A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles
narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith
Penguin Audio, 2016
17 hours and 52 minutes
A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
A bit of background:
I'd been eagerly anticipating Amor Towles second novel since the moment I finished Rules of Civility back in 2012. (my review) When I learned he quit his day job to write full time, I was overjoyed. The day A Gentleman in Moscow was released, I was among the first patrons at the bookstore. But then the book sat on my shelf... for months. I brought it to Sanibel, where it sat on my nightstand all winter. After I lugged it north again in the spring, the reading slump hit. Weeks passed, then a month. I couldn't finish a novel. Eventually I did finish a long classic (Trollope, of course) but was still leery of contemporary fiction. Last month I decided to try a Gentleman in Moscow...
As with Rules of Civility, Towles' prose is gorgeous. Within pages I was immersed in another time and place. It was glorious.
Count Alexander Rostov is a captivating character, one who will stay with me for a very long time. I loved the count - his intelligence, refined nature, the manner in which he came to accept his circumstances, and his interactions with other characters, especially Sophia.
The Metropol hotel is practically a character, too. Towles brought it to life as I formed detailed images of various salons, dining rooms, stairways, and even the roof and basement.
The plot builds slowly. Very slowly. I found myself wishing things would just. move. along. As I'm not generally a reader who requires much in the way plot, this might be the lingering effects of the worst reading slump ever. Eventually, I did reach a point where I couldn't put the novel down. The ending is among the best I have ever read.
Every single sentence of a Gentleman in Moscow is a work of art. I marked quotes too numerous to share. It is, undoubtedly, the most beautifully written novel I've read this year.
A note on the audio production:
As I struggled with the print edition, I turned to the audio to pull me through. Nicholas Guy Smith, a new-to-me narrator, was absolutely mesmerizing. His voice was perfect for the count - so elegant and refined. If you are an audiobook fan, be sure to consider this option.
The writing and audio production certainly deserve 5 stars, but A Gentleman in Moscow was a 4 star read for me.