I finished A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles about an hour before the clock struck midnight 2017, so it feels like a “back there” book. But I just want to write a few lines on it, because something about that story stays with me weeks later: the kindness of strangers who become friends.
If you’ve read anything about it, you’ll know that the story is about a Russian count, Alexander Rostov, who is sentenced to “hotel arrest” following the Russian revolution. As an aristocrat, he is lucky to be left alive and living in Russia. But if he leaves the hotel where he lives, he is told by the authorities that he will be shot. So he stays put in the hotel for more than 30 years. Still, an amazing number of things happen in his life, and those events and their trajectory make up the very enjoyable story.
But what struck me, what lingers about this book, is the kindness that the characters show each other. From his years living in the hotel, prior to his sentence, Rostov knows many of the hotel employees and they certainly know him, his preferences, and his habits. But what develops between the former aristocrat and (most of) the hotel employees — and one or two hotel guests — is a true, deep camaraderie that has nothing to do with politics but everything to do with respect and shared circumstances.
Part of me thinks that however enjoyable, A Gentleman in Moscow is not a deep novel. But really, whatever could be deeper than kind and loyal relationships?