NADINE MOORE REVIEWS A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW BY AMOR TOWLES
A SUNDAY TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2017
The story starts in 1922, where the genteel and most charming Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is under house arrest, in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. The Bolsheviks have seized power, the Aristocracy have been overthrown and our Count has been sentenced to stay within the walls of Moscow’s grandest hotel or face being shot. His crime? The writing of a provocative piece of poetry.
World events seem to pass the Count by, as we are enveloped in the minutia of his everyday life. The story focuses instead on the Count’s relationships with the staff of the hotel and its guests. The hotel itself, like one of Amor Towles’ well-formed characters, is described in evocative detail as the Count explores his labyrinthine prison. The political backdrop of the Bolsheviks rule is revealed only when it pervades the lives of the residents and staff of the hotel.
If you were expecting a page turning thriller, you would be disappointed. At times, I too felt a little trapped within the walls of the Metropol, such was the gentle pace of this story spanning three decades. It is true that this book does not come with a 3am binge reading warning, neither is it a book which will result in you forgetting to collect the children from school.
Rather, it is a tale that is whispered in your ear, with a central character that you can’t help but love as he proves that breeding will out. This clever and witty man is forever a gentleman, despite his deracination. Like a curious museum piece, he remains an exquisite reminder of a time the Bolsheviks would rather expunge from history. His deeds are what make him a gentleman, and it is these deeds that finally bring adventure to the door of the Metropol.
A Gentleman in Moscow is published by Cornerstone and is available from Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.