This was my IRL book club’s choice for our July meeting. At some point in June, the book was bought, but it was not on my Kindle. I had not read it until yesterday when i realised i had a week to do so, and apparently it is long. I finished it in an afternoon. It also fits into the CBR bingo space of adaptation (camel).
It is the story of Count Alexsander Rostov, who returned to Russia in 1918 from Paris, ensured his grandmother left the country and took up residence in the Hotel Metropol. In 1922 he escapes execution but is required to spend the rest of his life under house arrest in the Hotel- not in a guest room but in the abandoned 6th floor rooms that once housed the maids of guests.
The book spans his life in the hotel from the 1920s to the 1950s as he moves from being a wealthy aristocrat to the maître de at the restaurant. The book circles the central issues of his life, how the poem he published that saved him from execution came to be, his friendship with stalwarts of the revolution and his interactions with the people who run and who visit the hotel. Stories of his life before are dropped in, providing the reasons why he was in certain places, or did certain things. A friendship with a young child ultimately leaves him with an adopted daughter, years later.
It brought back echoes of other book club books, including the 100 year old man who claimed out a window, and where the crawdads sings, as well the Poisonwood bible. The first and last are stories of people who were present at moments of history, and what they experienced. The second (and to some degree the first) bring up moments of one person did that? And what in their life gave them that skill?
It is interesting to contemplate the initial afternoon=math of the revolution – it is all to easy to think of such a change being immediate and sweeping, but the reality is that change can take time. People don’t suddenly flick a switch.
Rostov adapts to his new room, his limited space and his limited options. He continues to observe the life around him and interacts. As time goes on he becomes more involved in the minutiae of the hotel and people who make it work. He sees the hotel adapting to the new world it must exist in, and the ways in which it does not need to adapt- people who are at the top of the pyramid might change, but what they expect does not. When the now grown child he befriended in the 1920s leaves her daughter with him “temporarily” he must adapt to being a father.
I enjoyed the book- it was an interesting take on the Russian revolution and the early years of the USSR. It was not depressing. A certain suspension of disbelief is sometimes needed. It did make me think about how people, and institutions, respond to times of great change. The revolution happened, so much of what the Hotel Metropol represented was contrary to the revolution, but was also needed by the country.