While not the newest or hottest book in our collection, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles has been a consistent favorite with our borrowers. Set in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel, Count Alexander Rostov been held under house arrest since 1922. The decades pass. Rostov builds a rich inner life in a tiny world. Since its publication in September 2016, there has never NOT been a waiting list to read this book whether in print, as an ebook, or as an audiobook. At this writing there are 27 readers in line for the print edition alone. It’s pretty spectacular that a novel that is nearly two years old has still got so many holds. This book has legs! You’re going to want to read it too.
So, Gentle Reader, what are you going to read while you wait? A Gentleman in Moscow has been noted for the depth of its setting and for and for the complexity of its characters.
You could begin with Towles’s sharp debut novel, Rules of Civility. This one is set in Manhattan in the late 1930s where central character Katey Kontent experiences the way the serendipity of events can change a life. Liesl Schillinger in the New York Times called it “romantic mischief.”
Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto appears in many “if you liked” lists because of its plot of hostages and their captors and the bonds built among them during a hostage crisis in an unnamed South American country. Another Ann Patchett title, State of Wonder, transports the reader to the Amazonian rain forest where an American scientist has been dispatched to return the remains of a deceased colleague.
Other titles that share some of the qualities that make A Gentleman in Moscow so appealing are The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh.
If you’re looking for contemporary fiction set in Russia, read The Mayakovsky Tapes by Robert Littell. Also set in the Hotel Metropol, a group of women recall the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and their relationships with him in the years after the Russian Revolution. Or try The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean, set during the Siege of Leningrad in 1941. Another recent book, The Noise of Time, by Julian Barnes, channels the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, real-life victim of the degradations of Stalinism. An oldie, Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak, carries the title character from boyhood in 1905 through WWII. Its road to publication is its own fascinating story. I hear it’s the title of a pretty good movie, too.
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