Short Review #10: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (2016)

Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel
Author: Amor Towles
Published: 2016 (Viking, Penguin Random House, New York)
Pages: 462 (Hardcover)
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Russian, Adult Fiction
Link Here

A somewhat blurry photo of A Gentleman in Moscow by my desk

Wow, this book. The whole time I was reading it, I thought the charming and gentlemanly main character, Count Alexander Rostov, had to be real historical nobility sentenced to spend the remainder of his days inside the Metropol Hotel in the center of Moscow. I searched to see if this was true after I read the book, and learned he wasn’t based on a real figure at all. The author, Amor Towles, based the Count’s character upon unmentioned Russian aristocrats choosing house arrest in the cities over execution throughout history (source). The Metropol Hotel is a real hotel in Moscow though, which saw the tumultuous points of Russian history mentioned in this book from the Bolsheviks to the Cold War.

…He was wise enough to know that life does not proceed by leaps and bounds. It unfolds” – Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow

I was enchanted by this book. While taking place mostly in one building, the story and setting were wonderfully told and exciting. The history is true, but the characters are fictional. Towles creates a beguiling world inside the Metropol Hotel following the intricacies of its guests and staff, incidental to what happens in Russia right outside the hotel’s entrance. Taking place from 1922, the plot centers around Russian Count Alexander Rostov who, in his early 30s, was ordered by the Bolsheviks to remain in the Metropol Hotel where he was already residing for the rest of his life for being an unrepentant aristocrat. If he left the hotel, he would be executed. The Count decides to take advantage of his situation, and live life the best he can inside the luxury hotel and makes a variety of loyal friends and acquaintances, and finds purpose. The novel elegantly details the Count’s life and stories, while in the backdrop Russia is changing.

For what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause; what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty of acclaim” – Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow

I enjoyed this book very much. I thought it was a fantastic choice for a book to follow a character from old Russia of aristocrats and traditional Western refinement like the Count, against the changing political landscape of the rise of USSR era Russia. I definitely recommend this book if you love adventurous novels of historical fiction that follow a Russian aristocrat changing (but only a little) with the times, and find adventure in a typical luxury hotel among a cast of capturing characters and witty dialogue. Overall, it’s an interesting book to read while in this time of quarantines and curfews. But it is not depressing, and if anything, it is encouraging to those who are forced to stay at home.

If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them” – Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow

I give this book a 4 out of 5!


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