The great thing about being in two different book clubs is that I get exposed to a variety of books I normally would not pick up otherwise. The bad thing about being in two different book clubs is that I have to read a book that I don’t like occasionally. And sometimes, it’s a mixed bag. I try to force myself to read the book, once I’ve committed, because I want people to read the book I choose. And I found myself somewhat hot and cold on our March pick. B chose Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, which got rave reviews on Goodreads. I was squarely in the middle on it.
Towles chronicles the life of a disgraced young count, who is forced into lifelong exile into a hotel in Moscow. Forced into a small attic room, Count Rostov quickly falls into a routine in order to avoid despair. It is in this daily trip to the hotel’s restaurant that he strikes up a friendship with a precocious child named Nina, an actress about to become famous, and several of the hotel’s employees. The novel unfolds over many decades and reaches its denouement when the count realizes that he can do good by a deserving young woman caught up in the USSR’s political crossfire.
This is not a bad book, and the story is nice. It sounds like I am damning it with faint praise, and to some extent, I am. This book was way too long for being a nice story. Towles could have cut about 30-40% and nothing would have been lost. This is a problem. I lost a great deal of reading momentum, because I got bored or distracted by side stories, fluffy details, and observations. It tried really hard to be a Dickensian novel, and let’s face it, even Dickens couldn’t even be Dickens all the time. If you like long, rambling novels, definitely check this out. Be prepared and in the right mood for the story to unfold slowly. Like I said, it’s not a bad book, but not my favorite.
Cross-posted to my blog.