Count Alexander Rostov is lucky to escape the tumultuous Russian Civil War with his life. When a Soviet tribunal sentences him to, essentially, house arrest in the Moscow luxury hotel he’s been living in, Rostov knows he’s been spared, but life as he knows it is still over. That is, until he meets an unusual little friend. . . .
Our adult book club read this book a couple of months ago, and Julie suggested I give it a try. She’s not the first to do so. I’ve had quite a few people over the years recommend it to me, and I’m glad I finally read it. Thanks so much to Julie and everyone for the great recommendation!
Towles is a fantastic stylist with a sophisticated, lyrical, witty bent that’s still accessible, and his sentences are a real pleasure to read. I’ve been chuckling over one of his sentences about commas and periods all week. His characters–which range from the elegant count to the quirky assortment of workers who run the hotel–are, for the most part, immensely likable. The omniscient narrator is a throwback to the all-knowing narrative voices of the 19th century, and Towles imbues his narrator with a lot of the same charm and wit that the count possesses.
I think the book is quite charming and look forward to reading more of Towles’s work, though I did think that his Soviet setting here was not particularly realistic. (Confession: I know a perhaps disturbing amount about Russian/Soviet history. Just ask my poor long-suffering coworkers. 😁) The idea that the count, in his precarious situation, would be able to escape some of the most dramatic and tragic events in Soviet history for decades and continue to live a life of relative gentility isn’t particularly believable to me. Towles clearly knows some facets of Russian and Soviet history, but I felt like the book was far more successful at evoking the world the count used to know rather than the one he currently lived in.
Still, if you can suspend disbelief about the setting, it’s a very enjoyable book, full of lovely prose and intriguing characters as it delves into timeless themes about friendship and what exactly makes a home a home. And if you read it now, you’ll be ahead of the game when the Showtime adaptation of it starring Ewan McGregor hits screens later this year!
Are you a fan of Amor Towles’s work? Have you read A Gentleman in Moscow? What have you been reading lately? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on this item or to place it on hold.