Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Book in a Nutshell: A political prisoner, Count Rostov, is sentenced not to a term in the Siberian gulags but to a life of confinement in the Metropolitan Hotel just steps away from the Kremlin in Moscow as Russia changes before his eyes under the Communist Revolution. Not unlike Tom Hanks stranded on an island with a volleyball, Rostov masters his surroundings and circumstances in the Hotel by claiming abandoned treasures found in the basement, memorizing the menus at both eating establishments, and developing life-giving relationships that make the only building he can know seem to house its own universe.

Reaction: A Gentleman in Moscow shines. The writing is excellent and poetic. The author is attached to alliteration but not in a way that annoyingly draws attention away from the action (see what I did there?). The characters keep you reading even when the story itself lulls.

What left me in deep thought throughout were the themes of time, culture, and change. Russia is changing and Rostov is expected to change with it. One can find many parallels in the Communist Revolution with our own experience in the early 21st Century as culture changes not at its usual, glacial rate but at blinding speed. Like good comrades, citizens face the demand to bend the knee and join the right side of history. Many of us will bend, but Rostov shows us true life might be found even in a caged life of confinement if one holds on to what really matters.

Quote: “I can’t help suspecting that grand things persist.”

Ranking: 5 out 5 stars

 

Thanks to Gretchen Wright for loaning me the book!

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