A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Reviewed by Gillian, Berkelouw Books, Mona Vale
When Count Alexander Rostov appears before the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs in post-revolutionary Moscow he is declared to be a non-person and condemned to live the rest of his life in the Metropol Hotel - "set foot outside the Metropol again and you will be shot".
Ejected from his comfortable suite he takes up modest residence among the storage rooms on the sixth floor and spends the next 30 years enmeshed in the fabric of the hotel - becoming the maitre d' of the perennially fashionable Boyarsky Restaurant, a friend to the long serving hotel staff and living quite comfortably thanks to a stack of gold coins hidden in his desk. Along the way he acquires a lover and a daughter, and with him we witness the unfolding of communism across Moscow and with it spying, informing, leadership power plays and the tentative opening of the regime to Western media.
Towles writes with grace and clarity. He uses the Metropol as a petrie dish in which the mood of the age, and sometimes the machinery of the government can be examined. This elegant book is a very satisfying entertainment.