesmerizing, it was hard to put down as the years in the book passed. In 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to a house arrest at the Hotel Metropol in Moscow. Already in residence, he is only mildly surprised when his belongings are moved to a tiny attic bedroom. The characters that work at the hotel are a delight, and naturally become lifelong friends with the Count. The way Rostov adapts to his long sentence and how we learn about the goings on the outside (in a pretty tumultuous time in Russia) is what made the story so immensely readable.… (more)
LibraryThing member WeeziesBooks
A Gentleman in Moscow is a wonderful book. It seems hard to believe that the richness of the storyline and relationships between friends and acquaintances could be so compelling and intriguing when told in the context of one hotel, the Boyarsky, no matter how magnificent and historical. The character development of all of the characters was fully developed with personalities that made you want to sit and talk with them, or at the very least follow their personal day's activities. I strongly recommend this book and give it a rare 5-star rating.… (more)
LibraryThing member cindysprocket
Count Alexander Rostov and the Metropol will be missed.
LibraryThing member deeEhmm
Look - make no mistake, this is a fairy tale novel about a gentleman who actually embodies what we all wish a gentleman should be, just as the fairy-tale kings and queens actually embody noble qualities. Still, its delightful humor, sometimes thrilling drama, and rich historical underpinnings make it a wonderful read. Born into the aristocracy pre-revolution in Russia, the hero is sentenced for life imprisonment in a luxury hotel located across the street from the Kremlin. And through this lens, his life and the life of his nation unfold in intriguing, somber, and wondrous detail. Enjoy this today, critique it intelligently tomorrow. I promise I will read your review.… (more)
LibraryThing member rayski
Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat, is sentenced to life in a Moscow 5-star hotel at the start of the Bolshevik revolution. Rostov befriends a 9-year old girl Nadia who takes him back to his childhood, learning to live without privilege and the life of a commoner. Nadia grows up and returns to the hotel and leaves her 4 yr old daughter Sophie with Rostov who ends up raising Sophie to adulthood. In between Rostov befriends the hotel staff and becomes a close ally. The story is Rostov's, his transition from aristocrat to commoner and bachelor to unexpected father. In between some espionage, Russian revolution history and a daring escape.

Well written, great characters and a very enjoyable story that was easy to read.
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LibraryThing member hubblegal
It’s 1922 and the Bolshevik Tribunal has sentenced Count Alexander Rostov to house arrest due to writing a revolt-encouraging poem. He’s considered a hero to some or otherwise he would have been shot. His current residence is the Metropol so there he’s sent to serve his sentence. If he sets foot outside of the Metropol, he will be shot. He’s taken from the beautiful suite he was living in and is put in a small attic room. The hotel is a large one but as time goes on, the walls shrink in as Count Rostov longs to join the rest of the outside world. Count Rostov has gone from being a privileged aristocrat to a “Former Person”.

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.
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0670026190 / 9780670026197
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