"Ignatov: Alexander Ilyich Rostov, talking into full account your own testimony, we can only assume that the clear-eyed spirit who wrote the poem Where Is it Now? has succumbed irrevocably to the corruption of his class-and now poses a threat to the very ideals he once espoused. On that basis, our inclination would be to have you taken from this chamber and put against the wall. But there are those within the senior ranks of the Party who count you among the heroes of the prerevolutionary cause. Thus, it is the opinion of the committee that you should be returned to that hotel of which you are so fond. But make no mistake: should you every set foot outside of the Metropol again, you will be shot."
With those words Count Rostov was a prisoner. The Count’s prison, however, would not be cold, dark, and lonely, but warm, bright, and a constant shuffling of people. That’s because the Count is on house arrest at the Metropol Hotel in the heart of Moscow. Beginning in 1922 and continuing on for the next several decades, the Count experiences life along side the hotel staff as well the various guest that come and go. Life for the Count revolves around dinning at the hotels lavish restaurants, leisurely paging through classic literature, and engaging in small talk at the hotel bar; nightcap in hand. By all reasonable standards, the Count is making the most of his house arrest. But as life has a way of doing, the Count begins to encounter interruptions to those daily routines. First a forced change in living accommodations. Then a young, attractive, up and coming actress checks into the hotel. An inquisitive little girl looking for a friend joins him for lunch. Slowly this aristocratic Count's life starts to take on a new shape. With the Count as the conduit, The Gentlemen in Moscow teach us above love, friendship, fatherhood, loyalty, patriotism, sacrifice, and servanthood during some of the most important decades of Russian history.
I have always loved the Russian novels of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. I loved the length, depth, imagery, and complexity of those novels. Some describe these type of novels as slow, meticulous, and too extensive, but that is why I love them. They have the flavor of something that taken dedication and effort. The Gentlemen in Moscow is a modern day novel that fills the shoes of its Russian predecessors. So, I think it’s obvious I absolutely loved this novel. Towles is a master of language and his descriptions naturally draw you into each scene. Towels writing creates living breathing scenes, inviting you in, while allowing you to remain anonymous. I could pull on numerous different threads Towels creates during this novel, but the one that I love the most was the motif of servanthood. Throughout the novel, the Count transitions from the one being served to the one doing the serving. This is typically described as a "fall from grace", but the Count embodies how to "gracefully fall". In the Count, we see that dignity and worth are not found in whom is being served, but that dignity and worth are initiated by the individual and the intentional positive outlook on life, despite which side of service line you are on.
I would highly recommend this novel for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. If you want a microwaveable dinner, this is not for you. If you have the patience to allow this novel to marinate and stew, you will be rewarded with a meal that would rival the Boyarsky.
(The soup in the picture above was a traditional Russian cabbage (shchi) and was very delicious!)
I love everything about books. The feel of the page between your fingers, the sound of a book spine cracking, even the smell of an old dust jacket. Looking to share that passion with others.