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Monday, October 3, 2016

Highly Recommended Reading: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Moscow, 1922. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, 32-years old, recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt, and resident of Suite 317 at the Hotel Metropol, Moscow, is a being prosecuted for political crimes before The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs. Despite being in jeopardy with the government, Count Rostov is something of a hero to the powers that be for penning a poem in 1905 that was interpreted as a call to revolutionary action. Subsequent events, however, have brought him under suspicion. The Committee deliberates, and concludes:

Alexander Ilyich Rostov, taking into full account your own testimony, we can only assume that the clear-eyed spirit who wrote the poem Where Is It Now? has succumbed irrevocably to the corruptions of his class-and now poses a threat to the very ideals he once espoused. On that basis, our inclination would be to have you taken from this chamber and put against the wall. But there are those within the senior ranks of the Party who count you among the heroes of the prerevolutionary cause. Thus, it is the opinion of this committee that you should be returned to that hotel of which you are so fond. But make no mistake: should you ever set foot outside of the Metropol again, you will be shot.

Thus, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov becomes a Former Person and full-time resident of the Metropol; and so the story begins, and it is terrific.

Count Rostov is, as was noted even by The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, charming. And it is with charm, intelligence, and humor, (and benefiting from a bit of foresight and emergency planning) that he begins his life in his new attic room at the Metropol, a first-class hotel located near the Kremlin and Bolshoi Theatre and patronized by visitors from around the world. Responding to his new, diminished space in the world, Rostov's connections expand to the people in the hotel, both employees and guests. These guests and employees bring to Rostov the pleasure of new and unexpected relationships as well as the tense and dangerous world of  Moscow in the mid-1920s through the mid-1950s.

A Gentleman in Moscow is written in the third person and the omniscient narrator makes his own charming and wise observations.
[Nina] leaned back in her chair and appraised the Count in a manner acknowledging that she may have underestimated him.
Now, when a man has been underestimated by a friend, he has some cause for taking offense - since it is our friends who should overestimate our capacities. They should have an exaggerated opinion of our moral fortitude, our aesthetic sensibilities, and our intellectual scope. Why, they should practically imagine us leaping through a window in the nick of time with the works of Shakespeare in one hand and a pistol in the other. But in this particular instance, the Count had to admit he had little grounds for taking offence.
A Gentleman in Moscow has many bookmark moments. It is a delightful novel that winds up with an exciting, and unexpected, conclusion. It is definitely a "you must read this" book.

1 comment:

  1. Amor Towles first novel, Rules of Civility, is also excellent.