Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: war, poverty, orphans, death.
Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars
I have seen this bopping around bookstagram for a while, and then my book club leader highly recommended it, so when this came available on audiobook though Libby, I decided to give it a listen.
Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to indefinite house arrest at the Hotel Metropol after being deemed “an unrepentant aristocrat” by the Bolshevik tribunal. There he is cast into the attic of the hotel to live out his days, unable to leave the confines of the hotel. It takes some getting used to, as the Count was quite an accomplished man and used to a grander lifestyle. At first, he was sure he could live in such a way, but then he reached a point in which the Count was so low, he planned to jump from the roof of the hotel. Thankfully, an actress, a little orphaned girl, and a chef make their way into his life, and they become family.
Throughout the novel, the relationships within the Hotel Metropol become rather intimate, and it teaches the Count that there’s more to life within it’s walls than he ever expected. Despite the fact that the world is in turmoil (being that the setting takes place in Moscow from the mid-1920’s to the 1950’s), he finds a new sense of purpose through helping others find their own.
I think listening to the audio reason why I could stick with the novel, as it was really, really slow in the beginning, but I also think audio is why I struggled at times, as well. I found my mind wandering often while listening, and there’s so much foot-note commentary that the stream line of the plot goes awry and made me lose track. However, the narrator’s voice has a beautiful accent and listening to it, I could imagine a grand Count relaying his story. The dialogue was excellent and humorous- for example, I love the piece in which the Count and Sofia play hide the thimble, and I adored the relationship that formed between them.
I admire the beauty in Towles writing, at the description and grandeur, however I had to go back through a physical copy to complete my understanding of his work overall. When I have to go through a novel twice for reading comprehension, it’s a negative for me. I want to be so completely absorbed in a novel that I can’t possibly miss a detail, and A Gentleman In Moscow didn’t deliver that for me. Because of this, I sit squarely on the fence about whether I would recommend it or not. To be on the safe side, I would say if Russian settings and aristocratic lifestyles entice you, then I’d give it a shot.
TL/DR: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is a novel about a man who is punished and imprisoned in a hotel, only to find that there’s more to life inside the hotel than expected.
Read it? Yes, though it is a slow burning, descriptive novel that could potentially be difficult to stick with.
Recommend it? Yes, for specific audiences.
Buy it? This is an older novel, so I would borrow a copy instead to make sure you enjoy it before you bought it.
If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads:
- All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
- The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling