It is rare to find an individual who has not secretly dreamed of checking themselves into a hotel for an extended period of time with no plans whatsoever. A Gentleman in Moscow allows readers to live this fantasy. It’s June of 1922 when we first meet Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt. As a gentleman, Count spends his days dining, discussing, reading, and reflecting. Unfortunately, he has also written a poem considered by many to be a “call to action” and, as a result, is sentenced to life on house arrest in the Metropol, a luxury hotel and home to the Boyarsky, the finest restaurant in Moscow.
The author, Amor Towles, was in the investment business for twenty years before he published his first novel, Rules of Civility. He frequently traveled for work and once, while in a hotel in Geneva, recognized the other guests from his stay the previous year. It was as if they had never left and that image gave him the idea for this book. Brainstorming for the novel actually began on complementary hotel stationery, which is particularly fitting.
If you are into travel, fine dining, reading, or other erudite hobbies, the book is absolutely atmospheric. Readers follow the Russian aristocrat around the grand hotel as he furnishes his new abode, dines on a breakfast of two biscuits and a fig, and befriends hotel guests while exploring the secrets contained within the hotel’s walls. The company one keeps and the value of those who cross our path in life are interesting ideas to contemplate as readers imagine their reaction should a similar fate come about.
The Metropol is an extension of city life and we see how it’s transformed by the world around it through the over thirty years we spend within its walls. When the Bolsheviks prohibited the use of rubles, it denied 99 percent of the population access to fine dining and yet we sit with Count as he enjoys a glass of wine and an entree of chicken saltimbocca.
“If one did not master one’s circumstances, one was bound to be mastered by them.” and so it goes that Count makes the most of his situation by securing fine linens and a suitable pillow, four bars of his favorite soap, and a mille-feuille. His priorities are clearly quite well established and while house arrest is typically not something to celebrate, the count’s jovial mannerisms and thoughts create a lovely tone, quite suitable for smart summer reading at your favorite summer getaway.
Review by Karen Evans – New to the Book Nook, Karen is a local book blogger (https://booksnooks.wordpress.com/) and professional reader and reviewer with NetGalley. Watch Book Club member Marsha Redd and book buyer Andrew Kuharewicz on WZZM Channel 13’s “My West Michigan” morning show at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, June 3. Join The Book Nook’s monthly book club at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, June 5 to discuss A Gentleman in Moscow at the Book Nook & Java Shop in Downtown Montague with refreshments, snacks, beverages, and camaraderie; of course, everyone is welcome. The Club meets monthly all year long. Get 20% off the Book Club’s book selection all month, too.