Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I began reading this book for the rich Russian history. I wanted to know about the political changes over the decades after the shift from royalty to Bolsheviks. Having grown up in the shadow of the Cold War, I was fascinated by what was happening on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

So I read the book for the wrong reason. The author assumes the reader already knows the political landscape. Peripherally, the politics are discussed, particularly at the end of the book. Essentially, the Count allegedly wrote seditious poetry that criticized communism. He was tried by the Bolsheviks in 1922 and escaped being shot for reasons later explained, but put on house arrest at the hotel in the worst room. Yet this is a man who is described as "proper, proud, and open hearted." He is also described as a man inclined to see the best in all of us.

The reason I loved the book was not for the historical merits. It wasn't for the intellectually stimulating discussions. That was above my intellect. I'm not familiar with Russian literature. Those, along with philosophical discussions, were my least favorite parts of the book. Fortunately, those were not the bulk of the book. The bulk of the book was character development and interactions between characters. I realized quickly that the humor was rampant, clever, and more subtle than me. But it made me laugh out loud.

Rather than even attempt to recount the clever interplay, my favorite relationships were between the Count and Nina, the triumvirate, the Count and Sofia (loved it!), the Count and Olsip, the bishop and everybody, Anna and the Count, well... Every relationship was increasingly enjoyable. Every scene built on one another. The scene where Sofia exits the closet was a wonderful stage play in my mind. The scene of Sofia forgetting her doll at Marina's was something from my own life, but so many were so real and the characters so distinct and clever, I'd be hard pressed to tell you if I read the book or saw the movie. Yet a movie could not express the tender relationship between the characters or the subtle shifts in perspective.

I enjoyed the characters, relationships, and the story.

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