Short Review | A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

As titles go, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is about as much of an understatement as it gets.

And yet, it is one of the most surprisingly fulfilling reads of my year. During the Russian Revolution, Count Alexander Rostov finds himself an aristocrat in a world where only the proletariat is legal. By the fluke of a poem, he narrowly avoids execution and is confined to house arrest in the Metropol, the hotel where he is living. He finds his world shrunken, his class diminished, his friends gone. And yet, as the world changes, Rostov is a gentleman, guided by a center that communists and small-minded bureaucrats cannot touch. As the years pass and the revolution and the world continue to change, from the passionate speeches and meetings of 1930s soviets to the violent turbulence of collectivization to the Cold War, Rostov remains within the Metropol, adapting, but unchanging, a gentleman through to the very end.

I don’t usually go in for historical fiction, but when Britt insisted that I read the copy she had from the library before the due date, I reluctantly started reading. It takes a good fifth of the book to hit its stride, and I wavered for a bit. But when it does, A Gentleman in Moscow becomes a warm and beautiful story. Amor Towles writes with foresight and depth, building a plot that continues to echo with themes of friendship, honor, and love. At times humorous and others poignant, I recommend it without reservation.


A Gentleman in Moscow Book Cover A Gentleman in Moscow
Amor Towels
Historical Fiction
Viking
2016
480

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.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog PubliusOnline.com where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.