This book was absolutely perfect for a post-Christmas rush day of doing literally nothing but reading.
It’s based in Russia, spanning the 1920s-50s and takes place primarily inside a luxury hotel. The protagonist, Count Alexander Rostov, has been living there for some time, but after being tried by the state on the heels of the Bolshevik revolution (for writing some questionable poetry), he is sentenced to house arrest in that same hotel for the rest of his life. He is stripped of the suite befitting a Count, and relocated to a smaller attic room where he realizes that he needs to make the most of this situation, lest he go insane.
He develops friendships with hotel employees and with a particularly charming 9-year old guest of the hotel. Eventually Rostov begins working as a waiter in the hotel, bringing his years of high society life to elevating his position.
With a few exceptions, the book isn’t super action-packed. Instead, it’s a slow-moving story that spans decades, with the history of Russia being played out behind it. Personally, I was struck by the revelation that while Rostov is trapped in this hotel forever, as history changes in the world outside, he realizes that he is in fact the lucky one. His sentence is saving him from the government scrutiny that many of his peers are facing, and possibly saving his life – a poignant reminder that circumstances that often appear devastating at first, can sometimes work out for the best in the end.
It’s not a thrilling page-turner (until the very end), but for anyone who is a fan of Russian history and is looking for a book to sink some hours into, I recommend this one.