A Gentleman in Moscow tells the story of Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat caught up in the Communist Revolution who endures house arrest at the Metropol hotel for decades. Rather than repining, the count becomes an enduring and endearing fixture at the hotel, serving as a waiter at the hotel restaurant, developing a relationship with one of Russia’s film starlets, and coming to the assistance of an earnest young lady when she needs it the most.
I finished this book over a month ago and haven’t ceased to think about the truth and goodness found in its pages and, above all, the sheer beauty of the unfolding story. The turn of phrase, the literary allusions, the memorable characters all contribute to the immersive experience. Without being preachy, the story depicts the tragedy of communism in Russia and the effects it has on the populace. I particularly enjoyed the scene where all the labels are removed from the wine bottles so that each vintage loses the ability to be perfectly paired with an entree. In the same way, the Communist Party’s leveling of individuality destroys the ability of each person to contribute their strengths.
The desultory, episodic style of the narrative, is part of its charm, and it is only as the story hurtles towards its end that all the bits and bobs fall into place, demonstrating that Amor Towles is a master of the novelist’s craft. So far, this is my favorite book of the year. Highly recommended.