A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles - Book Review


A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Reviewed by Amanda Kennedy on April 1st, 2017
Published by Penguin

“After all, what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration—and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.”

The year is 1922 and there are no longer ruling classes in Moscow. Only Comrades.

Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov has been sentenced to House arrest at the famed Moscow Hotel Metropol. Once of the landed elite, he is forced to shun his former privilege to spend the remainder of his days in a tiny box room in the servant's quarters in this once majestic hotel.

Count Rostov attends to his role with the utmost dignity, the epitome of a gentleman as suggested by the book's title. Rather than mourn or rail against the unfairness of his situation, he seems to see this as a new opportunity and embraces his new life, making new friends and finding happiness in his role against the odds.

Of course, this life is far from perfect. Against the backdrop of Moscow through a lifetime of revolution, Rostov faces trials and tribulations. At times, he doubts his ability to continue, faces impossible challenges, makes the most difficult decisions. But he remains a gentleman throughout.

Reading this book felt like sharing stories by the light of an open fire with an old friend, and by the end I was sad to depart from the Count: closing the pages felt like saying "goodbye". It is in measure, endearing, thrilling and heartbreaking, a pleasure to read from start to finish and one which I am sure to revisit in order to embrace those feelings all over again.

The edition I chose is the Penguin UK hardcover. To be honest, I had "chosen a book by it's cover" having seen it prominently displayed in my local Waterstones bookstore. It is indeed a beautiful edition, designed by the talented artist, Melissa Four (which you can read about here, on the Penguin blog). The smaller details in the cover have meaning within the book, which I urge you to read in order to fall so helplessly in love with the writing as I have these past few days.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

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