Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (4/5)

26 Jul

This book had been on my radar but I wasn’t really seriously considering it. I read Towles first novel and enjoyed it a lot but wasn’t clamoring to read his next release. However, when my reading buddy and I were in the middle of Recursion by Blake Crouch, one of the throwaway characters was named Amor Towles and Crouch acknowledged in his notes that this was in recognition of how much he loved this book, I decided it was time. We grabbed this for our next book and after a bit of a miss-step getting it from my bookstore, we had our copies and dived in. It was easy to divide the book into its five sections and meet to talk after each one.

Moscow

Cover Image via Amazon

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Other books by Towles reviewed on this blog:

Rules of Civility (and Book Club Discussion)

Summary from Amazon:

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and 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 entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book that takes place almost entirely within a hotel and goes on for over 400 pages. Some books with sweeping settings struggle to fill that many pages. But my doubts were quickly pushed aside as I enjoyed this book more and more. Towles keeps us engaged in Rostov’s world, as simple as it may seem at first. I loved having to pay attention to details that would come back into play later.

Rostov, Nina, Sophia, Anna, and the rest of the characters were beautifully drawn and I loved reading about them. Nina was probably the most dynamic and I adored how she grew up in front of our eyes, always curious and very smart. I wanted a little something more from her character, but I’m still satisfied with what I got. The employees at the hotel were amazing. I can’t imagine working the jobs they did for as long as they did but in a communist society, having a job at a luxury hotel like they did was probably a huge blessing and gave them access to things they otherwise never would have been able to touch.

Rostov himself was my favorite character by far. He was so smart and resourceful. I loved how we learned small things about him as the story went on that made you come to love him in different ways. Learning about his sister, his relationship with Mishka, and his love of Sophia were wonderful. He had moments, like finding out his affair with Anna was public knowledge, where you wanted to laugh at him, but it was hard not to love everything he did. This book would have been frustrating with a less loveable character.

No single character was relatable but I think everyone could sympathize with the staff dealing with their horrible boss in the Bishop. We’ve all had horrible bosses at one time or another and I thought it was funny how much they all came together to out maneuver him as much as possible. Some if it was little things like having a dinner they wanted, some larger things like the loose turkeys. Seeing someone rise while the rest of them stayed where they were must have been frustrating but they all seemed to find a way to band together and support each other as much as they could.

Towles

Amor Towles Image via Goodreads

I enjoyed the later half of the book the most, after Sophia arrived. We see a very different side of The Count once he’s more of a father figure and the steps he goes through to make sure Sophia is well cared for are wonderful. A moment that sticks out is when he threatened the conductor for coming on to Sophia before finding out that he was teaching her. It was such a wonderful fatherly moment and set the tone for how he was with her for the rest of the book.

The book did seem to start a little slow. I understood by the end that it was setting a scene and establishing a lot of people that would come to be important later, but it did seem a bit of a bore to begin with. About half way through Part II and all of Part III had me invested, though.

Our lives might not always be in our hands, but it’s what we do with them that matters. The Count’s life changed as much as one can with the Russian Revolution. It was amazing to me what he faced and how difficult it must have been for him to lose his family and life the way he did. When he’s allowed to live but belittled by being stuck in the hotel, I’m sure it was hard for him to see a reason to move forward and it becomes obvious that this is a struggle for him. Routines come to define us if we can’t find meaning in them. The life he eventually creates and the friends he discovers, are a rich tapestry for his life. He moves beyond being a guest and becomes a part of the hotel in a way only the staff can understand. I thought it was really beautiful how he interacted with the hotel by the end.

Writer’s Takeaway: There’s nothing wrong with a simple story. A man under house arrest in a hotel for decades doesn’t seem like an engaging tale. But with the right supporting characters and a star with something to prove, the story was exquisite. It’s all in the details and Towles did an amazing job with them.

A great read, even if it did start a little slow. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1920-1939 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles (a book review) | Arshia
Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles | Celinelingg
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles | Of Books and Reading

4 Responses to “Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (4/5)”

  1. Stephanie - Bookfever July 26, 2021 at 10:32 AM #

    Aside from the slow start it sounds like a great book. Sometimes a book needs to get going really to enjoy it more.

    Like

    • Sam July 26, 2021 at 11:42 AM #

      Agreed! Once the story started rolling, it was great. And I realized later in the book how important some of the early content was. Happy reading!

      Like

  2. whatcathyreadnext July 27, 2021 at 4:14 AM #

    Really interesting review, especially about the pacing. I have the audiobook version of this so I’ll know to stick with it because the later parts sound like they will be worth it.

    Like

    • Sam July 27, 2021 at 5:47 AM #

      They very much are! I hope you enjoy the audio, I think it would be amazing. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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