A novel set in Russia in 1922, in which Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors.
...a highly engaging mosaic of a life, populated by colorful characters enduring the changing tides of history ... Take the nostalgia and whimsy of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, the decorum of Downton Abbey, add a splash of the 19th-century comedies of manners (Dickens, Thackeray, et al.) and a twist of Russian existentialism, and you’ll arrive at something like this book ... There are so many ways a book like this could go wrong, but Towles pulls it all off — including authorial footnotes in the voice of a historian-cum-Russian-novelist — without a misstep.
Solzhenitsyn this is not. The frost gathers outside, but the book proceeds with intentional lightness. The tone is generally not far removed from the Fitzgeraldian tributes of Towles’s first novel, Rules of Civility ... Although its style is never overbearing, the Metropol is imbued with a sense of idiosyncratic wonder. Listen closely and you might hear a Wes Anderson soundtrack playing down the hall ... Towles is a craftsman. What saves the book is the gorgeous sleight of hand that draws it to a satisfying end, and the way he chooses themes that run deeper than mere sociopolitical commentary: parental duty, friendship, romance, the call of home.
A Gentleman in Moscow is a novel that aims to charm, not be the axe for the frozen sea within us. And the result is a winning, stylish novel that keeps things easy ... All of the verbal excess, the gently funny mock-epic digressions, the small capers and cast of colorful characters, add up to something undeniably mannered but also undeniably pleasant. A Gentleman in Moscow is like a quipping, suavely charming dinner companion that you are also a little relieved to escape at the end of the meal.