Synopsis (Goodreads): On 21 June 1922 Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol.
But instead of being taken to his usual suite, he is led to an attic room with a window the size of a chessboard. Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely.
While Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval, the Count, stripped of the trappings that defined his life, is forced to question what makes us who we are. And with the assistance of a glamorous actress, a cantankerous chef and a very serious child, Rostov unexpectedly discovers a new understanding of both pleasure and purpose.
If plot and pace are key factors in determining what you read, this may not be a novel for you. What Amor Towles best achieves with this beautifully written novel is great characterisation. The author seems to have a knack for creating turns of phrase and sentences that are so beautifully written and powerful that you have to pause, re-read, and reflect.
This was definitely a book to be savoured word for word. Count Rostov is put under house arrest in an attic room in the Metropole after being judged to be a ‘former’ person in Russia. As his world becomes smaller and limited to the confines of the walls of the Metropole, it would have been very easy for the former noble to play the victim but instead he adapts to a life of captivity with exquisite panache and a lively spirit. As the Count himself quotes, “If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.”
The charming humour of our main protagonist combined with the wonderful descriptions of everything from the relationships he forms with other guests and employees to the food he eats and his little observations on life and humanity all come together for an absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable read.