Book Review – A Gentleman in Moscow

book cover of a gentleman standing in the balcony of Hotel Metropol in Moscow

Image credit: Goodreads

Some books come in your life like a ray of sunshine during incessant rains.

Well, this book has been one of that kind. On one hand, you don’t want to put the book down and on the other you don’t want it to end. Huh!!

Plot: 

In 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to spend his life under house arrest in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. The book narrates the story through the eyes of the Count for the next thirty years as he makes the most of his life despite its limitations. He meets interesting characters; some stay with him till the end, some part ways very early, some become his friends, while some antagonize him. But all in all, the Count lives an eventful life!!

Review:

Before reading this book, I had a hazy picture of Russia from what little history I had read in the school and from the books of Leo Tolstoy. Though this book is more of a fictional account of the times during the Bolshevik’s reign over the newly formed Soviet Union, it still gives a good view of the life during the times of Stalin.

The character of Count Rostov is finely and thoughtfully built. The Count not only amuses you with his wit and impresses you with his charm, but also makes you want to emulate him for his wisdom. A character that you want to tip your hat to, if you had been wearing one and wish good luck to for the rest of his journey.

Frankly speaking, when in the beginning the Count is sentenced to house arrest in a hotel, I was a little skeptical about how the book would pan out if the protagonist could not even step out. But nowhere during the story I felt that the Count was restricted; a patient, satisfied, but resourceful fellow he enjoys his life in his limited means. That doesn’t mean he lives a dreary or boring life; far from it, he has his adventures which will amaze you, make you laugh and at places teary-eyed too.

He becomes a waiter at the hotel restaurant and does his work with charm and panache. He is well read, identifies any piece of music, can speak many languages and knows his liquor well. He is a real asset to the Hotel though many might not agree with it.

A Gentleman in Moscow is a book that will make you fall in love with Russia, which even the combined brilliance of Leo Tolstoy and Chekhov couldn’t do. A book that will make you pick up Pushkin, Gogol and Dosteovysky. It’s a book that will make you want to visit Russia and book your stay in Hotel Metropol.

It’s a brilliant book given that it has everything that would appeal to a reader – romance, politics and espionage. The tremendous events of the great depression and the World War II are only mentioned in passing, it is because the main focus is on the Count and how he survives in the hotel.

Here are some of the quotes or observations from the book:

“That sense of loss is exactly what we must anticipate, prepare for, and cherish to the last of our days; for it is only our heartbreak that finally refutes all that is ephemeral in love.”

“By the smallest of one’s actions, one can restore some sense of order to the world.”

A Gentleman in Moscow is a book that you must read in this lifetime, even if you are not a Russophile.

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to one of them. Seriously, only one!!

5. A book from WWII time period

10. A book set in a country that you visited/want to visit

18. A book with four words in title

19. A book written by an author who is new to you

 

About Anshu Bhojnagarwala

Fiction Addict. Agatha Christie Fan.
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