If you missed this one in hardcover, now is the time to grab a copy in paperback! True to all the hype, Amor Towles has written a masterpiece. I loved the premise of a Russian aristocrat being under house arrest for life in a fancy hotel due to a controversial poem he supposedly had written when he was younger. A Gentleman In Moscow is the story of Count Alexander Rostov, and his life in the Metropol Hotel, from the 1920s on. Friendship, connection, loyalty and the ultimate pursuit of how to live, are beautifully explored with Towles’s skillful storytelling; while the elegant aristocrat creates a life for himself inside the hotel, 30 crucial years of Russian history were happening in the outside world.
I was late to the party in taking on this rather large book, but when I recently learned it took place in a hotel I was intrigued. Initially Thurston Hall at George Washington University (a former hotel turned dorm) came to mind, and then I thought of Zach and Cody (of Disney Channel fame 2005-2008) and their suite life in the Tipton Hotel in Boston. In A Gentleman In Moscow, Alexander Rostov was not allowed to leave the premises of the fancy hotel across from the Kremlin, but lucky for him there was a restaurant and bar, seamstress and lots of rooms to discover and explore. The elements of glamour softened the blow of being incarcerated and unable to go outside, yet in my mind I questioned whether Rostov’s sentence was really a punishment or was it protection from the harsh realities of Russia outside the Metropol doors during that time. The pace of the book was on the slower side, not the kind of story you read in a day but rather the kind you savor and reread as you go, as one might do when there is nothing else to tend to and no place to go. It meandered around the Metropol with wonderful stories, descriptions and character exploration. I felt as if I were actually wandering around the different rooms and stairwells and experiencing life in the elegant Russian hotel myself. I enjoyed how the Rostov found a way to continually learn, grow and enjoy his life, develop many relationships, and dress, eat and live well, all under a strict, watchful eye and government punishment. A Gentleman in Moscow was a beautiful combination of a fictional, highly imaginative story paired with important Russian history… and a unexpected surprise at the end! I highly recommend!
CBS This Morning’s correspondent, Elizabeth Palmer visits the Metropol Hotel with Amor Towles and you can plan a stay there too!
In April 2018 it was announced there would be a tv production of A Gentleman In Moscow. No news since then, but here is the article.
About the Author:
Born and raised in the Boston area, Amor Towles graduated from Yale College and received an MA in English from Stanford University. Having worked as an investment professional in Manhattan for over twenty years, he now devotes himself fulltime to writing. His first novel, Rules of Civility, published in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback and was ranked by the Wall Street Journal as one of the best books of 2011. The book was optioned by Lionsgate to be made into a feature film and its French translation received the 2012 Prix Fitzgerald. His second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, published in 2016, was also a New York Times bestseller and was ranked as one of the best books of 2016 by the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the St. Louis Dispatch, and NPR. Both novels have been translated into over fifteen languages.
Mr. Towles, who lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children, is an ardent fan of early 20th century painting, 1950’s jazz, 1970’s cop shows, rock & roll on vinyl, obsolete accessories, manifestoes, breakfast pastries, pasta, liquor, snow-days, Tuscany, Provence, Disneyland, Hollywood, the cast of Casablanca, 007, Captain Kirk, Bob Dylan (early, mid, and late phases), the wee hours, card games, cafés, and the cookies made by both of his grandmothers.