A Gentleman in Moscow
By: Amor Towles
My Rating: Four out of Five Stars
Best for: 16 and up
Look at all those great reviews! Look at all those recommendations!
Sorry everyone, this book is boring.
[Ducks flying rotten tomato]
Okay, okay…it’s only boring for the first 55 or 60%. In the back half of the book I found all the things I expected to find–but dang it, it sure took it’s sweet time getting there.
Like others, I was glad to be captured by the unflappably elegant, wonderfully charming, and endlessly quotable star of this story, Count Rostov. His positivity was inspiring–particularly in this post-2020 era of being asked over and over to make lemonade out of lemons. “A man must master his circumstances or otherwise be mastered by them” will likely find its way onto my as-yet-unpublished greatest-hits album of book quotes. I was impressed again and again with the clever ways such a tumultuous time in Russian (and world!) history was delicately incorporated to teach history without giving a history lesson. I loved it, and I understand the adoration.
But it remains–the book is about a man trapped in a hotel for 30 years. It’s boring and brilliant in the way Cast Away with Tom Hanks was boring and brilliant. This is a nearly 500-page novel that doesn’t go many places…and for the first 250 pages it felt like a chore. The monologues, the drawn-out flashbacks, the pages of philosophy. I WANTED to love it. I WANTED to be pulled. I WANTED to be gripped.
But. It. Dragged.
Suddenly–hallelujah!–a new character is introduced right about 50% that gives the Count another place for his mind to go, and just like that the story gets going. The relationships suddenly got meaningful. There is conflict that must be navigated. Finally, there there was something to root for. The Count now had a reason to wake up in the morning (besides his endless optimism) and I had a reason to finish the story.
And it finished very, very strong.
No content concerns, but I see only the most ambitious of teenagers enjoying this one. I’ll say best for 16 and up.