Thursday, April 29, 2021

Fiction Review: A Gentleman in Moscow

Partway through reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles this month, I said to my husband, "When I hear everyone I know saying a book is amazing, I should listen!" That was the case with this unique and extraordinary novel. I kept hearing rave reviews of it, both from friends and reviewers, but somehow I didn't get around to reading it on my own. So, I am grateful that one of my book groups chose it as our April selection. Everyone else in the group agreed that this is a warm, funny, beautifully written, and uplifting novel.

In 1922 Russia, thirty-year-old poet Count Alexander Rostov goes before a Bolshevik tribunal, upon his return to the country from Europe. They declare him an "unrepentant aristocrat" and sentence him to house arrest at the Metropol, a fancy hotel across the street from the Kremlin. The Count has been living at the hotel since his return anyway, but now he is quickly moved from his luxurious suite with its expansive views to a tiny room in the attic on the sixth floor. He can move about the hotel freely but can not leave its premises. For someone used to dining in the best restaurants, attending the theater and ballet, and traveling extensively, this is quite a difficult transition for him, and Rostov struggles at first. Then, a precocious nine-year-old girl named Nina befriends him one day in the lobby, wanting to know what real princesses are like and how they behave. The two become fast friends, and Nina opens his eyes to a whole world behind the scenes of his familiar hotel, as they explore basement passages, get to know staff, and hide in the balcony to watch meetings held in the ballroom. Rostov is naturally resilient and upbeat, and Nina helps him to see his circumstances in a new light, even long after she returns to school. He forms deep friendships within the walls of the hotel, excels at a job he acquires there, and builds his life there over the decades. Eventually, another little girl comes into his life who will again transform him, and he, in turn, must care for her.

It is easy to describe what happens in this novel but so much harder to describe how it made me feel. From its first pages, the book is entirely engrossing, Rostov completely charming, and Nina irresistible. The writing is beautiful and filled with so many thoughtful, insightful passages that my copy has many tabbed pages that I need to transcribe to my Quote Journal before I return it to the library. Here are just a couple of brief examples of Rostov's astute musings:

"But imagining what might happen if one's circumstances were different was the only sure route to madness."

"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."

Though it takes place mostly within the walls of this one building over the course of decades, the novel took me on a tremendous emotional journey, making me cry twice and laugh out loud over and over. That, to me, is the mark of a truly great novel: one that can make me feel. My entire book group felt the same way. In fact, our average rating as a group was an unprecedented 9.6 out of 10! It is poignant, funny, and compelling and is all about living in the present and finding small joys in every day life. I absolutely loved reading it and highly recommend it.

462 pages, Viking

My book group was thrilled to hear that this wonderful novel is being adapted into a limited TV series starring Kenneth Branagh--I can't wait!

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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith, and/or download it from Audible. It sounds great on audio!


You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



Or you can order A Gentleman in Moscow from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. Like you, I've heard so many good things about this book, but I've never read it. However, hearing that it is going to be a series with Kenneth Branagh might just push it up to the top of the TBR!

    1. Yes, it's always fun to read the book before you see the TV series or movie!

  2. I liked this book, but didn't LOVE it like so many others (including my dad). I do like it when a book doesn't need expansive locations to tell its tale.

    1. Interesting. I was shocked when EVERYONE in my book group loved it! I think the lowest rating was an 8. We rarely agree on any book, and we have one member who almost always dislikes what we read - lol