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A BOOK OF THE DECADE, 2010-2020 (INDEPENDENT)
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‘This novel is astonishing, uplifting and wise. Don’t miss it’ Chris Cleave
‘No historical novel this year was more witty, insightful or original than Amor Towles’s A Gentleman in Moscow’ Sunday Times, Books of the Year
‘Charming … shows that not all books about Russian aristocrats have to be full of doom and nihilism’ The Times, Books of the Year
'[A] supremely uplifting novel ... It's elegant, witty and delightful - much like the Count himself.' Mail on Sunday, Books of the Year
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.
Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely. But instead of his usual suite, he must now live in an attic room while Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval.
Can a life without luxury be the richest of all?
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Amor Towles’ sweeping Russian saga tells the story of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, an intellectual and longtime resident of Moscow's bustling Hotel Metropol, where movie stars, politicians and Kremlin operators all rub elbows. Sentenced to house arrest for writing a political poem, Rostov immerses himself in the goings-on of his fellow tenants while cultural upheaval rages beyond the hotel’s walls. Towles delves into issues of family duty, friendship, romance and personal transformation, all while maintaining his light-as-a-feather tone and delicious characterisations. A Gentleman in Moscow is a truly gripping read.
House arrest has never been so charming as in Towles's second novel (following Rules of Civility), an engaging 30-year saga set almost entirely inside the Metropol, Moscow's most luxurious hotel. To Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, the Metropol becomes both home and jail in 1922, when the Bolsheviks spare his life (on the strength of a revolutionary poem written in 1913, when the count was at university). Forbidden to venture out, Rostov explores the intricacies of the grand structure and befriends its other denizens: precocious nine-year-old Nina Kulikova, a bureaucrat's daughter who demands instruction on how to be a princess; Emile, virtuosic chef of the Boyarsky, "the finest restaurant in Moscow"; Andrey, the Boyarsky's French expatriate ma tre d'; and the beautiful actress Anna Urbanova, who becomes the count's regular visitor and paramour. Standing in for the increasingly despotic Soviet government is the Bishop, a villainous waiter who experiences gradual professional ascent he becomes headwaiter of the Boyarsky, finally putting his seating-chart and wine-pairing talents to use. But when the adult Nina returns to ask Rostov for a favor, his unique, precariously well-appointed life must change once more. Episodic, empathetic, and entertaining, Count Rostov's long transformation occurs against a lightly sketched background of upheaval, repression, and war. Gently but dauntlessly, like his protagonist, Towles is determined to chart the course of the individual.