A Gentleman in Moscow

by Amor Towles

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

A Gentleman in Moscow is a 2016 novel set in Moscow in the early twentieth century. American author Amor Towles's story tells the tale of a Russian count trapped at a hotel in the city by order of Soviet authorities.

The story opens with a transcript of Count Alexander Rostov's trial in front of a Bolshevik-era tribunal in the Soviet Union. Rostov, who has up until that point lived a life of ennobled luxury, is found guilty of penning an anti-revolutionary poem and sentenced to confinement in the attic of the Metropol, a notable hotel in Moscow.

Rostov is despondent at his circumstances and nearly commits suicide. His despair is magnified by the rapidly changing world around him, which seems both strange and unfamiliar. He learns that stores he used to frequent, such as Muir and Mirrilees and Filippov's, have been rechristened with suitably socialist names (Central Universal Department Store and First Moscow Bakery, respectively).

With the help of new acquaintances, particularly that of nine-year-old Nina, Rostov comes to accept his predicament and develops bonds with both the staff and a rotating cast of guests of the hotel. He even takes a job at the hotel's restaurant, committing himself to his new vocation with a gusto that sees him quickly rise through the ranks.

As the story progresses through the years, Rostov's friends come and go. The count eventually finds himself the foster parent to his old friend Nina's daughter, Sophia, and helps her flee to the United States. Given the chance to join her, he decides instead to remain in Russia, pondering the story of Robinson Crusoe and wondering, "Why after so many years of longing for home did these sojourners abandon it so shortly upon their return?"

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