A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, the author of Rules of Civility, is a stylishly crafted novel of mystery, romance, humor, and history.
In 1922, a Bolshevik tribunal sentences Russian aristocrat Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov to house arrest in the venerable Hotel Metropol located in the heart of Moscow. This is a better alternative for Rostov than the firing squad or Siberia, but it is nonetheless life in prison, albeit a very nice prison.
However, the elaborately mustached Count Rostov is not one to grouse about his circumstances. After all it isn’t room arrest, so the Count is free to roam about the premises, dine with hotel guests, explore the nooks and crannies of the massive building with his precocious young friend Nina who possess that wonder of wonders, a skeleton key, and charm the staff, who have been instructed to call him comrade, which they never do.
The Metropol is an oasis in the harsh landscape of early 20th C Russia, but not immune from revolutionary edicts. In a particularly funny episode, Rostov discovers to his horror that the comrades have removed the labels from the 100,000 bottles in the hotel’s wine cellar in a misguided attempt at equality. There is either red wine or white wine.
Rostov is wistful about his former circumstances, but never self-pitying. Despite his restrictions, he creates a satisfying and surprising life.
A delightful read!
Who Wrote It
Amor Towles was born and raised in the Boston area. He graduated from Yale and received an MA in English from Stanford University. An investment professional for over twenty years, he now writes fiction full time in Manhattan where he lives with his wife and two children. He is the author of The New York Times bestseller, Rules of Civility.
What Other Reviewers Say
The San Francisco Chronicle “And the intrigue! … [A Gentleman in Moscow] is laced with sparkling threads (they will tie up) and tokens (they will matter): special keys, secret compartments, gold coins, vials of coveted liquid, old-fashioned pistols, duels and scars, hidden assignations (discreet and smoky), stolen passports, a ruby necklace, mysterious letters on elegant hotel stationery… a luscious stage set, backdrop for a downright Casablanca-like drama.”