Editors Select, September 2016 - When we had our first child, my husband and I sullenly moved out of Manhattan, but Amor Towles was there to nurse me through that heartbreak with his debut novel and love letter to the city, Rules of Civility. Despite my perhaps unhealthy attachment to that book (I read it, then re-read it, then listened to it, then re-listened to it), I can say objectively it was one of the most crisp and intelligent books I've ever encountered. It's common to worry that a second book can't match the brilliance of a debut, but A Gentleman in Moscow doesn't disappoint. Though vastly different in tone and style, the same intelligence pulses under the surface. Continuing in the same epiphany-rich vein, keen observations, quotable moments, and tremendous insights emerge nearly every other paragraph. Long story short - and seriously there is so much more to say, but that's for my later review - don't miss this one. Emily, Audible Editor
“The book is like a salve. I think the world feels disordered right now. The count’s refinement and genteel nature are exactly what we’re longing for.” —Ann Patchett
“How delightful that in an era as crude as ours this finely composed novel stretches out with old-World elegance.” —The Washington Post
He can’t leave his hotel. You won’t want to.
From the New York Times best-selling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel.
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and 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 entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.
“And the intrigue! . . . [A Gentleman in Moscow] is laced with sparkling threads (they will tie up) and tokens (they will matter): special keys, secret compartments, gold coins, vials of coveted liquid, old-fashioned pistols, duels and scars, hidden assignations (discreet and smoky), stolen passports, a ruby necklace, mysterious letters on elegant hotel stationery . . . a luscious stage set, backdrop for a downright Casablanca-like drama.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
The prose is elegant, the performance masterful, and the wisdom of the words something to consider, reconsider and cherish. But I will admit, when I first started listening, I had no idea where the story was going -- nor any idea of where its main character and his friends would take me. I'm so glad I persevered through the first hour, because it's turned out to be the best book I've "read" or listened to in decades -- and I read a lot. For those who like to savor life, it is a must read.
99 of 103 people found this review helpful
This is the kind of book that leaves me with a "book hangover", and that's just about the highest praise I can give. It's one of those totally immersive stories that pulls the reader /listener into its world and characters. This book is a delight, beautifully written and perfectly narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith. I wish I could dine with gentleman Alexander Rostov !
77 of 81 people found this review helpful
I am so glad I eventually clicked on this book. I had not read Rules of Civility, but was looking for something uplifting for easy summer reading and the description seemed to fit. What I received instead was a masterpiece which carried me to another place and time, only to remind me of the quiet goodness and dignity of everyday people in ordinary life, whom I encounter daily.
What first struck me, however, was the beautiful language. Lyrical and complex- yet so easy to read. It feels more like a conversation with the author, than a novel. The main character is both prodigious and ordinary. He speaks with the authority of royalty, yet feels at times like your grandfather who wants to share his hard fought wisdom. We are with him through tumultuous changes as he realizes the folly of the comfort found in heirlooms and traditions that are passed from generation to generation, objects that lead us to believe that 'the passing of an era would indeed be glacial.' Instead, political upheaval in Russia forces Alexander Rostov to acknowledge old ideas can be swept away in an instant--especially when the 'men in charge distrust any form of hesitation, or nuance, and who prize self-assurance above all'. He finds himself among the 'humbled', those who 'greet adulation with caution, ambition with sympathy, and condescension with an inward smile'. We follow the life of this man as he resolves that small actions can restore a sense of order.
The plot does just what it should, it twists and turns, surprises and satisfies; but this is so much more than good story telling. It's the rare book that causes you to slow down as you approach the last chapters, to feel like a friend has moved away when you turn the last page, and make the next book you start just a little harder to get into.
Lastly, the narration is perfectly matched to the story. I've listened to audio books since 1998, this is probably my favorite narrator. If you're old enough to know--he's something like Mr. French meets Shelby Foote (without the southern accent). If that's a meaningless reference to you, just know this narration is sublime and somehow articulates the inward smile and humble brilliance that is Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov.
28 of 30 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to A Gentleman in Moscow again? Why?
From the first dramatic opening of A Gentleman in Moscow when Count Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the fabulous Metropole Hotel, we are introduced to a time when language mattered, people spoke to each other in civil terms, and fine art, music, and literature were important. Through each scene we live with the count as he actually EXPERIENCES time--not simply moving through it to get to the next moment--but living each sense--the taste of food, the emotion of a piece of music, the deep ideas of literature and philosophy through which he views his world. He promises himself at the start of his unique arrest that he will not have events make him, rather, he will make the events of his life and so rule in the time he has. One wonders at the beginning how a man will Iive in a hotel without stepping from it. The author, Amor Towels, takes the reader day by day through the creation of a world that is narrow, but full and rich. In fact, although most of us have freedom of movement, there is little that we have in our lives that Rostov does not find in the hotel--and perhaps more. The reading by Nicholas Guy Smith is absolutely superb, catching every nuance of the author--the character's dignity, his questions of life, his search for the Russian soul, the importance of the friendships in his life, his concerns and fears. I never wanted this story to end, because when reading it, I felt the slowed down moments of my own life, with all the simple pleasures we take for granted.
114 of 125 people found this review helpful
This story did what I have longed for. Finally a story to transport and engage.
15 of 16 people found this review helpful
I was looking for a book to take my mind off of all the stress of the news. This book was perfect! I was so sad to have it end. It immediately relaxed me..held my attention and had me smiling through out. I can't recommend it more highly!
20 of 22 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up A Gentleman in Moscow in three words, what would they be?
Masterful, Charming, Engrossing
What other book might you compare A Gentleman in Moscow to and why?
I can't think of any. Having said that, one of the best things in this book is the way that the characterization, which is rich, drives an excellent plot. I loved the characters and I miss them now that the book is behind me. This book makes excellent points about Soviet Russia, without preaching anything at all.
Which scene was your favorite?
There are so many terrific scenes that this is impossible to say, especially if one does not wish to give anything important away. The ending is magnificent, but how terrible to describe it and ruin the book for others! The Count's relationship with his young friend yields some real amusement in several scenes, in particular the one in which she comes up to him in the hotel restaurant and asks him what became of his mustaches. This is the beginning of a beautifully drawn relationship. A scene in which the child is testing Newton's theory of gravity remains in the mind's eye. There are many scenes that are visually appealing, in addition to being clever and spinning the plot along nicely. If this isn't made into a movie, I cannot imagine why. There is so much in this that is tailor made for cinematic treatment.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Impossible. It is much too long, BUT yes I wanted to just keep listening rather than attending to things...
Any additional comments?
Loved it. At the end, I went back and listened to the beginning and found myself thinking, "Ah!!" I really could have listened to the whole thing again! There were so many nuances and there was such depth of detail that revealed itself when I listened again. What a great book!
51 of 60 people found this review helpful
Engaging, flowing, very enjoyable BECAUSE of its slower pace. And a perfect narrator. One of the best audiobooks I heard in recent years.
9 of 10 people found this review helpful
The narration for this book was beautifully done with great inflection, timing and good definition between the characters. It made it possible for me to complete 18 hours of listening to what in the end was a slow and plodding story.
To me, this book fit far more clearly into the romance fiction genre than a firmer historic fiction genre. The writing while good was so gently done that I fear much of the drama, violence and history of the time were lost in the storytelling.
Be aware, if you are looking for action, an accurate capture of historic events and an edge of your seat pace you won't find it here. Rather, what you will find is history by candle light--filtered through a gauze made up of an elegant hotel, vintage wine and gourmet dining--night after night after night. Very little will disturb or distress a gentle listener. At the same time very little will enlighten and expand the listener's understanding of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath into the Soviet Era.
I have to admit that while being beguiled by the narration I was at the same time disappointed by the feeling of fantasy and unreality of it all. Really, in the end, it was history lite with most of the nasty bits removed. Recommended only if you like gentle stories that please, but rest ever so lightly on fact, probability and history.
88 of 106 people found this review helpful
How few and far between are such finds as this wonderful book along with its outstanding performance. Moscow and distantly Russia is the backdrop to the life of the very well mannered and stoic Count Alexander Rostov, a gentleman to his core, whatever his circumstances. I loved spending time with this pleasant man along with his friends and family.
I think back a few days when I finally decided to take a chance on this book and what I might be getting - a Russian Count imprisoned in a hotel - could that really be interesting and entertaining? That shows how minuscule my imagination is compared to Amol Towles imagination. Alexander really does spend his life in the hotel but there are scenes outside it through remembrances and other characters' lives. A lovely, sometimes suspenseful story told with expressive writing with scads of thoughtful inventive details. And it was clear to me that the writer had so much affection for all his cast of characters (with the exception of a few who must be present who make life difficult).
I hope this book finds its audience so others can enjoy it as much as I did. And kudos to Nicholas Guy Smith.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful