Saturday, September 23, 2017

A gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

Although A gentleman in Moscow presents a somewhat sunnier view of the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the grimness of the Stalin years, and the onset of the Cold War than seems strictly merited, this book is utterly charming.  One falls in love with the indomitable Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who in 1922, at age 28, becomes a permanent guest (under house arrest) at the historic and luxurious Metropol Hotel in central Moscow.  As a member of the nobility and “Former Person,” his fame as the author of the 1913 poem, Where is it now? both causes his situation and perhaps saves him from a more dire fate, or at least Siberia, when he is called before the Emergency Committee of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs.  Making the best of his situation over the next decades, the Count settles into his routine, befriends various occupants of the famed hotel, and has lasting influence on all those he comes in contact with.  The book is filled with a cast of memorable characters, wry wit, and lovely writing.  It is a delight and surprise.  462 pp.

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