Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

I was introduced to the existence of this book by my blogging buddy, Lisa. I believe she introduced A Gentleman in Moscow by saying that anyone who reads this book and discovers that they do not like it ought not to tell her. That's fairly high praise coming from her and so, with that endorsement, I went ahead and purchased a copy.

If you are unfamiliar with this story please allow me the introduction. Chiefly you should know that it is exceptionally well-written. Truly, not much happens between the pages of this book that could be considered wildly exciting (by some people's standards). It is not a thriller or a mystery but a marvelously written account of one fictionalized Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov who is placed under house arrest inside the Metropol Hotel in Moscow in 1922. The reason for this sentence is due to a poem which was published in his name in 1912. The Bolsheviks weren't altogether fond of the poem and wished to punish Rostov. Instead of sentencing Rostov to Siberia - or to death - they place him under house arrest. He is warned that if he is ever to set foot outside of the Metropol he will be shot. The entirety of the book recounts the thirty plus years of his captivity, or, life inside the hotel.

I realize that the story might sound a bit dull on its face but it is most definitely not. The Count is forced to adapt with the changes in the political winds over the years and he has to find his own joys and contentment in being part of the small but glamorous world of the hotel. His likes and loves can still be explored and enjoyed although his freedom is limited. He makes friends, establishes connections, and takes comfort in relationships and a well-ordered life. To a large extent, I feel incredibly unqualified to be writing a review of this book because Towles is a master of the written word. What could I possibly write to describe his skills as a storyteller?! You are far better off finding a copy of the book and reading it for yourself.

One thing I particularly appreciated about A Gentleman in Moscow was that it somehow contains the magical ability to pace the reader. Trust me, I can fly through books when I am enjoying them but this one wouldn't let me! For reasons inexplicable, this book wants to be read in tiny bites and not in chunks. Curiously, as you are learning about Rostov over the course of thirty years of his life, you want to take your time to get to know both him and his world. I can't claim that I devoured this book in the way that I have any number of other stories. I wasn't "in control" of the read insomuch as it was in control of me in that it set the pace and I followed. I read a chapter here and a chapter there up until the final three chapters where I found myself unable to put it down. The end is exceptionally satisfying. I'll warn you that when you arrive at the end of the book, prepare to be fully engaged with the story such that you will feel an overwhelming desire not to be bothered with anyone or anything until you have completed the read. Warn the people around you not to take offense with your preoccupation.

Would I also recommend A Gentleman in Moscow alongside Lisa? Absolutely. It is charming, insightful, interesting and informative, and the characters are people you will want to know. I loved it from beginning to end. Don't be surprised if I mention this as one of my top favorite reads of 2018. It's really quite spectacular. Grab a copy. If you read it and you find that you don't like it quite as well as I did . . . well . . . just don't tell me!


Beth said...

This was one of my favorites of 2017. I was sorry when the story ended.

Annette Whipple said...

I just reserved the audio book. I need more book (text or audio) recommendations! What else have you loved recently...or a long time ago?

Barbara H. said...

This sounds very interesting!

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

This has recently come across my radar, and now that I’ve read your review (which I got wind of via Goodreads! ����), I must read it! Now if I could just figure out a way to put my words on hold for a day or three. ��

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Not words—world ��

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes to this book. I read this last month and was taken into a different world. A plus for me was the book inspired me to look up points of Russian history as they came up. - Abbie

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