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A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW BY AMOR TOWLES

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up sign up here >>

REVIEWS

Eileen North

I have enjoyed the easy flowing text and the wonderful turns of phrase used of this book. They have made me smile. Having been in Moscow on the Waterways of the Tsars cruise, I can imagine the setting. A thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable read.

Virginia Farquharson

“Reconciled or resigned to what has happened to you”- this is the question posed by a friend to Count Alexander Rostov who, by then, had already spent a number of years in indefinite detention in a luxury hotel in Moscow, to which he was sentenced in 1922. The book records the story of the Count’s house arrest, the friends he makes and how he adapts to his incarceration. The reader will be filled with admiration for this charming and debonair hero, who is never filled with self-pity. One is also given a glimpse of political and social history in Russia over a period of more than 30 years. A very entertaining read with a surprising feel good factor. Take note and look out for references to “the willowy woman” so that the unexpected twist at the end of the story does not take you by surprise!.

Patrick Griffin

A man confined to a hotel room for over thirty years, boring you may think? Not when the man in question is the charming, polymath, now “Former Person”, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov and the hotel is the five star Hotel Metropol Moscow in the years following the Bolshevik Revolution.

The Count has an exciting 30-odd years’ incarceration including: being reallocated from his luxurious suite to an “attic” room, having adventures with a precocious young girl, bringing up a child as his own, becoming head waiter in the hotel’s prestigious restaurant and becoming involved in political intrigues.

Not a traditional, historical novel but more a thriller/romance with a touch of comedy thrown in for good measure. Loved the Count’s character and outlook on life “...by the smallest of one’s actions, one can restore some sense of order to the world”.

Kerry Mathias

The author has painted the picture of a member of the nobility becoming a non-person after the Russian Revolution with humour, grace and at times a quiet pathos. The central character has been shown to have the ability to maintain the high standards of his former life whilst being under house arrest. By maintaining theses standards he is able to make his life comfortable under the bureaucracy that was post revolution Russia. The other cast members in the book are all life-like and play good supporting roles which make for excellent storylines. The author has shown that the new Russia still required some of the trappings of the old order to make its way in the new. The subtle way in which the Count made himself indispensable to both management of the hotel and high-ranking officers of the new government is well written.

This was a most enjoyable book without being a heavy read and not dwelling on what must have been a very frightening and harsh time in Russia’s history.

Karen Tucker

How can a novel describing the passing of 30 years in the confines of the Metropol Hotel in post-revolutionary Russia be so utterly absorbing? It is the company of the charming Count Rostov which envelopes you into a joyous story filled with colourful characters to savour as the Count would a dry Montrachet; the mysterious, willowy actress with the out of control dogs or the former Red Army General with a penchant for Humphrey Bogart movies. The impact of the aftermath of the Revolution, WW2 and the horrors of the Stalinist era on the microcosm of the Metropole and the litany of characters within are depicted with both humour and poignancy. In one chapter, Bolshevik officials declare the hotels’ prized wine cellar “is counter to the ideals of the Revolution,” leading, much to the Count’s horror, to all labels from more than 100,000 bottles of wine being removed and sold as red or white at the same price. Yet, to avoid seeming glib, historical footnotes are also used to convey the more ruthless effects of these momentous events on the Russian people such as the fate of the Kulaks or deportees to the Gulags. Consequently this wonderful novel unfolds through tumultuous events, at times poetic, others comic but in essence a rollicking read with a thrilling finale.

Jan Barnes

Probably not the sort of book I would have purchased and it took some time to see quite where this was leading and I was almost tempted to give up. However, with perseverance the storyline became quite mesmerising and it was difficult to put it down and I was sorry when it ended.

Richard Guy

This is a wonderfully written book and beguiling in nature with wonderful characterisation and inventive stories. There is a very interesting juxtaposition of ideas on so many levels. Between the opulence of the hotel and the drabness and poverty of the world outside in Moscow, between the individuality of the Count and the conformity of Communism outside and between the aspirations of officials like Osip and the supposed equality of communism. The shining character of the Count shines through despite the fact that his house arrest is meant to be a punishment whereas he adapts his new world to his own ends to make a completely new life for himself without compromising his ideals or beliefs. All in all a beautiful, beguiling book.

Carina Mulligan

I'm not sure if at this time of self-isolation this story of a man under house arrest in a hotel for years was an ideal choice! However I soldiered on. My usual choice of book is a fast-paced thriller and this certainly wasn't one of those but once I got into it I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The style of writing was very good and it is full of interesting nuggets of information about the changes in Russia over the years and there are characters developed nicely throughout. It is a book which needs concentrating on to get the best from it, but it isn't hard going and is interspersed with lovely light bits of humour. Recommended but not as a quick holiday read.