Welcome to What’s That Book, sharing book recommendations from readers and bloggers. Today’s guest reviewer is Roberta Eaton Cheadle.
Title: A Gentleman in Moscow
Author: Amor Towles
Genre: Historical Fiction
What’s it about? This book tells the story of the journey of the Bolsheviks and the Russian people from the Russian Revolution in 1917 to 1954 through the eyes of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who becomes an ex-person, namely, a person who was previously a member of the Russian aristocracy.
Alexander was raised on an estate in Nizhny Novgorod province. His parents died when he was ten years old and he and his sister, Helena, were raised by his grandmother, the Countess. After the revolution in 1917 and the assassination of the Tsar, Alexander, who has been in exile in France due to rash and hot-headed behavior in his early 20s, returns to Russian to help his grandmother leave and go into exile in France. Alexander decides to remain in Russia and takes up permanent residence in the hotel Metropol in Moscow, across the road from the Kremlin.
Four years later, in 1922, Alexander is called before a tribunal of the Bolsheviks and sentenced to house arrest for life in the hotel because he had written a poem with a revolutionary subtext. Alexander believes the writing of this poem saved his life, although the Bolsheviks who questioned him are disappointed that he seems to have subsequently lost his purpose and ambition.
Alexander is forced to move out of his palatial suite of rooms and into rooms in the attic which were originally built to accommodate the servants of the gentry who were staying at the hotel.
Alexander’s journey of adjustment to his new circumstances as an ex-person begins and he finds the lack of freedom and the changes in the hotel under the new Bolshevik administration hard to bear. Alexander’s circumstances take a turn for the better when he meets Nina, the nine-year-old daughter of a Bolshevik leader and learns how to make the most of his life and situation.
Through his relationships with Nina, a movie star called, Anna Urbanova, who becomes his love interest, and interactions with his University friend, Mishka, Alexander stays abreast of life outside of the Metropol Hotel and the changes that are being implemented in Russian society under the new regime. Ultimately, his friendship with Nina has a far greater impact on his life than he could have ever imagined.
How did you hear about it? I had not heard of this book which was recommended to me by a blogging friend who had recently read it. I must be honest, I am wondering how I have gone through such a large portion of my life without reading this amazing book, or even hearing about it.
Closing comments: There are some powerful themes in A Gentleman in Moscow. I have identified them below with an appropriate quote to demonstrate how the them asserts itself in the book:
Change and adaptation: “For the times do, in fact, change. They change relentlessly. Inevitably. Inventively. And as they change, they set into bright relief not only outmoded honorifics and hunting horns, but silver summoners and mother-of-pearl opera glasses and all manner of carefully crafted things that have outlived their usefulness.”
Friendship, Family and Love: “This is where we part. Remember: down another flight and out the black metal door. Naturally, it would be best if you never mentioned to anyone that either of us were here.”
“Osip, I don’t know how to repay you.”
“Alexander,” he said with a smile, “you have been at my service for over fifteen years. It is a pleasure for once to be at yours.” Then he was gone.
Chance, Luck and Fate: “Suffice it to say that once the Count’s clothes had been gathered, the curtains were dutifully drawn. What’s more, before he had tiptoed to the door half dressed, he took a moment to ensure that the actress’s ivory blouse had been picked off the floor and hung on its hanger. After all, as the Count himself had observed just hours before: the best-bred dogs belong in the surest hands.”
Bolshevism and Class Struggle: “For pomp is a tenacious force. And a wily one too.
How humbly it bows its head as the emperor is dragged down the steps and tossed in the street. But then, having quietly bided its time, while helping the newly appointed leader on with his jacket, it compliments his appearance and suggests the wearing of a medal or two.”
Contributor: Roberta Eaton Cheadle is an author of children’s books, historical fiction, horror and short fiction. She’s also an active WordPress blogger. You can find her at the following sites:
Blogs: Robbie’s Inspiration and Roberta Writes
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