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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
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A Gentleman in Moscow (2016)

by Amor Towles

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So far, I am enjoying this book very very much. The point of view is at time laugh-out-loud and other times very droll in its humor...[in progress] ( )
  dbsovereign | Oct 18, 2017 |
ount Alexander Rostov finds himself quickly becoming an anachronism in his own time: the Russian Revolution has resulted in a quickly changing political & societal landscape. Aristocrats and landed gentry families such as his are rapidly sinking in the rising tide of communist fervor and political change. In 1922, Rostov is found guilty by a Bolshevik tribunal (awkwardly, while he was a supporter of the pre-revolutionary efforts, noted by the committee, he continued to live as a gentleman, one of the 'leisure class' in a large suite at the Metropol Hotel). Rather than be sentenced somewhere in Siberia, the tribunal sentences him to indefinite house arrest: if he ever steps foot outside the Metropol Hotel, he will be arrested and shot. The Count is removed from his grand suite and takes up residence in some tiny garrett rooms near the belfry at the top floor of the hotel.
What in the world takes up the next 440 pages? How can one man's years sequestered in a Moscow hotel be that interesting or absorbing? Here is the genius of Amor Towles - to so completely inhabit the cheery, cosmopolitan character of Rostov: his viewpoints, his musings over his past years & the twists and turns of Russian history, his enjoyable and serendiptious friendships with hotel staff, with regular and irregular visitors to the Metropol, with a famous Russian actress, with a curious 13 yr old named Nina, a frequent longterm guest with her parents, with an American ambassador, an American military attache, & even a powerful Politboro apparatchik who requires monthly dinners with Rostov, for years, to educate him in the viewpoints of "the privileged classes", especially of French & English. His extended observations (on points of honor, of the pleasures of good wine/ well prepared food, the delights of both the Russian countryside and its customs as well as those of Moscow, & the ebb and flow of consequences and human nature, for ex) are not tiresome, but so entertaining I willingly went down any rabbit trail from the plot. Stylistic masterful, subtly insightful, with a quietly heroic gentleman of Moscow- the book requires unhurried time, but once you submerge, you'll be glad you did! ( )
  BDartnall | Oct 10, 2017 |
A Gentleman in Moscow is the story of Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat who was sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol hotel during World War I. Alexander is a true well-mannered gentleman with a droll sense of humor that I found highly amusing. The prose was creative and also funny at times. One of my favorite lines, when the Count is trying to move a mattress:

“…the mattress was decidedly against it. When he bent over to lift the mattress from the bedsprings, it crossed its arms, held its breadth and refused to budge…he leaned it against the wall and warned it to stay put, if it knew what was good for it.”

There even better ones but I listened to most of the book on audio and didn’t make notes of them. I wish I had!

Because the Count is insulated in the hotel, not too much of the outside world is presented in detail. I was glad of that since Russia in the 1920s through the 1950s was not the happiest place. There were definitely some very serious and even tragic parts but they were balanced by the humor.

One aspect of the book I enjoyed is the Count’s friendship with Nina, which starts when she is nine years old and staying at the hotel with her father. She and the Count are so sweet and funny together. He is much like an older brother or uncle to her.

A Gentleman in Moscow was a pick for a book club I’m in and there was much to discuss at the meeting. For instance, could we have survived living in one place and never being able to even go outside for years on end? There were so many other questions to discuss but telling you what they were would lead to spoilers. You’ll just have to trust me that it’s a great book club selection.

Because I was rushing to get the book read in time for our meeting (poor planning on my part), I both listened to it on audio while driving, etc. and read it in print while at home. It was interesting to be able to compare and contrast each method of consuming the book. It was wonderful in print but even better in audio because the English narrator did a great job of delivering the Count’s little quips.

I love comedies of manners about the aristocracy and this fit the bill. It’s going on my list as one of the best books I’ve read this year. ( )
  mcelhra | Oct 9, 2017 |
This book was fun and charming, and perhaps twice as long as I would have ideally liked it to be. I think I also expected it to go into darker places, or have more plotline, but that wasn't really its point (as I eventually learned). This sentence from NPR's review sums up my thoughts pretty accurately, "A Gentleman in Moscow is like a quipping, suavely charming dinner companion that you are also a little relieved to escape at the end of the meal." ( )
  Abbey_Harlow | Oct 5, 2017 |
Being a "Former Person" in Moscow just after the Bolshevik Revolution was not a safe or desirable state. Count Alexander Rostov narrowly escapes the firing squad, but he is placed under house arrest at his current place of residence - the Metropol Hotel. Not only is he unceremoniously escorted back to the hotel, he is removed from his beautiful suite of rooms and relegated to a dusty, unused attic floor where a tiny space formerly reserved for personal servants of hotel guests. Over time, the Count not only finds a way to control his space, he manages to create a full life within the walls of his upscale "prison." Gathering an ever widening circle of dedicated friends, the Count establishes himself as a fixture of the Metropol. Luckily, it turns out he is right where he was meant to be, when an old acquaintance arrives unexpectedly with a gift he can neither refuse or return, and he would never want to.
This disarming, captivating book compels you to turn the pages ever faster while thrilling with its elevated style and delectable prose. I do not think Alexander Rostov will ever completely leave my mind and his truly amazing story will inspire me for years to come. It is not the situation you are handed, but what you chose to do with it and how you carry yourself within it that define who you truly are. ( )
  lissabeth21 | Oct 3, 2017 |
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Epigraph
How well I remember

When it came as a visitor on foot
And dwelt a while amongst us
A melody in the semblance of a mountain cat.

Well, where is our purpose now?

Like so many questions
I answer this one
With the eye-averted peeling of a pear.

With a bow I bid goodnight
And pass through terrace doors
Into the simple splendors
Of another temperate spring;

But this much I know;

It is not lost among the autumn leaves on Peter's Square.
It is not among the ashes in the Athenaeum ash cans.
It is not inside the blue pagodas of your fine Chinoiserie.

It is not in Vronsky's saddlebags;
Not in Sonnet XXX, stanza one;
Not on twenty-seven red...

                                    Where Is It Now? (Lines 1-19)
                         Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov    1913
Dedication
For Stokley and Esme
First words
At half past six on the twenty-first of June 1922, when Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov was escorted through the gates of the Kremlin onto Red Square, it was glorious and cool.
Quotations
Mindful of their surroundings, the three damsels would initially speak in the hushed voices of gentility; but swept away by the currents of their own emotions, their voices would inevitably rise, such that by 11:15, even the most discreet enjoyer of a pastry would have no choice but to eavesdrop on the thousand-layered complications of their hearts.
The crowded confusion of furniture gave the Count's little domain the look of a consignment shop in the Arbat.
Yes, some claimed Emile Zhukovsky was a curmudgeon and others called him abrupt. Some said he was a short man with a shorter temper.
It was a place where Russians cut from every cloth could come to linger over coffee, happen upon friends, stumble into arguments, or drift into dalliances—and where the lone diner seated under the great glass ceiling could indulge himself in admiration, indignation, suspicion, and laughter without getting up from his chair.
Tall and thin, with a narrow head and superior demeanor, he looked rather like a bishop that had been plucked from a chessboard.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670026190, Hardcover)

“The book moves briskly from one crisp scene to the next, and ultimately casts a spell as captivating as Rules of Civility, a book that inhales you into its seductively Gatsby-esque universe.” Town & Country

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

 
With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. Readers and critics were enchanted; as NPR commented, “Towles writes with grace and verve about the mores and manners of a society on the cusp of radical change.”

A Gentleman in Moscow
immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 01 May 2016 17:55:00 -0400)

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