A Gentleman in Moscow Summary

Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow

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A Gentleman in Moscow Summary

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A Gentleman in Moscow is a 2016 novel by American novelist Amor Towles. It centers on Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat who, in 1922, is hauled before a Bolshevik tribunal and sentenced to confinement within the attic of a luxury hotel. His confinement sends him into a spiral of emotional discovery, as well as giving him a unique first-hand look at some of the most significant events of Russian history as they unfold outside his window. Exploring themes of justice, the psychology of the imprisoned, and finding one’s purpose in life, A Gentleman in Moscow was released to critical acclaim and was praised for its in-depth portrayal of the lead character and its detailed depiction of post-revolution Russia.

A Gentleman in Moscow begins with Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, a Russian aristocrat who has never worked a day in his life, being summoned before a Bolshevik court and placed on trial for writing a poem with revolutionary overtones. He’s quickly convicted, and sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, the luxury hotel where he used to stay in the luxury suite. However, instead of being sent back to the suite he has stayed in for the last four years, he is escorted to the attic room that was used for servant’s quarters before the revolution. Trapped in a small space, he seeks a purpose for his life and at first decides it’s obtain the pleasures of life for himself.

The Count becomes disillusioned with his life when he notices that the way manners and common courtesy, values which he held very dear in his former life, are being ignored and lost by the new generation. He starts to feel his generation is being forgotten. He sees evidence of this when the Boyarsky, the hotel’s luxury restaurant, removes the vintages from the wine bottles and simply advertises them as red and white, in a display of equality. This sends him into despair, and he decides to kill himself by throwing himself from the hotel roof. He is stopped by the hotel’s handyman, Abram. Abram, an amateur beekeeper, shares with the Count the honey that the bees in his hive produce, and the taste takes the Count back to the taste of the apples of Nizhny Novgorod, the region of Russia where he and Abram both grew up.

After this experience on the roof, the Count finds a new purpose and takes control of his life. Using his knowledge of proper manners and dining etiquette, he volunteers himself for service at the Boyarsky. He quickly rises through the ranks and becomes head waiter. He befriends the cook, as well as the Maitre d’. Marina, the hotel’s seamstress, becomes a friend to him as well, and teaches him how to sew. Anna Urbanova, a famous Russian actress, frequently comes to the hotel and she and the Count develop a relationship. One day, the Count finds himself involved in the most important work of his time at the hotel, when his old friend Nina arrives, along with her daughter Sofia. Nina’s husband is one of many Russian men who have been arrested, and he has been sentenced to hard labor in Sevvostlag. Nina plans to join him and send for Sofia once she has a job and a place to live. She asks the Count to look after Sofia for a while, but she never returns, and the Count is unable to locate, her despite his best efforts.

Sofia grows up in the hotel, honing her musical skills on the hotel piano. By the time she’s a teenager, she’s a talented pianist. The Count fears for her future, seeing the way Communist Russia tends to destroy the dreams of its young women. He doesn’t want that for Sofia, and he sees an opportunity when Sofia is invited to participate in a goodwill concert in Paris. The Count pulls strings with all of the connections he’s made in his time at the hotel, and is able to arrange for Sofia to escape and seek asylum in America. It is soon revealed that the Count didn’t actually write the poem for which he was sentenced to house arrest. The Count waits until the man who did write it dies, and then puts into effect a plan for a daring escape from the hotel. However, instead of fleeing Russia to join Sofia in America, he takes advantage of his newfound freedom to go to a local tavern, where he meets his love Anna. For all the pain it has caused him, Count Rostov loves Russia and could never leave it behind.

Amor Towles is an American novelist, the author of two critically acclaimed novels: 2011’s Rules of Civility and 2016’s A Gentleman in Moscow. A former Scowcroft Fellow at Stanford University, he was an investment professional in New York before becoming a full-time writer in 2012.