A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Genre: Literary fiction, historical fiction
A Gentleman in Moscow is a little different than what I normally read. I mean, I normally read young adult fiction. But whatever, I needed a change of pace. When I saw this at my local used bookstore, I had to pick it up because not only had I heard a lot of wonderful things about it, but I also adore almost anything Russian.
Before the Bolshevik Revolution, Count Alexander Rostov was an aristocrat. But now he’s been sentenced to house arrest for being just that and finds himself a permanent resident of the Metropol, a hotel located just across the Kremlin. But as he lives in the attic, the world keeps moving and the Count makes the most of his situation.
The Count’s story isn’t a short one. It spans across decades, from the dawn of the Soviet Union. I feel like books don’t do this as often as they once did, and maybe this is because I don’t read much contemporary literary fiction. But I like it because I feel like it helped me really connect to the Count because I didn’t just read about him for a really short period of his life. Instead, I saw him grow.
More importantly, the book is somehow charming and elegant and humorous, yet at the same time, its message isn’t limited to glamour. It humorous but at the same time there’s this philosophical undertone to it. It isn’t just a story. It’s about a man trying to find his purpose in a world that no longer wants him. How depressing.
It’s also set in a time period that I find completely fascinating. I guess I’m a little biased. I love the Russian language, Russian history, Russian architecture. It’s a fascinating country, so this was a book I could easily get into. But the Count is an admirable character. He is strong and he perseveres. He’s a man of elegance and prosperity who loses it all quite quickly. But he’s also self-sacrificing and kind. And then there’s this mystery about him that kept me reading.
But there were times when the book moved slowly, and sometimes, it was a little boring. But this happened very rarely. For the most part, it was intriguing and mysterious. For the most part, it kept me wanting to read more. Is it one of my favorite books? Probably not. But it was memorable, and it was good.