book of the week – 4.5.21

I am afraid I’ve gotten wildly off track on my “reading by season” plan. I posted my winter list here and although I have read 5 of them (and I’m midway through 2 others), it’s spring time and, alas, I’m not finished. It’s hard to stay on track when books keep rolling in from my holds at the library. You have to read them or you get bumped back to 346 in the queue. Also, I should have realized that two books by Annie Dillard in two weeks would be too much. I mean, you read about little Julie Norwich getting her face burned off in Holy the Firm and you just need a minute.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share a book recommendation with you each week. It’s always fun to talk shop about books. Likewise, if you’ve read a good one lately, drop it in the comments or send me a line.

This week’s recommendation is:

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

A Gentleman in Moscow — Hills & Hamlets Bookshop

I finished this last week and it was one of those books that left me sort of bereft to be through with it. I was so sad to say goodbye to the characters that I went back to the beginning and restarted it — just for a bit — so I could stay with them a little longer.

It’s historical fiction. The story is about a Russian man named Alexander Ilyich Rostov who is placed under house (hotel?) arrest inside the Metropol Hotel in 1922. It spans 30 years, during which Rostov is not allowed to step foot outside the hotel.

When I read the description of the book, I thought, eh, I don’t know. But I figured I’d give it a go (I’d had it on hold at the library long enough to at least give it a shot) and I am so, so glad I did. I was carried away by two things in particular: the writing, which was so well done (I especially enjoyed the voice of the narrator), and the characters who became Rostov’s hodgepodge family inside the hotel, who were vivid and charming and imperfect. Also, the ending was unexpected and quite gratifying.


I actually listened to this one, as opposed to reading it. It was read by Nicholas Guy Smith and it was excellent. He rendered Rostov just right.


When his adopted daughter asks him if he regrets having come back to Russia only to be placed under house arrest, Rostov answers:

Looking back, it seems to me that there are people
who play an essential role at every turn.
And I don’t just mean the Napoleons who influence the course of history;
I mean men and women who routinely appear at critical junctures
in the progress of art, or commerce, or the evolution of ideas—
as if Life itself has summoned them once again to help fulfill its purpose.
Well, since the day I was born, Sofia, there was only one time
when Life needed me to be in a particular place at a particular time,
and that was when your mother brought you to the lobby of the Metropol.
And I would not accept the Tsarship of all the Russias
in exchange for being in this hotel at that hour.”

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