A Gentleman in Moscow

p 182 “That sense of loss is exactly what we must anticipate, prepare form and cherish to the last of our days; for it is only our heartbreak that finally refutes all that is ephemeral in love.”

Grand hotels. Elegance. Loss and gentle decay. This is an enchantingly melancholic story. This is one which captured me with its first words,

How well I remember

When it came as a visitor on foot

And dwelt a while amongst us…

and never let go until the final pages. By now, despite its newness, many readers are familiar with this story of a Count who is confined to the Metropole Hotel for his writing of subversive poetry in the 1920s during Russia’s political transformation.  It is a tribute to the author that one such as I – born in the heart of an American blue-collar industrial town and raised by a family rooted in the steelworkers’ and garments workers’ unions – feel such empathy and tenderness toward this stranger. This aristocratic Russian of fine sensibilities who is so far removed from my own. Oh, how my heart goes out to him as he grapples with his reversal of status. Elegance pitted against hard, cold, minimalist communism driven by hubris and relentless ideology. Towles brings literature. He offers us the fruits of his dedication as a writer; to create such a palpable feeling to this stranger –  one event in one man’s life. He does this through his art and works his magic; to choose among the infinite varieties in vocabulary and arrange them into sentences. Sentences into vignettes where you are more than a reader or an observer – where you become vested in Count Rostov’s hopes and plans to become who he is as a man.

This is writing that took my breath away.

Towles, Amor. A Gentleman In Moscow. Nook ed. Viking, 2016.


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