He can’t leave. You won’t want to.
What a charming reminder that “a life without luxury can be the richest of all.”
I savored every minute I spent reading A Gentleman in Moscow. It wasn’t anything like the book I was expecting. It was sweeter, softer, wittier, and way, way classier.
Take a bow, Amor Towles. You have created a masterpiece.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count 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 a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
“Who would have imagined when you were sentenced to life in the Metropol all those years ago, that you had just become the luckiest man in all of Russia.”
Authentic. Beautiful. Intelligent. Heartwarming. Those are just a few words to describe the genius that is A Gentleman in Moscow.
There are some books that can transport you into a different culture unusually well, some that can introduce an incredibly unique cast of characters with ease and precision, and some that can captivate you with witty, sparkling dialogue. It’s rare to find those all in one book.
Well, with A Gentleman in Moscow, that was exactly the case.
Amor Towles is a master storyteller, and it was a treat to have the privilege of reading this phenomenal, phenomenal book.
First thing, let me say: the writing just shined. It was incredibly precise and nuanced, and I enjoyed (ridiculously enjoyed) the humor laced throughout the book. Amor Towles has to be one of the best writers in history. (I know, I know, I’m being dramatic. But honestly, it’s really true.) There was no amateur info-dumping; everything unraveled precisely when it needed to. No elements were added to the story for the sake of elegance or pretension. Every sentence was carefully crafted. No easy feat.
I really don’t have the right words to describe the beauty of the writing here. All I can say is “Go read it and find out for yourself!” It was just so charming and such a delight to read.
The worldbuilding was incredible for the restrictions the plot set on it. Stuck in a hotel, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to build on. But the Metropol hotel becomes a full-fledged world in itself…effortlessly. The descriptions were rich, but never felt like they were coming at me point-blank. They snuck in, and were good enough that I could tell you with ease every nook and cranny of this fabulous hotel in my imagination. It was resplendent.
And oh, the characterization. It was some of the best I’ve ever read. Towels found a way to give each character a distinct voice, a distinct personality, and distinct ticks…it was magnificent. Each of them felt real and remarkably faceted. They were, without a doubt, the most intelligently crafted characters I’ve encountered on the page. As an aspiring writer, it was fascinating to study the ways he set his characters apart. The temperamental chef, with his peppery personality, ten inch chopper and gradual optimism; Anna, with her ever-present willowy characteristics; Andre, with his suavity and nimble hands…they were all so authentic.
“By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration—and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.”
The plot here wasn’t complicated, but that’s not what Towles intended anyway; that’s not where he wanted his focus. And that’s totally fine. The plot was very straightforward, and the story spanned over decades, so it’s natural that the pacing was slow and took its time. But strangely, it never felt too slow or like it was dragging; it just had a leisure and a relaxation to it. I admired though, that every element in the story was there for a reason and a purpose, and every turn of the story was carefully written. Nothing felt pushed or there just for the sake of being there, which can easily happen in stories that span over such a long timeframe.
As for dialogue, A Gentleman in Moscow’s belongs in the Dialogue Hall of Fame. (Stop looking at me like that—there’s got to be one somewhere.) It brimmed with life. Snappy, witty, subtle…it was everything I could ask for. There was so much left to subtext, which thrilled me as a reader who usually finds herself wallowing in the pit of On-the-Nose Dialogue (Trust me, it’s a thing.) It all flowed so well and felt so natural. It never felt like Towles had written a special quip just to pat himself on the back with his own genius. It all fit. It made sense.
To be honest, the dialogue is what initially hooked me on A Gentleman in Moscow. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.
But if it was the dialogue that made me pick it up, it was the story that kept me reading. It had a beautiful father/daughter dynamic that was heartwarming to read, and to see the positive influence the Count had on his surroundings was inspiring. Seeing how someone like him could make the most of his circumstances and rise from them, while remaining pleasant and optimistic, is something that I—and I’m sure many others—could learn from.
A Gentleman in Moscow is a story of finding the truth that sometimes luxury can be blinding, and the real richness of life can be found when all that distraction is blown away. Sometimes, it’s the inconveniences of life that can end up being the most important.
“I’ll tell you what is convenient . . . To sleep until noon and have someone bring you your breakfast on a tray. To cancel an appointment at the very last minute. To keep a carriage waiting at the door of one party, so that on a moment’s notice it can whisk you away to another. To sidestep marriage in your youth and put off having children altogether. These are the greatest of conveniences, Anushka—and at one time, I had them all. But in the end, it has been the inconveniences that have mattered to me most.”
Is it okay for me to read?
Language • • • • •
Some mild profanity.
Violence • • • • •
A man threatens to shoot a manager and thinks about killing himself. A child is injured in the head and blood from the wound is mentioned.
Sensuality • • • • •
Two characters become lovers, though detail is kept to a minimum.
Substances • • • • •
(Multiple) of-age characters drink and get drunk. Main characters have daily visits to the hotel’s bar.
For more about my content ratings and what they mean, click here.