I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book with such a localized setting. With the exception of one scene and a very few pages at the end, A Gentleman In Moscow takes place in a single building – the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. In the early 1920s in Russia, Alexander is a young relic, an aristocrat who survived the Bolshevik Revolution. The state wants to punish him but not kill him and thus he is placed under house arrest in the attic rooms of this luxury hotel, to live out the rest of his days.
Understandably, the book makes large jumps in time, it would be quite tedious otherwise. We get to know the friends he assembles – including coworkers, as he takes on a job at the fine dining restaurant in the hotel, eventually becoming head waiter. We meet the child he befriends and later the child he adopts and his life in every corner and behind every wall of the Metropol. The decades pass, World War II comes and goes, and Alexander lives still, ever a gentleman, in the hotel.
It is a small-feeling story, with fascinating insights behind the scenes of communist Russia. I particularly liked a small set of paragraphs that focused on the idea of pomp and how it always creeps back, even in the unlikeliest of circumstances. I love all the little pieces and watching them fit together over and over again. With the deliberate exception of the antagonist, the characters – even the prickly ones – are an absolute delight. It’s just a wonder to read. I’ve recommended it to a few coworkers who visited Moscow last year and I would love to hear their thoughts.
Bingo Square: Far And Away