My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Audio Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Please Note:  I am an Amazon Affiliate.  I will get a small fee if you buy the book through the link on the cover.  This did not influence my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
A Gentleman in Moscow
immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

I really didn't know much about this novel before I read it.  But a friend of mine recommended this book, so I checked out the audiobook from my local library.  At first, I found the tone of this book to be very stilted, and old-fashioned.  But as I listened, the story of Count Rostov enveloped me and I raced to finish the book before I had to return it.

What I Liked:
The disposed Count Rostov is ordered to stay in the Hotel Metropol for the rest of his life.  At first I thought, "Oh, poor baby!  His life will be so rough living in a five star hotel."  But, as I read the novel, the hotel does indeed become a kind of prison, as life passes by outside, and he has few ways to access it.

I enjoyed the way he eventually does find a kind of purpose in the hotel, and even gets the opportunity to find love and parenthood.  While he is very adaptable to the new Soviet atmosphere, he also upholds some old-world values of service, discretion, and loyalty amid an ever-changing world.

The hotel staff each have different relationships with the Count and they change as time marches on.  The restaurant staff first see him as a valued, important customer, later as an equally important member of the waitstaff.  Their changing relationships mirror what is going on politically in the Soviet Union.  One staff member (sorry, but I forgot his name) goes from bumbling waiter to manager of the entire hotel because he knows how to work the party system to his advantage (a little blackmail doesn't hurt either). 

The women in the Count's life, Anna the actress, the child Nina, and (later) Nina's daughter, Sophie, all come to love the Count in different ways.  But, as he is still stuck in the hotel, they flit in and out of his life, a reminder that he is still not free.

Historical details: 
As I read the book, I had no idea that the Hotel Metropol was a real place!  

 Isn't is glorious?

Now that I know this is a real place, I am even more appreciative of all the details of the hotel, and how things changed over the years.  

The book also chronicles how Russian society changed with the advent of Communism.  People who were once important were now reduced to the lowest rungs of society.  But I found it interesting that there were still levels of class in Russia, despite the best efforts of the Socialists to change things.  

Th book is narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith, and he does a fine job of portraying the Count as the fastidious gentleman he is.  He also conveys the loneliness and regret of the character throughout the novel. 

What I Didn't Like:
Some Historical Gaps:
I love historical fiction, so I was disappointed that one of the most tragic events in Russia was skipped over, entirely!   How could this book chronicle the 1920's to the 1950's without even a mention of the hardships endured by Russians during WWII?  Russia suffered over 20 million casualties, more than any other nation.  Over four million people died of starvation, alone.  Wouldn't there have been severe hardships to the people in the hotel during this time?

Despite this gap, I really enjoyed this book.  The journey of the Count is engaging, and pulls you in to make you care about the characters.



Release Date:  September 6th, 2016

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Audio

Listening Length:  17 Hours, 52 Minutes

Page Length:  700 Pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  Audio Book

Recommendation:  Although the book started slowly, I grew to love this novel. 
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2019 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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