A Gentleman in Moscow written by Amor Towles tells the story of a Russian aristocrat living under house arrest in a luxury hotel, practically next door to the Kremlin, for more than thirty years. The language is elegant, lilting and flowing, not in any way flowery. Early on it appears to be slow moving, but it is taking the time to attend to detail that will prove relevant to the second half of the story.
When the author was asked, “Did the book have a central theme?” he said, “I certainly hope not!” His challenge, he said, was to craft an engaging story while trapping his hero and his readers in a single building for 32 years! He called this the challenge of the novel’s geometry – it takes the shape of a diamond on its side – from the moment the hero passes in through the hotel’s revolving doors the narrative begins opening steadily outward for the first half of the of the book and then narrows steadily through the second half until the hero passes out through the revolving doors toward the story’s end.
The hotel keeps revealing for hero and reader alike more and more aspects of life – an accumulation of people, grand rooms, objects, major events and minor ones many of which seem incidental. Then in the second half the story begins to narrow and all of the disparate elements from the first half converge. Bit characters, passing remarks, incidental objects come swirling together and play essential roles in bringing the story to a sharply pointed conclusion. This makes the book a most satisfying read. The story contains a richness of images, ideas and personalities. Highly recommended.