Who are these people who didn’t love Armor Towels’ novel A Gentleman in Moscow? Perhaps they are readers who like shorter books (this one was over 400 pages) or are more interested in action novels than character studies (fans of James Patterson?).
Perhaps they felt the entire premise was ludicrous, but I can assure them that house arrest is a common concept, not just in Russia, but throughout the world – even in the United States (think ankle bracelet). While a five star hotel like the Metropol (a real site still in existence in Moscow today) might not be a common locale, it definitely made for fascinating reading.
Then again, perhaps the reluctant reader is not a fan of Russia and found name dropping of that country’s cultural icons pretentious instead of endearing. Oh, Anna Karina (I read that one in college) and The Nutcracker (who doesn’t love a good Christmas time story – I can hear the music and see the dancers as we speak). Or they did not like Towles’ take on Russian History feeling his interpretation of events were too harsh.
Perhaps the reader got bogged down in the details. Towles admits he had to carefully lay out the specifics in the first half of the book in order to manipulate them in the second half providing a full circle of events. While some might have been bored, I found each little tidbit delightful, especially when the pieces were gathered up into a whole bouquet of events. Such a shame for those of you who stopped reading too soon.
There is also the possibility that the reader could not discern the charm of the Count, the very charm which led the authorities to spare his life. The same charm which led to a deep friendship with both the staff and the guests within the establishment. A gentleman through and through, his gentile manner, full of warmth and humor, created a character which should be long remembered in the world of literature.
Then again, these “readers” might not have appreciated the author’s craft, his ability to shape a phrase that elicits a knowing smile or creates three dimensional characters that we grow to love and care about. I feel sad thinking about those who missed out on this opportunity.
It took Towles a year and a half to write this novel and another three years to complete the editing process, fleshing out the historical details (I loved the little footnotes which seamlessly provided a background to events), nicely integrating fact and fiction. I expect though, that as he wrote the characters took on a life of their own and while he followed an outline, the book pretty much generated its own specifics.
Ultimately, I forgot I was reading a book since I was so immersed into the story, like a fly on the wall joyfully watching as events unfolded (some totally unexpected), delighting in the particulars and enjoying the clever turn of phrase. While the majority of the book was written from the Count’s point of view, there were several sections with a third person narration explaining events.
So, when you hear that the premise of A Gentleman in Moscow is about a Russian Count under “hotel” arrest at the Metropol for over thirty years (beginning in 1922), that description is just the tip of the iceberg, it is about so much more with the little things which are sure to create an afterglow as we digest the entire concept that one can live a full and rich life confined to one location.
You know this book is appreciated since it has not yet been released in paperback requiring those who of us tired of waiting for a copy to become available at the local library to purchase our own hardcover. No borrowing since everyone else is hanging on to their copy.
Kudos and a well deserved five stars.