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6 Feb

A Gentleman in Moscow

Amor Towles has the ability of enveloping his reader. He did it once, with Rules of Civility; and he did it again with A Gentleman in Moscow. As I first dived into the latter, it felt slow. Time stops when recounting a captive man’s life; such a task comes at the risk of tedium. But this was no normal prisoner, and no normal exile, Count Rostov, trapped within the grand walls of a 5 star hotel during the years of communist Russia, was a gentleman.

With every turn of the page, I was lured deeper into the story, until I found myself a voluntary hostage of the Metropol Hotel: dissecting the collection of specimens that stepped in and out of the lobby; craving the mouthwatering bouillabaisse concocted at Emile’s kitchen; and soaking up the fascinating stories, presence of mind and decorum of a true gentleman. Far from being a banal description of aristocracy, A Gentleman in Moscow is the beautiful story of a man who masters his circumstances whatever they may be. There is seduction, there is intrigue, there is wit; but most of all there is the intrinsic desire of a man to pursue his dreams even if doing so may seem impossible.


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Observations: The morality of Rostov’s actions is not always correct, just as any human, he is not flawless. As Caravaggio did, Towles painted his main character in a chiaroscuro technique, presenting his virtues and impeccable manners, along with his own imperfections and dubious righteousness of actions.

Photograph via Reading in Heels

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