If your heart beats with as much art deco razzle-dazzle as mine does, you’ll love the gold-lustred embellishment against its moody backdrop. The symbols in amongst the border become little moments of reflection each time you re-open the book to read Alexander’s story.
Whimsical, poetic prose that lifts the heart. Reminds me of another era.
After all, what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration—and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.
We are living in unusual times. Well, if you take the last 100 years as your guide. This is love in the time of #corona — an uncharted territory for the entire world. Across the globe, people are retreating to their homes, locking their doors and facing down days, weeks and maybe months of self-isolation so that the world may get a white-knuckled handle on COVID-19.
Quarantine is a funny thing. It requires us to turn inwards; to come to terms with who we are and what we have at our disposal. A prolonged period of time without society’s flirtatious distractions requires us to get to know ourselves. What we’re like when no one’s watching. How we respond to the ever-changing world outside — one that is at times, thankfully, out of our reach. It instantly makes us miss our friends and lament ‘real face time’, even after a period of dodging each others’ texts for weeks. It forces us to reconcile with our stoves and ovens, reaching back into the cobwebbed corners of our memory where a recipe for Nana’s famous lasagne lives.
So, what better time to write a review of A Gentleman in Moscow? A story of self-isolation — albeit, enforced by the law as opposed to the protection of public health. This is a book so relevant to our times that it’s almost uncanny that I already had it lined up to review.
Here we go.
The year is 1922. Count Alexander Rostov has had a run in with the Bolsheviks and subsequently sentenced to house arrest in one of Moscow’s finest hotels — the Metropol. Across the street from the Kremlin, this ‘prison’ becomes home to Rostov, a witty, charming man who has a penchant for the finer things in life. His lowly attic room at the top of this grand hotel keep him far away from the Russia that is evolving right outside on the street and beyond; yet the world he encounters and its ever-revolving cast of characters lead to a much bigger, colourful world on the inside.
I have a decidedly fervent loathing for any television show that decides to create a ‘bottle episode’. This is the term that means an entire episode takes place in only one location. Think Seinfeld ‘The Chinese Restaurant’ or Breaking Bad ‘Fly’ or Friends “The One Where No One’s Ready”. I am always overwhelmed with feelings of suffocation and boredom.
So, yes. The thought of reading an entire book in which the leading character’s whole existence takes place in only one building made me a little more than wary. I’ll admit, I stared at the book for a few days before even opening the cover to read it. However, such rave reviews had been shared with me as I was lent this book, that I had to take my trusted adviser’s word for it.
And I was so very glad I did.
Amor Towles created a charming book with writing that dances on the page. I really felt I could imagine this time in Russia thanks to his prose. I savoured the small details that became so beautifully magnanimous, while other huge events like World War II became background blips on the radar.
In this book you’ll get a sense of Russian aristocracy and its wild politics; you’ll meet entertaining characters and encounter the Revolution; and you’ll discover what adding a little panache and wit to an ordinary day can do for the soul.
At once emotional and whimsical, A Gentleman in Russia says a lot about living a life to its finest and fullest, despite any limitations it brings.
…what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause; what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty of acclaim.
Fable and Fizz would like to acknowledge the Whadjuck Noongar people as the traditional owners and continual custodians on the lands and waters this content is primarily written on. I pay respects to their Elders — past and present. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.