‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ club topic
The Corydon Women’s Literary Club, for a recent topic, heard about “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles.
“My sister said, ‘I just read this fantastic book about a man who spent his life imprisoned in a Russian hotel for life!’,” Carolyn Beanblossom told her fellow book club members. “Boring, I thought, but, to please her, I picked it up to flip through it. I could not put it down (but) don’t tell her.”
In the book, Towles tells the story of Count Alexander Ilyich, who, in 1922, was sentenced to a life of house arrest in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel, where, due to him being of Russian nobility, he had been residing since the revolution in 1917.
The sentence was handed down by a Bolshevik tribunal because the Ilyich had written a poem in 1913 with revolutionary undertones, Beanblossom said.
Upon returning to the hotel, Ilyich finds he has been moved from his luxurious suites to a single room on the sixth floor. In the following months of trying to cope with his new status, Ilyich reads, visits the hotel barber and dines in the Metropol’s two restaurants and bars.
Coming to terms with his lot of never being able to leave the hotel for fear of a new home in Siberia, Ilyich watches time go by like seasons.
“First, the Communist, then the Nazis, going on to the ’50s, but (Ilyich) lives on at the hotel through the friendships he has incurred throughout the years,” Beanblossom said.
An amateur beekeeper and a young, precocious girl whose father is posted in Moscow cause Ilyich all kinds of chaos in his orderly life at the hotel, but the highlight of his interment is procuring a job as a waiter in one of the hotel’s restaurants.
“Being a connoisseur of wines and of Russian nobility, his manner and table etiquette helped him rise to head waiter, where he befriends the maitre d of the restaurant and the head chef,” Beanblossom said. “I found this most interesting as, even though the communists are in control, this hotel is the elite in Moscow in service, fine cuisine and wines of which (Ilyich) has had a hand in refining and making the restaurant a famous to-go place in Moscow.”
So, what happens to Ilyich? Does he spend the rest of his life impounded at the Metropol Hotel?
Beanblossom said this book is available at the Harrison County Public Library.