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A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Reviewed by L. Bennett


Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov was a friend of Russian royalty, well-off, and a man of numerous interests and talents. Among the latter were writing poetry, charming the ladies, and being a gentleman. In June 1922 one of his poems caught the eye of officials in Russia's communist party. They believed his poem was a call to arms against the government and the Count's rather flippant responses to their inquiries did little to change their collective mind. The Count was declared a former person and confined for life to the Metropol Hotel in downtown Moscow.


The novel follows Alexander as he spends thirty-two years at the hotel. The Count builds upon his prior life to further his gentlemanly pursuits, appropriately scaled back to fit the hotel. He shrugs off repeated attempts by government officials and officious citizens to put him in his place, and revels in his new role with the hotel's food service staff. Then a young woman sends her young daughter, Sophia, to live with the Count and a whole new world opens for Alexander.


Amor Towles has written a book that is a comfortable combination of history, social change, romance, and gentility. The book reads easily and the characters are interesting, but there is not a lot of action or cliff-hanging suspense. The steady pace of the story is part of the story, reflecting the manner in which the Count moves through his life. It was Towles' use of subtle humor that appealed to me and made the book enjoyable.


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