It’s 1922. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is under house arrest in Moscow’s splendid Metropol Hotel after writing a poem which displeased the Bolsheviks. But his circumstances could be worse. He could have been exiled to Siberia or even executed. However, he has been forced to give up his luxury suite in the hotel, and take a few possessions to his tiny attic room.
Alexander is an intelligent, cultured, educated gentleman with impeccable manners and high personal standards. He tries to accept his fate as cheerfully as he can. He still enjoys good food and drink at the hotel and engages with interesting people.
As the decades pass, the brutality of Soviet life begins to seep into life at the Metropol, but nothing seems to be able to completely destroy the splendor of the hotel. The Count is eventually pressed into service as a waiter, a task which he undertakes with his usual precision and attention to aesthetics. In this reduced status, Alexander makes a few close friends, finds romance, even a child to nurture and love. His circumstances are not so much humiliating, but enduring the condescension of the ill-mannered, officious communist bureaucrats who are running the hotel is a cross he must bear. At least until things reach a point of no return.
That the dreariness and oppression of Communist Russia and later the Soviet regime are set against the splendor of the Metropol give this novel brightness, beauty, and room for humor. And the reader is treated to spending time with very likeable and dignified characters.
A Gentleman in Moscow would make a great discussion pick for book groups. But give yourself a bit of time to savor it, because it ‘s almost 500 pages long.