Saturday, July 8, 2017

Russia in Books: 1917 and 1922 (A Gentleman in Moscow)

I have but one chapter to go in Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport. So interesting to read a collection of foreign observers' views of 1917 in Petrograd. I'll be sorry to finish this nonfiction book, and I'll be left wondering--what did foreign observers' see in 1918 and during the war between the Reds and the Whites? Makes me so curious.

So I ended up finally downloading the novel A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, published last year to much acclaim. I've read only about four chapters so far, but I will say, as delightful a read as the novel is, and as droll a character the Count is while incarcerated at the Hotel Metropole in Moscow, I have no idea what the author is intending, which is very much okay, because I'm enjoying the ride. Though I do wonder.

By the way, In imperial  Russia, the title "Count" was not a title of long-inherited nobility. It was an inherited title, but the original "Counts" were those who had the honor bestowed upon them.

My biggest question, while I'm so enjoying the Count and the novel overall, is the research that the British writer Towles did before writing the novel. This particular Count Rostov did not try to escape as so many of the aristocracy did, but seems to have spent his time before his arrest in 1922, walking around "St. Petersburg" visiting the patisserie, his bank, etc., which would have been impossible in 1922. His dreams of the imperial city seem odd as does his Moscow hotel exile.

So all I can ask, "Is this a fantasy?" I think there are many fantastical elements in the book, absolutely. But it's so charming, so much fun, and the Count is a character with endless possibilities.

I hope to post again about this book. Have you read it? Please share your thoughts.

And yes, I'm still waist-deep in P.D. James's Devices and Desires. There is no way to tell who the killer is, though clues are dropped everywhere, adding to the conundrum. Challenging, exciting read.


  1. I've just reserved Caught in the Revolution from the library. Thanks for the info.

    1. I found that this book, with all its foreign eyewitness accounts, created vivid images of what it was like to be in Petrograd in 1917.