A Gentleman in Moscow has been on my radar ever since it first came out in 2016 simply because I thoroughly enjoyed Amor Towles first book, Rules of Civility. It took my book club assigning it as our October read though, to finally force me to fit it into my reading schedule.
And I’m so glad they did.
I love Russian history and lit, especially pre-revolution to WWII, which is where this book sits so neatly. The idea is fascinating – a former Count committed to house arrest, when he falls foul of the new leadership, in ‘that hotel of which you are so fond. But make no mistake: should you ever set foot outside of the Metropol again, you will be shot’ .
What might have been a story about Count Rostov’s slow descent into madness and depression confined within the walls of one hotel for the rest of his life, is actually a delightful reminder of how to pay attention to the small details, make the best of a bad situation and how to find joy, purpose and meaning in the world around you, no matter how confined. In fact, confined is the wrong word.
Rostov had the happy knack of enlarging his small world. He befriended guests, staff, children and was regularly visited by friends. He explored every inch of the hotel to discover its secrets, mysteries and beauties. He created work for himself and learnt to live with less stuff. He lived a rich and fulfilling life within the walls of the Metropol, until he couldn’t anymore.
If you love historical fiction and you’re looking for a charming, nostalgic story to while away a few lazy days, then this is the one for you. It’s undemanding but entrancing at the same time. I loved it from start to finish.
If you’re looking for an accurate, or insider’s view, of the Russian revolution, then look elsewhere. Hints about what is happening outside the hotel seep in, but very little detail is provided, no doubt deliberately.
You can visit Amor Towles’ blog where he answers various questions about the writing of this book including the diamond shape that structured his story as well as the doubling of time until the halfway mark where it then reverses and halves. I didn’t pick up on either of these features during the reading of the book, but it was satisfying to read about them after I had finished.
If you’d like to discuss the ending with me in the comments, please fell free, just add **spoiler alert** – thanks.