This book was suggested by a friend, and since a book with a place name in the title was still unticked on my list, I decided to give a shot. I was initially daunted by the book length, but got over that soon enough. By page 12, I was hooked.
The novel tells the story of one Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who becomes at the start of the book an official Former Person in early Soviet Russia. For decidedly non-Soviet sentimental reasons, he is not shot but is sentenced to live out his days at his current home, the Metropol Hotel. From this enforced front row seat, he witnesses life and history as it happens for more than 30 years. It doesn’t spend time explaining the politics and world-scale events, but those are hinted at throughout to provide a sense of time passing. The impact of the momentous changes are reflected in the day to day life of the characters, who become a family of circumstances that engender true love and affection.
I loved this book. The characters were realistic and charming, the circumstances believable and moving, and the writing superb. The story is a page-turner, and surprises with both comedy and tragedy. I was moved to tears on a few occasions.
About things: “…we come to hold our dearest possessions more closely than we hold our friends…until we imagine that the carefully preserved possessions might give us genuine solace in the face of a lost companion. But, of course, a thing is just a thing.”
About the language of politics: “Here, indeed, was a formidable sentence – one that was on intimate terms with the comma, and that held the period in healthy disregard.”
I will seek out Towles‘ other novel, and hope that there will be more in the future.
Fate – passing along to a friend.
12 – a book set somewhere you’ve never been
16 – a book with a place name in the title
24 – a book by an author whom you’ve never read