A Gentleman in Moscow Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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Soon to be a major TV series starring Kenneth Branagh.
The Times Book of the Year 2017
A Sunday Times Book of the Year 2017
A Mail on Sunday Book of the Year 2017
A Daily Express Book of the Year 2017
An Irish Times Book of the Year 2017
One of Barack Obama's Best Books of 2017
Nominated for the 2018 Independent Booksellers Week Award
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.
Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely. But instead of his usual suite, he must now live in an attic room while Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval.
Can a life without luxury be the richest of all?
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|Listening Length||17 hours and 52 minutes|
|Narrator||Nicholas Guy Smith|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com.au Release Date||18 October 2018|
|Best Sellers Rank|| 143 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
8 in Literary Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
27 in Literary Fiction (Books)
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Reviewed in Australia on 27 September 2020
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Anyone reading this little synopsis would believe this to be a banal premise for a novel. A Gentleman in Moscow exceeds banal to the status of extraordinary, as we track along with this charming man's life within the hotel's halls while learning about old Russia before the revolution.
Count Alexander is intelligent, worldly, well-read, and nurtured in the finer things in life: great wine, gastronomic knowledge, and a lost generation's stately manners. The Count's central redeeming attributes are kindness and care for his fellow human beings. Although very much aware of his lofty station, he never condescends and seems to have an uncanny comprehension of human nature. He takes his Fate as it comes, handling himself with integrity and humor.
The two other more central characters are Nina and Sofia. At the beginning of the text, we meet Nina as a young girl of eight or nine: precocious with a strong sense of self, the Count and the child strike up a unique relationship that is both loving and funny. The Count becomes “Uncle Alex” over a few years until her family must move out of the Hotel. Later, after many years, she returns with a young daughter of eight years of age, caught up in her State duties, and leaves Sofia with the Count. This relationship grows into a beautiful connection between kindred spirits.
The Count doesn't sit in his room simply reading and brooding, his life in the Hotel becomes productive and the many characters working within the Hotel, we come to know and relate to intimately... my favorites are the Hotel chef and the beautiful Soviet film star, whose connection to the count lasts for many years.
Published in 2016, A Gentleman in Moscow became an international bestseller. Over the years, I've never based my 12-month reading list on The New York Times Bestseller List, however. I managed to come across the novel by accident, read the first chapter and bought it without hesitation.
A Gentleman in Moscow is an exceptional piece of literature: sensitive, educational, moving, and a word of caution: the novel's ending might leave you with a tear in your eye.
I had to slow down my normal habits, and savour the book, and a holiday is a perfect time for me to do that.
I suspect it’s only a 4 for me as I am not a fan of slow heavy “literary” works like the Count references, and also perhaps because of the limits of my own intellect. This novel is certainly more accessible than “classic literature” but definitely asks more of the reader than the latest Jack Reacher novel (which I also really enjoy).
But I certainly did enjoy reading it. It may be leisurely paced sure, but is absolutely not plodding.
I enjoyed the author’s light way with words, it’s uncommonly well written. I enjoyed the way the Count was a man of another time, when manners counted, and he never stooped to the barbaric and soulless ways of the time he found himself in. My heart ached for the loss of such a gentle and noble man to wider society and the inhumanity of his house arrest. My sadness and empathy was of course lightened by the wonderful friendships he was able to forge, particularly with who might have been otherwise dismissed as a heartless thug, the KGB colonel who was ultimately able to find the decent man in himself as a result of his friendship with the Count.
The plight of the Count, finding himself to be caught out of time, very much reminded me of another highly philosophical Count, featured in Di Lampedusa’s “The Leopard” which also tracks the story of a nobleman witnessing the end of aristocracy and his privileged life and the rise of the working classes in 19th century Sicily. That is a heavier read again, but I think people who loved this book should check that one out.
In short highly recommended and would love to read more of the Count’s life and times should the author ever return to him. I’ve never wanted to visit Putin’s Moscow, but this book had me momentarily considering it, in the way that a very good book can do. If only to see the Metropol. At this point I have no idea if it exists, but he has written of it so wonderfully, it is as if it must.
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Another example. In the early 1920s when the protagonist of the book ate different pastries in a trendy pastry shop in Moscow and spoke with a daughter of a Comissar, there was a civil war in Russia and a great famine, because the war interrupted the normal agricultural works. People in Moscow had difficulties in buying the bread, let alone pastries.
Every page of this book is full of these kind of mistakes. I cannot take this book or this story seriously. It has nothing to do with the real Russia or Russian history or Russian culture. It only reflects the ignorance of this writer who never tried to learn something about the subject he writes about.
This is the story of the elegant Count Alexander Rostov who, in 1922 at the age of 33, is brought before a Bolshevik tribunal in Moscow. Condemned on the grounds of being an unrepentant aristocrat, he is saved from the firing squad by virtue of a youthful poem whose sentiments chime with the revolutionary desire for change. Instead of death, he is condemned to lifelong house arrest in his current place of residence: the Metropol Hotel. Removed from his suite and banished to a tiny room in the attics, the Count finds that his material circumstances have been much reduced, but he’s a philosopher at heart and faces his change in fortunes with one resolve: to master his life before his life masters him. And thus we see this wise, gracious gentleman learning to cut his cloth to its new measure. He turns his eyes away from the lilacs in the Alexander Gardens, forgets the glamour of his accustomed seat at the Bolshoi and learns to do without the delicate pastries of Filippov’s. Instead he finds a new subject for his examination: mankind.
The story is leavened by moments of absurdity and shot through with quiet heartbreak, like a perfectly pitched symphony. Towles is thoughtful but never sentimental; heartwarming but never sickly; and bittersweet but never bitter. The difficulty is that one can’t explain why something is beautiful. If you asked me to explain why a painting or an aria or a poem was beautiful, I couldn’t do it. All I can say is that it is. And it’s the same here. Like any fine artwork, the story is perfectly balanced, and both reflects and transcends its time. We may not step outside the Metropol but, like the Count, we can watch the vagaries of Fortune as they blow in through the revolving doors, and study the metamorphosis of Bolshevism. Despite its weighty underlying themes, the story itself is designed with such care that it seems to sparkle, suspended, with an air of sprezzatura.
I feel privileged to have spent this time in the company of Count Rostov – or, as I feel I almost have the right to call him, Sasha. This novel is joining the select ranks of my comfort books, and I’ll certainly be reading it again. In the meantime, all I can do is recommend it heartily to you as perfect material for a winter’s night curled in a blanket against the bitter cold outside. At a time when sincerity, tolerance and compassion are in short supply in the world around us, I’m delighted to discover that here these virtues become the very touchstones which enable a remarkable protagonist to weather the perils of a changing existence. A wonderful, heartwarming book.
To read the full review, please visit my blog.
This largely sums up my association with this book. I've read this book curled up in my bed with a mug of hot-chocolate, between business meetings in order to cleanse my mind of the mundane and predictable, in the garden while sitting comfortably on a swing, and this morning at 3 am where I finished the final 150 pages, just as Apollo began his majestic journey across the horizon. And in the end my opinion is that this book is perhaps one of the most emotionally, linguistically and intellectually stimulating pieces of literature that I have had the good fortune to come across.
The story of Count Alexander Rostov and his extended stay at The Hotel Metropol reveals to us that life is never something that can slip you by, provided you are willing to adapt. The Count makes it his business to master his circumstances the only way he knows how. With poise, dignity and impeccable taste. Over the course of his more than 30yrs. stay at the hotel, we see this Gentleman as a Noble, as a Commoner, as a Father, a Spy and finally a Man. He exemplifies an amalgam of the great wanderers of the past, like Odysseus and Crusoe who found themselves trapped in unforeseen circumstances, and emerge from the experience bearing a new clarity with regards to the concept of a 'home'.
I have not been so moved and entertained by vocabulary since P.G. Wodehouse, and indeed there is a great deal of the Wodehousian humor, mirth and mayhem in the corridors of the Metropol. There are times when one feels lost, especially when faced with historical contexts and characters that are introduced in page 50 and then intricately woven into the scene at page 276, however, like the great wanderers we arrive at a new destination just as we feel that we are doomed to wander aimlessly.