Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Why did I put off reading this book? It’s a slow and quiet story but it’s absolutely beautifully written. It’s full of depth and meaning and such incredibly detailed descriptions that you become immersed in the world Towles creates.

I became far more invested in the lives of these wonderfully rich characters than I could ever have imagined. There’s not a lot of action but there were many moments that were incredibly heartfelt and just completely blew me away.


Synopsis

On 21 June 1922 Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol.

But instead of being taken to his usual suite, he is led to an attic room with a window the size of a chessboard. Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely.

While Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval, the Count, stripped of the trappings that defined his life, is forced to question what makes us who we are. And with the assistance of a glamorous actress, a cantankerous chef and a very serious child, Rostov unexpectedly discovers a new understanding of both pleasure and purpose.


Thoughts

I have to admit I went into this book with a little bit of trepidation. Historical fiction is not my favourite genre and given it was a story about a man stuck in a hotel for decades I feared that it would be slow, heavy and dull. Thankfully my fears were completely unfounded. It isn’t a fast paced, plot driven story but while it’s slow it’s beautifully written and seemed to transport me to both time and place.

I would probably describe it as more of a character study than a narrative of historical events, although these are woven into the story in subtle but memorable ways. The story covers a very long period of time and a time when there was a lot of change in Russia, but by limiting it to within the walls of the hotel you are in many ways a step removed from events. Like the Count you’re forced to experience events through the guests and visitors to the hotel, something I’m sure a lot of people won’t like but I absolutely loved.

This is a book that’s very heavy on descriptions from the guests, to the hotel, to the food and wine and it was beautiful. I felt like I was there in that time period with those people. Having a drink in the bar with the foreign reporters or enjoying a hearty stew and glass of wine in the piazza. There are just so many incredible moments, some funny, a few edge of the seat and many heartfelt. They are quiet but they’re full of emotion.

The characters are wonderfully rendered and I became much more attached to them than I ever expected to. The Count was absolutely brilliant. He is the definitive gentleman, well mannered, cultured, witty and laid back. I adored him from the very beginning to the very end. I admired how he dealt with everything with real class but especially loved how he developed over the course of the novel. The other characters are also brilliant. Each and every one has been created with such skill that they felt absolutely genuine and I could picture them in my head.

There isn’t huge amount to the plot, it’s not an action packed story, but it raises a lot of big issues and questions without ever becoming too heavy. Something which takes real skill from the author. It brought in a lot of philosophical questions that I found fascinating and that didn’t make me want to run for the hills, something which really takes skill. It was a story that drew me in completely and is the first book in a while that I’ve been talking to everyone about.

If by now you can’t tell, I loved this book. If you’re looking for fast paced or full of action it might not be for you but I do think it’s a book everyone should give a try.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy (and apologies for taking so long to read it). As always all thoughts are my own.

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12 thoughts on “Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

  1. Excellent review! I’m glad you enjoyed this one that much! I really enjoyed A Gentleman In Moscow even though I expected a historical fiction read at first haha. The many lovely and detailed descriptions and the writing style made me completely forget about that though and I remember being completely absorbed by the story and its characters as the years went by. Such a lovely read!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I have had this book since it’s release, but haven’t picked it up, yet. I had heard it’s wonderful, but I’ve been nervous to try it. Historical fiction (and slow ones, too) are not my cup of tea usually. I’m so glad to see how much you enjoyed it. It gives me hope that I may too! Wonderful review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was nervous going in but while it is slow there were some great characters and it really is more of a character driven than plot driven story. It probably helped that I read it as part of a group read on Goodreads. It was good to discuss the story as I was reading it.

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  3. […] First book finished this week was A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I received this from NetGalley and read it as part of a group read on GoodReads. It was a little outwith my usual reading comfort zone but I absolutely loved it. It’s begins in the 1920s in Moscow with a man being ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel. It’s quite a slow story but it’s beautifully written with some fascinating characters and many touching and funny moments. You can read my full review here. […]

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  4. I’ve bought this one but haven’t read it yet. I downloaded a sample first and liked the start. Looking forward to getting into it although I have a few to read for review before I start it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wasn’t sure I would like this (one man stuck in a hotel for a long time doesn’t sound like an exciting read) but ended up loving it. There are some really wonderful and memorable characters.

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