We meet Count Alexander Rustov in June of 1922, as he is pronounced guilty of having written a poem that was felt to incite potential action against the Kremlin. He is sentenced to house arrest, but as it happens, his “house” is the Metropol Hotel, one of Moscow’s finest international hotels. As he is resettled into a much smaller room than the one to which he’s grown accustomed, he adjusts his life and his expectations to the confines of his restricted quarters. When he very soon meets a young girl of 9 years named Nina, his life changes dramatically and he learns that life can lead you in very unexpected directions even when you cannot leave the very confines of your home.
The writing in this book is absolutely gorgeous. While the story is related with the lofty verbiage to which a count of Rustov’s caliber and sophistication is accustomed, Amor Towles blends wit and warmth with such mastery that the result has the reader smiling throughout the many pages of this book. Here is an example of the imagery that is used so brilliantly:
“Like the wheeling of the stars… That is how time passes when one is left waiting unaccountably. The minutes relentless. And the seconds? Why, not only does every last one of them demand its moment in the stage, it insists upon making a soliloquy full of weighty pauses and artful hesitations and then leaps into an encore at the slightest hint of applause.” (P 353)
In addition, each of the characters adds much color to the palate of this book. As Alexander insinuates himself into the inner workings of the hotel, he befriends staff and guests alike, and the reader has the pleasure of their company as well. The setting inside the hotel also gives the reader an appreciation of the interplay between Russian international relations and the insular attitude of communism.
I don’t often categorize books as “Must Reads” because I feel this should be kept exclusive, but I’m doing it here. A Gentleman in Moscow is absolutely a “MUST READ!”