A Gentleman in Moscow is one of those books that you feel like you should read, one of those future classics that everyone will say they loved even though they hated it or didn’t finish it. It was just so long and bloated. My eyes glazed over one too many times. Did I even read this? What did I even spend the last 5 days doing…
So Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel by the Bolsheviks for being an unrepentant aristocrat. His only saving grace is his poetry, which he maybe didn’t write. The reader is trapped for decades along with the Count in the Metropol which may explain some of my boredom. The Count has a stash of gold that gets him by for a while but he eventually becomes a waiter at the hotel to make ends meet. The hotel is a microcosm of Bolshevick (and eventually Stalin’s) Russia which help explain the political climate to the reader with strange hotel rules and customs.
The Count befriends Nina, the young daughter of a long term guest , and they explore the hotel together using the girl’s skeleton key that opens any door in the Metropol. Nina grows up and eventually moves on from the hotel.
Then things gets boring and I couldn’t tell you one key plot point for like 60 pages.
“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.”
Things improve when Nina briefly returns as an adult with her 6 year old daughter, Sophia. Nina leaves Sophia with the Count and disappears- never to be seen again and presumed by this reader to be dead. The Count ‘adopts’ Sophia and cares for her deeply; he risks his life by leaving the Metropol, an offense that is punishable by death, to rush her to the hospital after a fall. Sophia recovers and the Count is able to return safely to the hotel. Over the next few years the Count raises Sophia to be an exceptional young woman and a brilliant pianist.
Their happy family is threatened when Sophia’s talent catches the eye of an orchestra leader, a position that would take her away from the Metropol and the Count. A plan is hatched and there is a surprising ending but I was so uninvolved by the end that it barely registered.
Overall, I would have better appreciated a 150 page novella focusing on Nina and Sophia (the Count could make an appearance).