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A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel (172 POCHE) Paperback – March 26, 2019
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"If you're looking for a summer novel, this is it. Beautifully written, a story of a Russian aristocrat trapped in Moscow during the tumult of the 1930s. It brims with intelligence, erudition, and insight, an old-fashioned novel in the best sense of the term." —Fareed Zakaria, "Global Public Square," CNN
"Fun, clever, and surprisingly upbeat . . . A Gentleman in Moscow is an amazing story because it manages to be a little bit of everything. There’s fantastical romance, politics, espionage, parenthood and poetry. The book is technically historical fiction, but you would be just as accurate calling it a thriller or a love story.” —Bill Gates
“The book is like a salve. I think the world feels disordered right now. The count’s refinement and genteel nature are exactly what we’re longing for.” —Ann Patchett
“How delightful that in an era as crude as ours this finely composed novel stretches out with old-World elegance.” —The Washington Post
“[A] wonderful book at any time . . . [I]t brought home to me how people find ways to be happy, make connections, and make a difference to one another’s lives, even in the strangest, saddest and most restrictive circumstances.” —Tana French, author of The Searcher
“The novel buzzes with the energy of numerous adventures, love affairs, twists of fate and silly antics.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“A winning, stylish novel.”
“The perfect book to curl up with while the world goes by outside your window.”
“Who will save Rostov from the intrusions of state if not the seamstresses, chefs, bartenders and doormen? In the end, Towles’s greatest narrative effect is not the moments of wonder and synchronicity but the generous transformation of these peripheral workers, over the course of decades, into confidants, equals and, finally, friends. With them around, a life sentence in these gilded halls might make Rostov the luckiest man in Russia.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“This is an old fashioned sort of romance, filled with delicious detail. Save this precious book for times you really, really want to escape reality.”
“Towles gets good mileage from the considerable charm of his protagonist and the peculiar world he inhabits.”
—The New Yorker
“Irresistible . . . In his second elegant period piece, Towles continues to explore the question of how a person can lead an authentic life in a time when mere survival is a feat in itself . . . Towles’s tale, as lavishly filigreed as a Fabergé egg, gleams with nostalgia for the golden age of Tolstoy and Turgenev.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and ‘Eloise’ meets all the Bond villains.”
“And the intrigue! . . . [A Gentleman in Moscow] is laced with sparkling threads (they will tie up) and tokens (they will matter): special keys, secret compartments, gold coins, vials of coveted liquid, old-fashioned pistols, duels and scars, hidden assignations (discreet and smoky), stolen passports, a ruby necklace, mysterious letters on elegant hotel stationery . . . a luscious stage set, backdrop for a downright Casablanca-like drama.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
“The same gorgeous, layered richness that marked Towles’ debut, Rules of Civility, shapes [A Gentleman in Moscow].”
Praise for Rules of Civility
“An irresistible and astonishingly assured debut."
—O, the Oprah Magazine
“With this snappy period piece, Towles resurrects the cinematic black-and-white Manhattan of the golden age…[his] characters are youthful Americans in tricky times, trying to create authentic lives.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Sharp [and] sure-handed.”
—Wall Street Journal
“Put on some Billie Holiday, pour a dry martini and immerse yourself in the eventful life of Katey Kontent."
“[A] wonderful debut novel.”
—The Chicago Tribune
“Glittering…filled with snappy dialogue, sharp observations and an array of terrifically drawn characters…Towles writes with grace and verve about the mores and manners of a society on the cusp of radical change.”
“A book that enchants on first reading and only improves on the second.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 26, 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 496 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143110438
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143110439
- Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 1.3 x 5.4 x 8.2 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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As literature, I found plot too predictable and the characters not believable.
Despite a setting steeped in history, the story line and characters seems to be untouched by the atrocities that happened all around the country and the world, and out of touch with the realities around them. It paints communism as silly instead of diabolical, and the nobility as innocent victims instead of feckless. The author may not have intended to write historical fiction, but many reviewers comment about how much they learned about Russian history. This is unfortunate. If you’re intrigued about life in Russia under Stalin, please consider Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler.
In addition to historical misrepresentations, there are multiple scientific ones as well. For example, on page 354, the Count describes the temperature of the water in the ice bucket as 50 degrees. Let’s assume Fahrenheit. If the bucket contained any ice at all, the temperature could not have been more than 32 degrees.
People read books for many reasons. I categorize books I’ve read as the following:
1 - Books that change my life
2 - Books from which I learned something
3 - Books that entertain me
4 - Books that wasted my time because they did too little of 1, 2, or 3 for the time invested
I don’t think this a bad book, but for myself personally, I would rate this book a 4. There are too many good books out there and too precious little time.
A Gentleman in Moscow is the 30-year saga of the Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who is placed under house arrest inside the Metropol Hotel in Moscow in 1922 when the Bolsheviks spare him from death or Siberia because of his 1913 revolutionary poem written in university. The relationships he forms with staff and guests, his handling of twists of fate, his moral rectitude and his perseverance to go on in the face of his lifelong imprisonment for being a Former Person make for a compelling tale, told beautifully by Towles. It is not overwritten, and provides just enough historical contexts without being burdensome. And Towles doesn’t overdo the use of the Russian diminutive, which I’ve found in Russian classics to be crazy making and require a scorecard. Towles gives the reader just enough background of his characters. We know them but still wonder; he’s left room for the reader. The story unfolds so wonderfully that I don’t want to give away more of the plot.
I literally sat and stared into space for an hour after I finished A Gentleman In Moscow, contemplating it and wishing it hadn’t ended.
I may just have to re-read it.
Many names are ridiculous ("Federova"? Really?). Fontanka is not a canal. One particularly stupid sentence refers to June 21 as "the last days of spring." In Russia spring is counted from March 1 to May 31. Summer solstice as the "last day of spring" is an American nomenclature.
And so on, and so forth. Don't waste your time!
Top reviews from other countries
This is the story of the elegant Count Alexander Rostov who, in 1922 at the age of 33, is brought before a Bolshevik tribunal in Moscow. Condemned on the grounds of being an unrepentant aristocrat, he is saved from the firing squad by virtue of a youthful poem whose sentiments chime with the revolutionary desire for change. Instead of death, he is condemned to lifelong house arrest in his current place of residence: the Metropol Hotel. Removed from his suite and banished to a tiny room in the attics, the Count finds that his material circumstances have been much reduced, but he’s a philosopher at heart and faces his change in fortunes with one resolve: to master his life before his life masters him. And thus we see this wise, gracious gentleman learning to cut his cloth to its new measure. He turns his eyes away from the lilacs in the Alexander Gardens, forgets the glamour of his accustomed seat at the Bolshoi and learns to do without the delicate pastries of Filippov’s. Instead he finds a new subject for his examination: mankind.
The story is leavened by moments of absurdity and shot through with quiet heartbreak, like a perfectly pitched symphony. Towles is thoughtful but never sentimental; heartwarming but never sickly; and bittersweet but never bitter. The difficulty is that one can’t explain why something is beautiful. If you asked me to explain why a painting or an aria or a poem was beautiful, I couldn’t do it. All I can say is that it is. And it’s the same here. Like any fine artwork, the story is perfectly balanced, and both reflects and transcends its time. We may not step outside the Metropol but, like the Count, we can watch the vagaries of Fortune as they blow in through the revolving doors, and study the metamorphosis of Bolshevism. Despite its weighty underlying themes, the story itself is designed with such care that it seems to sparkle, suspended, with an air of sprezzatura.
I feel privileged to have spent this time in the company of Count Rostov – or, as I feel I almost have the right to call him, Sasha. This novel is joining the select ranks of my comfort books, and I’ll certainly be reading it again. In the meantime, all I can do is recommend it heartily to you as perfect material for a winter’s night curled in a blanket against the bitter cold outside. At a time when sincerity, tolerance and compassion are in short supply in the world around us, I’m delighted to discover that here these virtues become the very touchstones which enable a remarkable protagonist to weather the perils of a changing existence. A wonderful, heartwarming book.
To read the full review, please visit my blog.
Another example. In the early 1920s when the protagonist of the book ate different pastries in a trendy pastry shop in Moscow and spoke with a daughter of a Comissar, there was a civil war in Russia and a great famine, because the war interrupted the normal agricultural works. People in Moscow had difficulties in buying the bread, let alone pastries.
Every page of this book is full of these kind of mistakes. I cannot take this book or this story seriously. It has nothing to do with the real Russia or Russian history or Russian culture. It only reflects the ignorance of this writer who never tried to learn something about the subject he writes about.
This largely sums up my association with this book. I've read this book curled up in my bed with a mug of hot-chocolate, between business meetings in order to cleanse my mind of the mundane and predictable, in the garden while sitting comfortably on a swing, and this morning at 3 am where I finished the final 150 pages, just as Apollo began his majestic journey across the horizon. And in the end my opinion is that this book is perhaps one of the most emotionally, linguistically and intellectually stimulating pieces of literature that I have had the good fortune to come across.
The story of Count Alexander Rostov and his extended stay at The Hotel Metropol reveals to us that life is never something that can slip you by, provided you are willing to adapt. The Count makes it his business to master his circumstances the only way he knows how. With poise, dignity and impeccable taste. Over the course of his more than 30yrs. stay at the hotel, we see this Gentleman as a Noble, as a Commoner, as a Father, a Spy and finally a Man. He exemplifies an amalgam of the great wanderers of the past, like Odysseus and Crusoe who found themselves trapped in unforeseen circumstances, and emerge from the experience bearing a new clarity with regards to the concept of a 'home'.
I have not been so moved and entertained by vocabulary since P.G. Wodehouse, and indeed there is a great deal of the Wodehousian humor, mirth and mayhem in the corridors of the Metropol. There are times when one feels lost, especially when faced with historical contexts and characters that are introduced in page 50 and then intricately woven into the scene at page 276, however, like the great wanderers we arrive at a new destination just as we feel that we are doomed to wander aimlessly.