A hand holing a copy of A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles with scenic background

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About the Book

Title: A Gentleman in Moscow

Author: Amor Towles

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Books

Publication Date: March 2019

Pages: 512, Paperback


A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is one of the best fictional books I have read in a long time. I know that I have possibly said this a few times before. I have loved books with the recluse and out-of-the-ordinary protagonist — yes, I am talking about Ove, Eleanor Oliphant, and Don Tillman. But none comes close to Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, aka Count Rostov, aka Sasha, to those closest to him. He has this manner of life as you’d expect of a Count; composed, dignified, patient, super intelligent, with a wit so dry. Simply put, he is a Gentleman and possibly the last gentleman left in Russia in the wake of the Russian Revolution.


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A Gentleman in Moscow with dogs playing in the background


The Premise of A Gentleman in Moscow

In the wake of all the changes brought about by the revolution, the Bolshevik tribunal deems Count Alexander as an unrepentant aristocrat, sentencing him to indefinite house arrest at his favorite hotel, Hotel Metropol in Moscow. But it’s not all rosy at the hotel because the sentencing sees him downgraded from his favorite suite with a magnificent view of the square to a dingy room in the attic. Too tiny to fit all his possessions, he’s left with countable items, including one of his father’s books, The Essays of Montaigne, where he seizes his sentence as the right opportunity to finally tackle the density that’s Michel de Montaigne’s collection.  


Still, he manages to make do with the little that he has. Compared to being shot at sight if he ever stepped outside the Metropol, he certainly had everything to survive a house arrest under that roof. Moscow’s Metropol Hotel is a city in itself with two restaurants to sample his meals from, a barber shop, and clothing stores. He keeps to his fixed schedule and habit of dining, reading and keeping his appointments at the barbershop. But a new routine is added when he meets Nina, one of exploring the Metropol Hotel undetected, from the wine cellar to breaking into other rooms and discretely listening in on the assembly. Nina might only be a nine-year-old girl interested in learning about princesses and other ways of life from the Count, but it’s these escapades that brighten up Alexander’s life at the Metropol Hotel a little.


Besides Nina, he makes friends with other people, including a steamy love affair with an actress. His longtime friend, Misha, visits whenever he can. But, at some point, the seclusion wears him off, as it’s bound to do any other human. Spending a few weeks or months in a grand hotel is one thing. But serving a life sentence without the possibility of ever going outside the hotel to experience the changing seasons and meet other people is entirely another thing. But even this, the Count survives. Plus, when Nina finally finds her way back to the Count’s life, young and with a young child in tow, she changes the Count’s life trajectory for good. He also transitions to a waiter at the hotel, a job he enjoys and is well suited for, given his taste and knowledge of wines and food. 


And oh my goodness, that twist in the last few chapters! That was certainly unexpected and riveting. 


Get Your Copy of A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles


My Thought About A Gentleman in Moscow

Amor has done A Gentleman in Moscow so much justice. The prose is simply beautiful, to say the least. It’s the kind of prose I am envious of. It’s descriptive, making you feel like you are right in the heart of Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. You can taste the savoury food and smell the enticing scent of every bottle of wine the Count describes. There’s a bit of literature, music, cinema, and history. 


“After all, what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration—and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.”

― Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow


If you love long and descriptive prose, A Gentleman in Moscow is worth adding to your reading list this year. If you’re not a fan… well, I’ll just say you’re missing the joys of a great tale. 


It’s been almost three months since I turned the last pages of A Gentleman in Moscow, and I still cannot get over it. 


My ★ Rating 5.0

Goodreads ★ Rating 4.34 (as of April 2023)

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