by Amor Towles
One of my all time favorite books is Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. So I could barely wait for his second novel to drop. A Gentleman in Moscow was an enjoyable read. However, I believe it falls prey to the dreaded second novel blues. Civility’s prose sparkled, stunned in its beauty. Gentleman’s prose is very well written, and the story is complex, and it’s good. But I’m afraid Gentleman lacks a certain luster. I mean, it’s worth reading.
The story is a fascinating peek into the world of Moscow after the revolution and the perspective is from a man who was a member of the aristocracy before. So the story follows a well-educated, highly cultured individual who is forced into a life like the rest of the people. He becomes a waiter in a fancy restaurant in the hotel which has literally become his prison. He could wallow in his distress, but instead he holds the restaurant to the very highest standards, which he understands very well as a person who formerly expected such standards of treatment. So instead of griping about his loss of status, he endeavors to provide the most excellent service possible so as not to lose the “standard” of excellence.
So the novel is interesting. And enjoyable. And the twist in the middle which leads to a twist at the end is pure delight. (no spoilers here!) Also, Towles heavily references the greats of Russian literature – kudos for that! But it’s not a 5 star for me. I anxiously await Mr. Towles next novel. He’s good. And I bet he can bring back that sparkling prose next time. I must keep it to 4 stars for A Gentleman in Moscow.