I am a little bit in love with a Russian. Never thought that would happen until I met Count Alexander Rostov. He is the star of this wonderful novel, and from 1922 until the early 1950s, Count Rostov is living in the Hotel Metropole, in the middle of Moscow, under indefinite house arrest, deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by the Bolsheviks.
In those thirty odd years, he meets two children many years apart and loves them both. He is seduced by a beautiful woman and loves her too. He makes good friends of the Maitre'D and the Chef of the finest restaurant in Moscow, he becomes the head waiter in that restaurant, he is kind, well mannered, and known by all. Visitors to the hotel become friends too, over the years, and his life is rich, even though he has lost almost everything. But he has not, of course lost much at all if you omit the loss of liberty. For in loosing so much, he gains so much more.
A couple of years ago I read Towles' first book, Rules of Civility, which I liked at the time, but now cannot remember a thing about. This, on the other hand, I am unlikely ever to forget. I cannot thank enough the friend who recommended this to me after she had read it. She said she loved the Count's company, and on the strength of that I acquired this beautiful read, one that will stay with me, There are heroes and villains too, in this book. you will find little bits of real history inserted into the pages, which, if you are interested makes the tale even better embroidered. If you are not, it doesn't matter a jot!
Just Imagine. The life of an aristocrat who somehow was not killed during the Bolshevik revolution which resulted in the death of the last Czar and his family; imagine going from a life of luxury where you lived for a time in a whole luxurious suite in the Hotel Metropole to a tiny attic room in the same hotel. Imagine your days, confined but not imprisoned. How the Count managed this was by realising that possessions are not everything, but friends are. And by the way, towards the end, a little frisson of excitement makes a perfect ending.