As I started to read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, I was immediately reminded of the children’s book Eloise. Eloise and her adventures in New York’s luxurious Plaza Hotel were fun to read because the premise was so fascinating–a little girl living in a hotel in a large city.
Unlike Eloise who was free to go out with an adult, Count Rostov, the main character in A Gentleman in Moscow is required to stay in Hotel Metropol under house arrest. Deemed a ‘former person,’ he is sentenced to life indoors. It was probably an odd book to read at a time when most of us around the world have been reduced to staying home by a virus. Well, that’s a topic for another blog.
My fear that the Count would be a pompous aristocratic man quickly subsided. On the contrary, I found Count Rostov to be an endearing man in whose company I learned about Russia, its history and interesting things like which wine pairs well with a Latvian Stew. I became invested in Count Rostov’s life and his friendships. At a time when the world feels so harsh, the scenes in the book were my escape to a place where manners and kindness still exist.
Towles’s delicate descriptions and observations — “Fatima knew a flower’s fragrance, color, and purpose better than a bee” and “one can revisit the past quite pleasantly, as long as one does so expecting nearly every aspect of it to have changed”– led me into a far away world.
I hope my travels take me to Moscow and the Metropol some day. I will think of Count Rostov while I sit in the Chaliapin or order something at the Boyarsky. Until then, I plan to enjoy other things Russian that the Count lists for us — Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and Tchaikovsky.