I enjoyed Gentleman in Moscow as much as anything I have read in a long time. It had an unusual subject and setting. It had likeable and admirable characters. It was carefully written with themes to think about. It was often amusing. -----Lots to admire about this second book by author Towles!
Count Alexander Rostov is under "house arrest" throughout the novel, at the luxurious Metropol Hotel in Moscow. He has seemed critical of the new government under Lenin following the Russian Revolution, but is too highly connected to powerful people to be executed.
Thus, the novel takes place mostly within the walls of the hotel, over the thirty-plus years that the Count lives there. This limited setting may sound boring, but Count Rostov's philosophy makes his days and years interesting, amusing, and even suspenseful at times. That philosophy: “If a man does not master his circumstances, then he is bound to be mastered by them.”
So the Count remains positive, makes friends, finds work, and lives a gracious life despite his circumstances. I will tell you that a child becomes an important part of his life, reminding some reviewers of little Eloise at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
I hated to finish the book, but it rewarded me with a terrific ending, one I had not anticipated. I loved the author's control over his plot and characters, all the way through.
I agree with this summary by an online reviewer:
In all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight . . .This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind. A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility."