In this work, we are introduced to Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov. He is a man from a different age. He was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia on 24 October 1889. It is now 1917 and the Bolshevik revolution has taken place. The Count is arrested and charged with being a social parasite. As the trial takes place, he is faced with being executed for his crime, but due to a revolutionary poem he wrote years before he receives a lesser sentence. He is placed under house arrest in the Hotel Metropol, Moscow. He is not allowed to leave the confines of the hotel for the rest of his days as he lives the life of a former person. The book follows his new existence inside the walls of the Hotel.
This book is written by Amor Towles and was published in 2016. Towles was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. This is his second novel, following on from the Rules of Civility (2011). The novel received much praise and was a finalist for the 2016 Kirkus Prize. It is currently being adapted into a TV miniseries with Kenneth Branagh producing and playing the part of the Count.
The narrator of this audible book is Nicholas Guy Smith and while he doesn’t make any allowance for the eastern setting of the work, he does give the Count the necessary gravitas and sense of decorum you would expect from a man of noble origins.
The book is decidedly small in its scope. The Count is confined in the hotel and as such, his world is reduced from one of travel and glamour to something much more every day. We see how he learns to find purpose in his life despite his confinement. We see his interactions with the other guests and staff in the Hotel and hear his adventures and anecdotes. There is an obvious comparison to the Wes Anderson film ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ as this once great hotel starts to flounder under the Russian regime. As long as you’re not expecting an epic tale to match Tolstoy or Checkov, you will enjoy this work. It is a story that uses a macro lens to explore what many would ignore. In a sense, it is the perfect book of our times, as so many of us are suffering similar fates due to the lockdown. You can learn to enjoy the little things in life with the Count as your guide.