Monday, October 10, 2016

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

There are several things to love about this novel. I love a book where literature is lauded. The Count's life is saved on account of a poem he wrote, which some thought had a revolutionary message.

Count Alexander Rostov nevertheless finds himself under house arrest in his favorite hotel, The Metropol. He has become in the eyes of the state a "non-person" for the sole crime of having been born a Count.

He loses his grand rooms and is forced to take rooms in the attic where the wait staff live. The Count still considers himself the luckiest man in all of Russia. He is able to keep his desk and its secret stash of gold coins.

No matter how well-educated and well-informed the Count may think he is, life and the people who populate it, never fail to surprise him.

The Count forms, for instance, forms an unexpected friendship with a handyman and he has a love affair with a woman, an actress, who is nothing like she seems.
 
The Count's odd friendship with Nina, a precocious eleven-year-old and daughter of a party leader, results in her sending him Sofia. This girl becomes his adopted daughter, his world, and his greatest accomplishment.

All of these scenes are ironic and comic rather than lugubrious such as the time that Nina goes off to work for a collective farm. Count Alexander knows that "life" will find her.
 
While the novel moves at the pace of an art film, there are wonderful comic moments. This is especially true with the Count's conflict with a waiter-turned-manager that he calls "the Bishop."
 
With sly humor, Towles traces the subtle and not-so-subtle shifts in Russia's changing political landscape.