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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, a book review

No purpose, no job, no societal benefit–only fit to dine, discuss, read and reflect, "the usual rigmarole," shares the character Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, in the novel A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

The have-nots, the rising Bolshevik class, sentence Count Rostov to house arrest inside the Metropol Hotel. One step from the door and he will be shot.

He counts the stairs, the minutes as others, without noble background or cause, rise to roles of influence via a nod of political liaisons and stumble unqualified into new roles, propelled by arrogance and smugness, or perhaps self-doubt and uncertainty. Their misdeeds are irksome–snipping his signature mustouch in a fit of anger, or threatening, yet, Rostov pauses before passing judgement.
By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration.
The story unfolds seemingly one episode after another, but as it marches forward, the reader discovers these are pieces of a larger puzzle. The backstory spills in stops and starts, his sister, his sister's honor, her death to fever, his expulsion from home, his stay in Paris, his return to Russia to save his grandmother, all of which culminates in his not sitting at his sister's bedside as she died, and his sentencing.

He values family, friends, good manners, good wine, and being a master of his circumstances. He respects life even that of a pigeon, a one-eye cat, the hotel staff, a nine-year-old girl intrigued by his missing moustaches, and later that woman's daughter dropped at his feet.

Colorful characters dance across Towles stage and entertain us. In a fit of temper tantrum, an actress flings her wardrobe out the window. As the imaginary, ill-fated captain expected to go down with the ship, the Count himself seeks to throw himself from the roof of the Metropol. Yet, another's urgent desire to share a small joy, stalls his destined moment of freefall, and the Count finds himself alive at dawn, saved by bees and apple blossoms.

In a society attempting to destroy the upper crust and make everything Russian-equal, Alexander Rostov is a gem already cut. When the powerful seek to level the playing field of even enjoying a good wine, they tear the labels from the hotel's bottles. Evenso, Rostov is able to find the his favorite. Sometimes, you just need to know where to look, or remember the glass is etched.

Inside these four walls what is his purpose?

To to be a faithful friend, to work as a waiter - instead of one waited on, and to love the unexpected including a child dropped in his care. He embraces this new role as Papa, welcoming the chaos of a child into a life that has been filled with convenience, and relays to his lover, "in the end it has been the inconveniences that have mattered to me most."

And to quote the first chapter,
Well, where is our purpose now?
Possibly, to read another Amor Towles novel.

Source: Purchase.

NOTE: I did a lot of Googling while reading this novel, this article I especially found interesting: Amor Towles reveals the horrors of life without the one percent, by John Tamny, editor of RealClearMarkets where the article appeared, October 2017.

Purchase through our affiliate link, and referral fees donated to Woman of Wonder, a college scholarship fund for women.

Print Length: 466 pages


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