A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

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Count Alexander Rostov is an aristocratic Russian man-of-leisure. He duels, downs brandy and charms all- until he is sentenced to house arrest by the newly formed Communist government for writing seditious poetry. His house is the Hotel Metropol and there he remains for the next forty years.

Limited scope you say? No. There is lovely contrast between the inner life of the hotel and the macro-movements of the outside world. You can feel the influence of the Russian Revolution even in the ballrooms. Enough characters enter and leave so as to make this a compelling microcosm. The hotel itself is a splendid setting- the literary equivalent of a Wes Anderson film, all nostalgic colouring, silver teaspoons and endless stairways.

This would have worked better as a short story- the setting is wonderful, Rostov is an interesting, idiosyncratic character but not enough happens to justify the length. It can’t quite decide what it is- a fanciful fairytale? Social commentary? A comedy of manners? As a whole it is too sentimental and artful for my taste. The chapters of asides and drawing room manners grow a bit annoying, no matter how nicely written.

Constructed it may be, it is also the most meticulous literary dolls house and would certainly appeal to a less cynical reader.

Read: If you feel whimsical

 

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