Amor Towles 2016. A Gentleman in Moscow. Windmill Books: London. 462 pp.
Wonderful in construction and to read, a marvellous yarn, clearly in the category of novels whose authors had the whole construction clear in mind before lifting a quill. Pays ample homage to Russian literature, and in particular War and Peace with the naming of Count Rostov. Many blurb reviews describe it as comedy but sardonic humour is closer. Even so, the horrors of the Bolshevik Revolution and Stalin’s Russia are the landscape of the novel yet barely intrude. This would have to be the sole flaw (for the pernickety) of the novel which thus came across to me as too-sanitised, not truly of the time and place in which it is set. I would love to read some Russian reviews of this, surely those with knowledge of the time would barely recognise it. But no doubt the author would claim this as his intention, that this creation of a life within the Metropole be unrepresentative, a rare island of civility within a sea of chaos and tragedy. Otherwise how could his character be ‘the luckiest man in Moscow’? Anyway pure enjoyment for language, wisdom and understated wit. The best example being the night of the bouillabaisse: a fabulous, unforgettable creation of one of those rare nights which are memorable for their joy and rarity.
I’ll also have to rewatch Casablanca. The author has his own supporting resources, but I’m in no hurry to dispel the magic with undue research just yet.