Who is the “willowy woman” on the last page of A Gentleman in Moscow?

The “willowy woman” on the last page of A Gentleman in Moscow is Count Rostov's girlfriend, Anna. The author uses these words to describe her on a number of occasions throughout the book.

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As with any great writer, Amor Towles wants his readers to meet him halfway. This means, among other things, that when he describes the “willowy woman” at the end of A Gentleman in Moscow, he is careful not to spell out her identity. Such deliberate ambiguity makes us think about what we're reading without having to be spoon-fed all the relevant details.

It's almost certainly the case that the said “willowy woman” is in fact Count Rostov's girlfriend, the actress Anna. She is described as “willowy” on several occasions throughout the book, a reference to her tall, slim body shape. Her height also perhaps suggests a certain sturdiness and strength in her makeup, reflected by her decision and that of the count to remain in Russia despite the obvious dangers of being imprisoned or even executed.

On the face of it, it may seem strange that Anna and the count would not take the chance to get out of the country and evade the clutches of a repressive regime. But in the final analysis, they are both Russians; this is their homeland in which their souls reside, and they are not prepared to leave it, irrespective of the very real dangers they will surely face.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 13, 2021
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The "willowy woman" in the tavern at the end of A Gentleman in Moscow is not identified, but the adjective "willowy" alone is enough to suggest very strongly that this is Anna, Count Rostov's former inamorata and the only woman in the text who is identified with this epithet. Given the tone of the ending, in which so much is left ambiguous, it would be surprising if she were identified any more clearly.

The word "willowy" most obviously refers to Anna's figure, but there is also an expression in Central and Eastern Europe (of which someone from Count Rostov's background would almost certainly have been aware): a hollow willow is one in whom secrets may be confided. This metaphor was widely used from the middle of the nineteenth century onward—for instance in the poem Král Lávra (King Lear) by Czech poet Karel Havlíček Borovský. It is clearly apposite both for Anna herself and for a conclusion to a book in which secrets abound.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on September 19, 2019
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The "willowy woman" described on the final page of A Gentleman in Moscow is most likely the Count's beloved partner, Anna. Throughout the book, Anna is described several times as being willowy. Using the term "willowy woman" rather than using Anna's name can serve to add to the tenuous and underground nature of Count Rostov and Anna's existence as people who are in opposition to the Russian state.

While the Count and Anna have chosen to stay in Russia rather than live as exiles away from their beloved homeland, they are choosing to do so knowing that political persecution is still completely possible. The couple, by choosing to stay in Russia, must continue to live in an underground nature in which they can not reveal their true identities. Using the description of "willowy woman" reflects this reality.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on September 19, 2019
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The identity of the gray-haired "willowy woman" Count Rostov sees at the end of A Gentleman in Moscow is left ambiguous. However, context clues throughout the book indicate it was almost certainly Anna: she is the only character described using that particular adjective (many times, in fact). Other clues in the scene suggest that Count Rostov has fled home in Russia at his family's residence to stay, at least momentarily, with his grandmother. Nina's absence suggests that she met an unfortunate fate during Stalin's period of control over Russia.

It is possible Rostov feigned his lost passport in order to evade identification by the ruthless KGB. Persecution, imprisonment, and conviction without trial were all unfortunate features of the KGB's operations. Collectively, these clues suggest that Count Rostov and Anna, unable to fully relinquish their homeland, have decided to hide out in rural Russia and take on new identities.

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On the last page of A Gentleman of Moscow, Count Rostow sees the "willowy woman" in a tavern. The "willowy woman with the graying hair" is the actress Anna, his girlfriend. The author, Amor Towles, has previously described her person, hair, and writing as willowy nearly a dozen times throughout the book.

The Count ultimately decides to return to his beloved homeland of Russia for good despite the well-known risks for someone like himself (he had run afoul of the new revolutionary authorities of the Soviet Union). The unnamed Kremlin official that decides to "round up the usual suspects" has apparently decided to overlook him, and we are led to believe that he plans to live out a quiet life in the Russian countryside with Anna rather than live the life of an exile in Paris. The Count has done his duty by giving his daughter, Sophia, a chance for a life outside Russia, and he decides to run the risks that come with staying in his beloved homeland.

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