For me this book is 5 ✮✮✮✮✮
Beautifully written, wonderful prose, a sheer delight to read.
On 21 June 1922 Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol.
But instead of being taken to his usual suite, he is led to an attic room with a window the size of a chessboard. Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely.
While Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval, the Count, stripped of the trappings that defined his life, is forced to question what makes us who we are. And with the assistance of a glamorous actress, a cantankerous chef and a very serious child, Rostov unexpectedly discovers a new understanding of both pleasure and purpose.
For me this is like a classic Russian tale where the devil is in the detail and I love it.
This is about Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov who is A Gentleman in Moscow who has spent his days meeting with friends, dining, reading, reflecting and discussing.
Under house arrest because he wrote a poem that was not in good humour of the political affairs in Russia at that time, he said when questioned why he wrote it:
“It demanded to be written. I simply happened to be sitting at the particular desk on the particular morning when it chose to make its demands.”
We are with him as the years roll on, his love affair with an actress, his unlikely friendship with a young girl who seeks him out spending time learning from him.
Then when a small child is entrusted in his care, his life changes yet again.
And what a beautiful ending!
What did I like best about this book.
The characters are wonderful and every inch an integral part of the hotel, and the writing..the writing is simply beautiful. This is a gentle book that teaches the art of acting as an aristocrat would. How poignant is this to learn about how to think and act in adversity:
…and that if a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.
When he meets nine year old Nina who joins him for dinner and delightful converse there is an amusement that is curiously compelling . She teaches him much about being free as he does her about being a lady and as the authorities constricts his world, it opens up a frivolous ingenuity in him as he becomes much part of the hotel as it does of him. His life is certainly not dull and as the years roll on we see him being challenged by circumstances that change his world.
Amor Towles is a great writer, and I love the way he brings his descriptions to life:
But as the barber progressed, his hands moved with increasing speed until they leapt and kicked like a Cossack doing the hopak! Such a playful line and as I read the description I can see the barbers hand dancing.
His insight into the human circumstance is accurate. There is an important line that we should all know which is true. We grieve the loss of possessions as much as people. We are not taught to let go. When Alexander is removed from his apartment to attic rooms his loss of his inherited possessions I could feel his pain
But experience is less likely to teach us how to bid our dearest possessions adieu. And if it were to? We wouldn’t welcome the education. For eventually, we come to hold our dearest possessions more closely than we hold our friends. We carry them from place to place, often at considerable expense and inconvenience; we dust and polish their surfaces and reprimand children for playing too roughly in their vicinity – all the wile, allowing memories to invest them with greater importance…….
……Until we imagine that these carefully preserved possessions might give us genuine solace in the face of a lost companion.
But, of course, a thing is just a thing.
And so, slipping his sister’s scissors into his pocket, the Count looked once more at what heirlooms remains and then expunged them from his heartache forever.
His friends; I love how they are all entrenched in their politics and their lives without being political but remain important and I enjoyed how Russian politics is brilliantly woven into the narrative that you long for each snippet to see what is happening outside of the hotel.
His final escape from house arrest after 30 years is the reward for journeying with Alex through his life entwined with the fabric of politics and old regimes in the Hotel Metropolitan.
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book via NetGalley
- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 4379 KB
- Print Length: 377 pages
- Publisher: Hutchinson 2016 (Penguin Random House UK)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01AYBWPUM
- ISBN: 9780091944247 (hardback)