Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Series: Standalone

Genre: Historical fiction

Pages: 496 pages (Kindle edition)

Publish date: 6th of September 2016 by Penguin Books

A Gentleman in Moscow is a beautifully written book with minimal suspense, conflict, or captivating drama.

“It is a sad but unavoidable fact of life… that as we age our social circles grow smaller. Whether from increased habit or diminished vigor, we suddenly find ourselves in the company of just a few familiar faces.”

This novel has won tons of awards and overwhelming praise from readers, bloggers, and many outlets. It was one of the main reasons I wanted to read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles in the first place. Sadly, after reading this, I feel I must be crazy for not loving A Gentleman in Moscow. On Goodreads metrics, out of 556k ratings, I have the misfortune of falling into the 4% of people who did not give A Gentleman in Moscow a rating of 3 stars or above. But to keep this review brief, as much as I wanted to love this book, A Gentleman in Moscow is simply not for me. The book, anyway. As it turns out, the TV show adaptation I’m watching right now at the time of writing this review is clicking with me amazingly. I am 6 episodes into the show, and I think it is far better than the book in almost every possible way.

“if a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.”

So what happened? As I said, I will keep this review brief. The Gentleman in Moscow is beautifully written. There were many passages I highlighted. At times, it is almost like reading a philosophy book. But in my reading, I need more than just passages to highlight for my reading enjoyment. And this is where the prose and storytelling didn’t land on me. Other than Alexander, Nina, and Sophia, none of the characters managed to spark an emotional investment in me. To make things even worse for me, and I am pretty sure this is not what Towles intended from his narrative, was that I did not feel any sense of danger or conflict from the story or predicament. Maybe the Count’s past, but that’s about it. I was so surprised by how different I felt when I watched the show after reading the book. The show successfully delivered tension, heartful conversation, and an engaging narrative from the first episode and persists in every episode. The first two episodes alone were already enough to make me feel invested in Alexander’s story much more than the entire book did.

“…what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause; what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty of acclaim.”

Overall, I found the TV show adaptation to be superior to its original text. I will assume the narrative in the novel should’ve landed and sparked the same level of emotions in me that the TV show did. I am genuinely sad it did not happen. Do not let my brief negative review discourage you from trying A Gentleman in Moscow. I am on the unpopular side. And even then, although I felt bored reading the book, I can definitely acknowledge the prose and lessons from Alexander’s story were worth reading. Now, I will proceed to watch the remaining two episodes of the TV show adaptation of A Gentleman in Moscow.

“After all, what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration—and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.”

You can order this book from: Amazon | Blackwells (Free International shipping)

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