A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow

by Amor Towles

Paperback(Reprint)

$13.01 $17.00 Save 23% Current price is $13.01, Original price is $17. You Save 23%. View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, May 30

Overview

The mega-bestseller with more than 1.5 million readers that is soon to be a major television series

"The novel buzzes with the energy of numerous adventures, love affairs, [and] twists of fate." —The Wall Street Journal


He can’t leave his hotel. You won’t want to.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel.

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143110439
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/26/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 28
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Born and raised in the Boston area, Amor Towles graduated from Yale College and received an MA in English from Stanford University. His first novel, Rules of Civility, published in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller and was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the best books of 2011. His second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, published in 2016, was also a New York Times bestseller and was named as one of the best books of 2016 by the Chicago TribuneThe Washington PostThe Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and NPR. His work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages. Having worked as an investment professional for more than twenty years, Mr. Towles now devotes himself full time to writing in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Read an Excerpt

From A Gentleman in Moscow:

There were two restaurants in the Hotel Metropol: the Boyarsky, that fabled retreat on the second floor that we have already visited, and the grand dining room off the lobby known officially as the Metropol, but referred to affectionately by the Count as the Piazza.

Admittedly, the Piazza could not challenge the elegance of the Boyarsky’s décor, the sophistication of its service, or the subtlety of its cuisine. But the Piazza did not aspire to elegance, service, or subtlety. With eighty tables scattered around a marble fountain and a menu offering everything from cabbage piroghi to cutlets of veal, the Piazza was meant to be an extension of the city—of its gardens, markets, and thorough fares. It was a place where Russians cut from every cloth could come to linger over coffee, happen upon friends, stumble into arguments, or drift into dalliances—and where the lone diner seated under the great glass ceiling could indulge himself in admiration, indignation, suspicion, and laughter without getting up from his chair.

And the waiters? Like those of a Parisian café, the Piazza’s waiters could best be complimented as “efficient.” Accustomed to navigating crowds,they could easily seat your party of eight at a table for four. Having noted your preferences over the sound of the orchestra, within minutes they would return with the various drinks balanced on a tray and dispense them round the table in rapid succession without misplacing a glass. If, with your menu in hand, you hesitated for even a second to place your order, they would lean over your shoulder and poke at a specialty of the house. And when the last morsel of dessert had been savored, they would whisk away your plate, present your check, and make your change in under a minute. In other words, the waiters of the Piazza knew their trade to the crumb, the spoon, and the kopek.

At least, that was how things were before the war. . . .

Today, the dining room was nearly empty and the Count was being served by someone who appeared not only new to the Piazza, but new to the art of waiting. Tall and thin, with a narrow head and superior demeanor, he looked rather like a bishop that had been plucked from a chessboard. When the Count took his seat with a newspaper in hand—the international symbol of dining alone—the chap didn’t bother to clear the second setting; when the Count closed his menu and placed it beside his plate—the international symbol of readiness to order—the chap needed to be beckoned witha wave of the hand; and when the Count ordered the okroshka and filet of sole, the chap asked if he might like a glass of Sauterne. A perfect suggestion, no doubt, if only the Count had ordered foie gras!

“Perhaps a bottle of the Châteaude Baudelaire,” the Count corrected politely.

“Of course,” the Bishop replied with an ecclesiastical smile.

Granted, a bottle of Baudelaire was something of an extravagance for a solitary lunch, but after spending another morning with the indefatigable Michel de Montaigne, the Count felt that his morale could use the boost. For several days, in fact, he had been fending off a state of restlessness. On his regular descent to the lobby, he caught himself counting the steps. As he browsed the headlines in his favorite chair, he found he was lifting his hands to twirl the tips of moustaches that were no longer there. He found he was walking through the door of the Piazza at 12:01 for lunch. And at 1:35, when he climbed the 110 steps to his room, he was already calculating the minutes until he could come back downstairs for a drink. If he continued along this course, it would not take long for the ceiling to edge downward, the walls to edge inward, and the floor to edge upward, until the entire hotel had been collapsed into the size of a biscuit tin.

As the Count waited for his wine, he gazed around the restaurant, but his fellow diners offered no relief. Across the way was a table occupied by two stragglers from the diplomatic corps who picked at their food while they awaited an era of diplomacy. Over there in the corner was a spectacled denizen of the second floor with four enormous documents spread across his table, comparing them word for word. No one appeared particularly gay; and no one paid the Count any mind. That is, except for the young girl with the penchant for yellow who appeared to be spying on him from her table behind the fountain. According to Vasily, this nine-year-old with straight blond hair was the daughter of a widowed Ukrainian bureaucrat. As usual, she was sitting with her governess. When she realized the Count was looking her way, she disappeared behind her menu.

“Your soup,” said the Bishop.“Ah. Thank you, my good man. It looks delicious. But don’t forget the wine!”

“Of course.”

Turning his attention to his okroshka, the Count could tell at a glance that it was a commendable execution—a bowl of soup that any Russian inthe room might have been served by his grandmother. Closing his eyes in order to give the first spoonful its due consideration, the Count noted asuitably chilled temperature, a tad too much salt, a tad too little kvass, but a perfect expression of dill—that harbinger of summer which brings to mind the songs of crickets and the setting of one’s soul at ease.

But when the Count opened his eyes, he nearly dropped his spoon. For standing at the edge of his table was the young girl with the penchant for yellow—studying him with that unapologetic interest peculiarto children and dogs. Adding to the shock of her sudden appearance was the fact that her dress today was in the shade of a lemon.

“Where did they go?” she asked, without a word of introduction.

“I beg your pardon. Where did who go?”

She tilted her head to take a closer look at his face.

“Why, your moustaches.”

The Count had not much cause to interact with children, but he had been raised well enough to know that a child should not idly approach a stranger, should not interrupt him in the middle of a meal, and certainly should not ask him questions about his personal appearance. Was the minding of one’s own business no longer a subject taught in schools?

“Like swallows,” the Count answered, “they traveled elsewhere for the summer."

Then he fluttered a hand from the table into the air in order to both mimic the flight of the swallows and suggest how a child might follow suit.

She nodded to express her satisfaction with his response.

“I too will be traveling elsewhere for part of the summer.”

The Count inclined his head to indicate his congratulations.

“To the Black Sea,” she added.

Then she pulled back the empty chair and sat.

“Would you like to join me?” he asked.

By way of response, she wiggled back and forth to make herself comfortable then rested her elbows on the table. Around her neck hung a small pendant on a golden chain, some lucky charm or locket. The Count looked toward the young lady’s governess with the hopes of catching her attention, but she had obviously learned from experience to keep her nose in her book.

The girl gave another canine tilt to her head.

“Is it true that you are a count?”

“’Tis true.”

Her eyes widened.

“Have you ever known a princess?”

“I have known many princesses.”

Her eyes widened further, then narrowed.

“Was it terribly hard to be a princess?”

“Terribly.”

At that moment, despite the fact that half of the okroshka remained in its bowl, the Bishop appeared with the Count’s filet of sole and swapped one for the other.

“Thank you,” said the Count, his spoon still in hand.

“Of course.”

The Count opened his mouth to inquire as to the whereabouts of the Baudelaire, but the Bishop had already vanished. When the Count turned back to his guest, she was staring at his fish.

“What is that?” she wanted to know.

“This? It is filet of sole.”

“Is it good?”

“Didn’t you have a lunch of your own?”

“I didn’t like it.”

The Count transferred a taste of his fish to a side plate and passed it across the table. “With my compliments.”

She forked the whole thing in her mouth.

“It’s yummy,” she said, which if not the most elegant expression was at least factually correct. Then she smiled a little sadly and let out a sigh as she directed her bright blue gaze upon the rest of his lunch.

“Hmm,” said the Count.

Retrieving the side plate, he transferred half his sole along with an equal share of spinach and baby carrots, and returned it. She wiggled back and forth once more, presumably to settle in for the duration. Then, having carefully pushed the vegetables to the edge of the plate, she cut her fish into four equal portions, put the right upper quadrant in her mouth, and resumed her line of inquiry.

“How would a princess spend her day?”

“Like any young lady,” answered the Count.

With a nod of the head, the girl encouraged him to continue.

“In the morning, she would have lessons in French, history, music. After her lessons, she might visit with friends or walk in the park. And at lunch she would eat her vegetables.”

“My father says that princesses personify the decadence of a vanquished era.”

The Count was taken aback.

“Perhaps a few,” he conceded. “But not all, I assure you.”

She waved her fork.

“Don’t worry. Papa is wonderful and he knows everything there is to know about the workings of tractors. But he knows absolutely nothing about the workings of princesses.”

The Count offered an expression of relief.

“Have you ever been to a ball?” she continued after a moment of thought.

“Certainly.”

“Did you dance?”

“I have been known to scuff the parquet.” The Count said this with the renowned glint in his eye—that little spark that had defused heated conversations and caught the eyes of beauties in every salon in St. Petersburg.

“Scuff the parquet?”

“Ahem,” said the Count. “Yes, I have danced at balls.”

“And have you lived in a castle?”

“Castles are not as common in our country as they are in fairy tales,” the Count explained. “But I have dined in a castle. . . .”

Accepting this response as sufficient, if not ideal, the girl now furrowed her brow. She put another quadrant of fish in her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. Then she suddenly leaned forward.

“Have you ever been in a duel?”

“An affaire d’honneur?” The Count hesitated. “I suppose I have been in a duel of sorts. . . .”

“With pistols at thirty-two paces?”

“In my case, it was more of a duel in the figurative sense.”

When the Count’s guest expressed her disappointment at this unfortunate clarification, he found himself offering a consolation:

“My godfather was a second on more than one occasion.”

“A second?”

“When a gentleman has been offended and demands satisfaction on the field of honor, he and his counterpart each appoint seconds—in essence, their lieutenants. It is the seconds who settle upon the rules of engagement.”

“What sort of rules of engagement?”

“The time and place of the duel. What weapons will be used. If it is to be pistols, then how many paces will be taken and whether there will be more than one exchange of shots.”

“Your godfather, you say. Where did he live?”

“Here in Moscow.”

“Were his duels in Moscow?”

“One of them was. In fact, it sprang from a dispute that occurred in this hotel—between an admiral and a prince. They had been at odds for quite some time, I gather, but things came to a head one night when their paths collided in the lobby, and the gauntlet was thrown down on that very spot.”

“Which very spot?”

“By the concierge’s desk.”

“Right where I sit!”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“Were they in love with the same woman?”

“I don’t think a woman was involved.”

The girl looked at the Count with an expression of incredulity.

“A woman is always involved,” she said.

“Yes. Well. Whatever the cause, an offense was taken followed by a demand for an apology, a refusal to provide one, and a slap of the glove. At the time, the hotel was managed by a German fellow named Keffler, who was reputedly a baron in his own right. And it was generally known that he kept a pair of pistols hidden behind a panel in his office, so that when an incident occurred, seconds could confer in privacy, carriages could be summoned, and the feuding parties could be whisked away with weapons in hand.”

“In the hours before dawn . . .”

“In the hours before dawn.”

“To some remote spot . . .”

“To some remote spot.”

She leaned forward.

“Lensky was killed by Onegin in a duel.”

She said this in a hushed voice, as if quoting the events of Pushkin’s poem required discretion.

“Yes,” whispered back the Count. “And so was Pushkin.”

She nodded in grave agreement.

“In St. Petersburg,” she said. “On the banks of the Black Rivulet.”

“On the banks of the Black Rivulet.”

The young lady’s fish was now gone. Placing her napkin on her plate and nodding her head once to suggest how perfectly acceptable the Count had proven as a luncheon companion, she rose from her chair. But before turning to go, she paused.

“I prefer you without your moustaches,” she said. “Their absence improves your . . . countenance.”

Then she performed an off-kilter curtsey and disappeared behind the fountain.

Reading Group Guide

Questions for Your Consideration:

1) In the transcript at the opening of A Gentleman in Moscow, the head of the tribunal and Count Rostov have the following exchange:

"Secretary Ignatov: I have no doubt, Count Rostov, that some in the galley are surprised to find you charming; but I am not surprised to find you so. History has shown charm to be the last ambition of the leisure class. What I do find surprising is that the author of the poem in question could have become a man so obviously without purpose.

Rostov: I have lived under the impression that a man’s purpose is known only to God.

Secretary Ignatov: Indeed. How convenient that must have been for you."

To what extent is A Gentleman in Moscow a novel of purpose? How does the Count’s sense of purpose manifest itself initially, and how does it evolve as the story unfolds?

2) Over the course of Book Two, why does the Count decide to throw himself from the roof of the Metropol? On the verge of doing so, why does the encounter with the old handyman lead him to change his plans?

3) The Count’s life under house arrest is greatly influenced by his relationship with four women: Nina, Marina, Anna, and Sofia. What is the nature of the Count’s relationship with each of these women? How do those relationships differ from his relationship with the members of the Triumvirate—Andrey and Emile?

4) The majority of A Gentleman in Moscow is told in the third person from the Count’s point of view. There is, however, an overarching narrator with a perspective different from the Count’s. Initially, this narrator appears in footnotes, then in the “Addendums,” then in the historical introductions of “1930,” “1938,” and “1946.” How would you characterize this narrator? How does he differ from the Count in terms of his point of view and tone of voice? What is his role in the narrative?

5) In the “1946” chapter, Mishka, Osip, and Richard each share with the Count his perspective on the meaning of the revolutionary era. What are these three perspectives? Are you inclined to agree with one of them; or do you find there is some merit to each?

6) One of the pleasures of writing fiction is discovering upon completion of a project that some thread of imagery has run through the work without your complete awareness—forming, in essence, an unintentional motif. While I was very conscious of the recurrence of tolling bells, keys, and concentric circles in the book, here are a few motifs that I only recognized after the fact: Packages wrapped in brown paper, such as the Maltese Falcon, Mishka’s book of quotations, the Russian nesting dolls discovered in the Italians’ closet, and the Count’s copy of Montaigne (in Paris). The likeness of stars, such as the freckles on Anna’s back and the beacon on the top of the Shukhov radio tower. Sailors (often in peril), such as Robinson Crusoe, Odysseus, Admiral Makarov, and Arion in the myth of Delphinus. What role do any of these motifs play in the thematic composition of the book? And if you see me in an airport, can you explain them to me?

7) How does the narrative incorporate the passage of time, and does it do so effectively? Thematically speaking, how does the Count’s experience of Time change over the course of the novel and how does it relate to his father’s views as embodied by the twice-tolling clock? What does the novel suggest about the influence of individuals on history and vice versa?

8) At the opening of Book Five, the Count has already decided to get Sofia out of Russia. What occurs over the course of Book Four to lead him to this decision? Why does he choose to remain behind?

9) Near the novel’s conclusion, what is the significance of the toppled cocktail glass in Casablanca?

10) This is a novel with a somewhat fantastical premise set half a century ago in a country very different from our own. Nonetheless, do you think the book is relevant today? If so, in what way?

11) Bonus Question: Who in the novel also appears in Rules of Civility?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 184 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the best I've read this year. It includes romance, intrigue, love, friendship, suspense, morality, ingenuity and more. You must read it. Read the synopsis and turn immediately to the story. You won't be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a beautiful story. The Count has so much to teach us all. One of his best lessons for us is that youth, beauty and riches are not given to us but merely loaned to us. You begin wanting to know if he will ever be able to escape his confinement and you end up worried that he might leave. Even if you are not especially interested in this period of Russian history, this is still a five star read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Charming and challenging. Great characters. Lovely story. Found myself slowing my reading speed down to really appreciate the masterful writing that is this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didnt want this story to end
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best read in years. I rarely give a 5 star, this book deserves it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I rarely get a chance to enjoy brilliant writing. This book is a rare example of brilliant writing. I am enriched by having read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put it down yet couldn't wait to see how it ended. I was not disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great writing, truly wonderful read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It begins slow but hang in there. The story line picks up and you are drawn in to the life of the count and the many people who surrounds him. The writing is superb. Mr. Towle's use of language is beautiful. He is a delightful story teller. Read his first book Rules of Civility. Excellent. I hope we don't have to wait such a long time for his next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At the center of this book is an unusual and captivating story of a man under house arrest in a 5-star hotel for more than 30 years. Around that story, quietly and unobtrusively, is the story of Russian/Soviet history, from the revolution to Stalin’s death—as experienced by man who cannot leave the hotel. The author’s artistry in that perspective is a unique achievement. Easily the best book I read this year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Romantic, fanciful, abounds in period history but most especially a story of decency and humanity in a period when decency was in short supply. Then and now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel made me long to go back and reread many classics that I read in the distant past. What a clever plot. You must slow down and let the words encompass you. And read all annotations with the asterick as they appear, or read them at the end. So glad that I bought this wonderful book. I read Rules of Civility years ago and loved it also, but A Gentleman In Moscow is one I will continue to think about. I adored this novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A slow starter. Gears up gradually. Then it goes like a roller coaster that the reader cannot, will not, leave.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book more than any book I’ve read recently. It is a story of endurance, patience and love. Loyalty too. Just so well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing was outstanding. The Count lived & breathed life lessons & attitudes that all can benefit from. The story was sweet and inspiring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would love to know a real person with the character of Count Rostov. What a man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such brilliance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this story!! I love history, an entertaining story, great writing and well edited books....this book met everything on my check off list. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the same.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story & very well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Here is a story of endearing characters, people one might wish to have as friends. Here is a story one might wish was true. Of course, it is not all sweetness and light, it has its share of characters one might hope to never encounter. It has suspense, drama, and tragedy. It also has joy, love, and contentment. It’s voice, the voice of it’s telling, is calm and confident, dry and unobtrusive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I liked the writing style and the character development. The characters seemed to jump right off of the pages at you. The main character was truly a Gentleman and a gentle man. When he said there is a difference between being resigned to a situation and being reconciled to it I think that was how he endured his house arrest for decades with such grace. He was a true friend to all. He was so perceptive. When Nina said he knew her better than anyone, it was true. He was like a second father to her and he was a real father to her daughter Sophie. I highly recommend this book. I am eager to discuss it at book club.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A simple story yet I enjoyed following the adventures of the wonderful characters. A pleasure to read such a well written book that doesn't rely on chase sequences to keep you turning the page. You'll love The Count and his charm, wit and attitude towards life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Forever a favorite. Beautiful writing and I never wanted it to end .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book caught me from the very beginning. I enjoyed the writer's style. At times I felt as if the narrator was talking directly to me. He set up foreshadowing which made me want to continue reading to fond out what was going to happen. The ending of the book left me wondering many things.