A Gentleman in Moscow follows the Count as he is placed on house-arrest in the Hotel Metropol after the Bolshevik revolution. As luxurious as the Hotel Metropol is, the idea being locked within the four walls of a building for the rest of your life is a more-than-daunting proposition. A seemingly transparent tale of making-the-most-of-what-you-have is made surprisingly (but welcomely) light and almost jovial by the Count’s experiences as a Gentleman, a veteran of the old aristocracy. Empathetic, selfless, and savourer of the small things in life; the Count’s attitude towards house-arrest is handled with grace, poise, and humility. There is little room for mourning for what could have been, making the Count a staunch stoic in that regard. Upon hearing the premise, it is not the story I anticipated, but one I am damn glad I took the time to read.

The Count might well be my favourite fictional character. Through all his interactions with the Metropol staff, comrades at the Shalyapin, or strangers in the Piazza, the Count never fails to act the Gentleman. So much so that I forgot (or perhaps I didn’t appreciate before) the remnants of the aristocracy imbued in his sensibilities. The former person conducted himself with such grace and humility despite all that has befallen him, and I found him incredibly inspiring. I could only hope that I would respond accordingly were I to be put under similar circumstances.

I found the cast of characters that that encircled the Count to be utterly charming with the exception of Bishop. With Nina, we saw the Count as a friend-to-all; Mishka’s friendship demonstrated his commitment and loyalty; Sofia saw the Count transform into an admirable father; with Andrey and Emile, he proved himself the most sought-after of colleagues. As I write this, the more I realise this book is very much a character study of the Count given how little a plot plays a part in the story.

Verdict

Highly Recommended. In a world of rolling quarantines and lockdowns, this book has never been so timely to life the spirit and nourish us with an example of how to thrive with grace, poise, and humility.


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