“A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles is a book filled with beauty, charm, and surprises. Count Rostov is sentenced to spend the rest of his days in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. The Count takes readers along on his stylish journey through life there. The location itself is as much of a pivotal character as is the Count himself. It offers everything a guest might ever need including not only fine dining, but also a barber, florist, exquisite wine cellar and captivation guests.
Towles writes in a beautiful cadence and words flow on every page. The language itself directly contributes to the feeling of elegance and grace. For The Count, every action, every event is not ordinary, but an exploit to be enjoyed to the fullest extent possible. An unknown utensil is not just an asparagus server, but also an opening into the secret past of everyone who had eaten asparagus off those plates. What royalty had used this humble utensil? What secrets had been shared while it had been used?
Food is featured throughout the narrative, but not just food, but FOOD! They enjoy it, even savor it; it is never ordinary. They do not just make soup; they covertly acquire every ingredient, not substituting anything. When the precious ingredients are assembled, they do not just cook it, they create it. Nothing about the cooking process is regimented or ordinary, and disaster is narrowly averted when ingredients roll and threaten the entire endeavor. The result is not just soup, but instead an elegant concoction that with one taste transports the Count to the port of Marseille.
“A Gentleman in Moscow” is a long book, 462 pages in fact, but many things happen to the Count and to Russia between 1922 and 1954. It is a diverse story, one filled with mystery, excitement, and adventure. Readers love to travel along.