A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles features a wonderfully unique premise: in 1922, during the tumultuous times surrounding the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in his current residence, the grand Metropol Hotel, for the rest of his life. (“…make no mistake: should you ever set foot outside of the Metropol again, you will be shot.”)
The aristocratic and erudite Count Rostov, who is only 32 at the time he is sentenced, is considered to be a “Former Person” by the authorities, the term used for those who lost their status after the October Revolution in 1917. Despite his confinement, Count Rostov enjoys a social life with a number of memorable personalities, including hotel staff members, an actress, and a precocious 9-year-old girl.
A Gentleman in Moscow is a delightful and satisfying read, not only for those who have an interest in Russian history but also for anyone who finds the idea of living in an old hotel glamorous (fans of The Grand Budapest Hotel, perhaps?).
If you enjoy A Gentleman in Moscow, you might also like The Mayakovsky Tapes by Robert Littell, Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov, and Towles’s first novel, Rules of Civility.
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