ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Amor Towles was born and raised in the Boston area. He graduated from Yale University 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.
On 21 June 1922 Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol.
But instead of being taken to his usual suite, he is led to an attic room with a window the size of a chessboard. Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely.
While Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval, the Count, stripped of the trappings that defined his life, is forced to question what makes us who we are. And with the assistance of a glamorous actress, a cantankerous chef and a very serious child, Rostov unexpectedly discovers a new understanding of both pleasure and purpose.
I postponed writing a review for a couple of months. It wasn’t a choice made due to lack of reading material, but only a result of the mere fact that I haven’t had the time to sit down and put my thoughts together. After reading A Gentleman in Moscow though, I just had to make the time to share my opinion. Towles bestows on us a language to be treasured; a story to be remembered. The novel is a remarkably enchanting narrative with a charming character. A gentleman, Rostov, has been put under hotel arrest. For the next several years, as he serves his time, relationships are cultivated from employees to guests to the visitors he receives and to a young girl whom he becomes a guardian for.
Lately, I’ve been yearning for a special read like this. I savored it in one big, yummy, entertaining gulp and it was the most enthralling experience I have had. Towels has a special way of transcending you into his universe that is a hundred thousand times more intense to the senses. I tasted every meal, smelled every smell… breathed every breath through the words of the author. Every sentence is so intense, that it is almost impossible not to imagine the novel as a living organism that provokes, engages and moves you ona path of palpable realism that makes fall in love with the world again.
Being born in Eastern Europe right after the fall of communism, one is raised to live with the memories of a different life. You cannot escape the stories of the older generations. and although you didn’t have the experience first hand you a raised to exist with it. It is an unexplainable syndrome that both stigmatizes and frees you. Russia became symbolic of the spread of communism throughout the world…..resulting in the end of all aristocracy.
A transformation of life that was so drastic that most people fell into a state of numbness. Until, they realised what the regime really meant.
Not only was Rostov’s aristocracy being stripped away, but his self-expression and freedom of speech was being taken from his as well. He wrote poetry…..and a poem called “Where Is It Now”…..[I thought about this interesting title for some time]. As in where does Court Rostov stand now?
Rostov “has succumbed irrevocably to the corruptions of his class”, according to
The People’s Commissariat For Internal Affairs in Moscow 1922.
A Gentleman in Moscow provided beautiful imagery and a thought-provoking dialogue on the rise of communism in Russia over a period of about 30 or so years, beginning in 1922. It was an exquisite experience to reminisce at the insights of Count Rostov related to world events, especially considering that he was confined to a large hotel for the majority of his adult life. He was an intriguing and remarkable personality.
Beyond all else, Count Rostov remained a gentleman. At times, his focus on manners and his devotion to various formalities seemed ridiculous. After all, he was essentially imprisoned in a gilded cage. But still the whole book echoed of an era long gone; and era we terribly need today.
This beguiling book achieves for me what I tend to seek in all literature, a roadmap of how to live life. The story of Count Alexander Rostov living his life in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel after being sentenced by the Bolsheviks to house arrest in the early 20’s was delightful and charming. He shows us how to adapt to misfortune and strive to bring out the best in people. He reveals for us how to be a true aesthete, one who discerns the beauty in the smallest things around us, appreciates the wonder of human creativity, and forges forgiveness for human folly. The wonderful character Towles has invented makes for a wonderful model of the perfect gentleman. Against all the horrors of Stalinist totalitarianism, his form of individualism makes for a brave and potent subversive force.