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A Gentleman in Moscow
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Buddy Reads > Buddy Reads: A Gentleman in Moscow

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message 1: by Monique (last edited Sep 17, 2018 04:47PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monique (attymonique) | 2127 comments Hi! Lik and I will be buddy reading Amor Towles' "A Gentleman in Moscow." Anyone up to join us? :)

If you'd like to join, here's the reading plan.

Week 1 - Sept. 1 - 7: Books One and Two (167 pages)
Week 2 - Sept. 8 - 14: Book Three (146 pages)
Week 3 - Sept. 15-21: Books Four and Five (141 pages)

For the mechanics, all you have to do is read through the assigned pages for the week and if you have any thoughts, questions, or stuff you want to say about what you've read so far, just post them on this thread. It's also OK to read ahead but be careful about posting spoilers, as not everyone is OK with them.

Hope you can join us! :)


Kitteh (mimikyuu16) | 11 comments Cool. I love historical fictions. I think I'll join if you don't mind :D


Monique (attymonique) | 2127 comments Ivan Renz wrote: "Cool. I love historical fictions. I think I'll join if you don't mind :D"

Hey Ivan, please do join us. The more, the merrier! :)


Monique (attymonique) | 2127 comments Hi Lik, Ivan, and other (possible) reading buddies. :) I always research into the book that I'm buddy reading with friends so here, something to go over just in case you're interested.

Amor Towles said that the idea for this book came from many nights in luxury hotels. Also, just in case you were wondering, Count Alexander Rostov is a fictional character based on this interview with Amor Towles. Happy reading!


Kitteh (mimikyuu16) | 11 comments Cool! I'm loving this book so far. I love Count Alexander. I didn't actually knew that there were stories about Russians receiving sentences of house arrest throughout history. I'm actually learning a lot haha :)


Monique (attymonique) | 2127 comments Ivan Renz wrote: "Cool! I'm loving this book so far. I love Count Alexander. I didn't actually knew that there were stories about Russians receiving sentences of house arrest throughout history. I'm actually learnin..."

Me, either! Sounds like a pretty light sentence to me, except perhaps for possible bouts of cabin fever. Hehe.


message 7: by Lik (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lik C | 16 comments Hi Monique! Thanks for the site.

Here's also Amor Towles' website
http://www.amortowles.com/amor-towles...

I was wondering how the Count was able to finance his exile... then I found that readers have also asked Towles the same question. (in the Q&A portion).

Hi Ivan! Glad to have you join us. I'm also learning a lot in this book.


Kitteh (mimikyuu16) | 11 comments Hi Lik! I was wondering about that too. Well, we all know he's rich but I mean how does he transacts his bills? hahaha


message 9: by Lik (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lik C | 16 comments Hi everyone! How's your reading of A Gentleman in Moscow doing?

Here's my review / notes for the first 2 books

The story is, so far, just okay for me.

The Count didn’t make much of an impression on me. He’s proud, living day by day and observing those around him, also a “usyoso”, maybe out of boredom in his confinement. The novel was like a compilation of random encounters with strangers, some which I find mundane. Though the author makes an effort to explain each encounter – like the appointment with the barber, which turned into a reflection of how mirrors reveal who a man has become. Or the chance meeting with Nina which turned into a reflection about duelling and gravity, the gravity the Count thinks about later in the rooftop in his suicide attempt. Mundane things -- as what was referenced in the novel, “Much Ado About Nothing”. Maybe I’m scrutinizing so much, but I think about the significance of each encounter. But there’s this encounter which just bothered me thinking about the point of it: the addendum in Book 2 where the actress was bothered by the Count picking up her blouse. Then she throws them out of the window. Later, I found in Towles’ Q&A that this was based on a story between his parents.

Despite a lot of mundane encounters, I liked the one with Abram in the rooftop. I just liked the peacefulness of the setting, meeting and talking about the past at dawn. Though I it got me wondering about the relevance of Nizhny Novgorod. The Count seemed to be longing for it a lot.

Perhaps it would make a stronger impression if we have this Count with his small acts of kindness. Or a villainous Count – spying, stealing, to make things more exciting. Maybe we’ll see in the later chapters.

Since I read a lot of historical fiction, I was looking forward to learning about Russia here, which is also why I chose this book. But I felt that the Russia information is more like a quick search over the net or fast facts (Name 3 things Russian and we drink 3 glasses of vodka for each). I think the novel focused more on the encounters of the Count like short stories, though I’m not sure if they are truly reflective of Russia, and not much focused on the historical events or the culture.

Some other things I noticed:
1. I find the writing cheesy at some points:
“And so, slipping his sister’s scissors into his pocket, the Count looked once more at what heirlooms remained and then expunged them from his heartache forever.” Expunged!

2. Then, at times the descriptions were too long. There was this about the young couple the Count was watching: “And then she glanced at her hopeful young acquaintance with a touch of that tenderness that Natasha had shown Pierre in War and Peace at the end of Volume Two.”

I also noticed the author’s use of the notes in music a lot: the sound of the mattress spring (in G major), and there’s the Count who “waggled” the summoner, which “came that delightful jangle (at a high C)”, and the Count “gave an upward sloping whistle in G major”. They caught my attention.

The window of the Count’s room seemed to be shrinking in Book One. The window was described as the size of a chessboard, later a postage stamp, and then much later a dinner invitation. How small was the window?

3. Unusual vocabulary, or I’m just not well-read enough. I’ve learned a new word “acerbically”, used to describe how the actress handled the borzois (“Handling does seem to have a way of eclipsing breeding,” she said acerbically).

And some wondering…

1. Who is Vronsky in the poem? The Vronsky that came to mind is Count Vronsky in Anna Karenina.

2. I’m curious about the Count’s past, his sister, as she was mentioned a lot in the first books. It’s me again trying to connect his past with his present in the hotel.

3. What made the Count decide to commit suicide? I did expect him to commit suicide after the foreshadowing in Book 1.


Kitteh (mimikyuu16) | 11 comments HAHAHA that "usyoso" part was so accurate. I like how your opinion is very detailed and precised. Although I'm just here to enjoy the book (and not to critic it) I do appreciate how you feel that way. I just think that this book's ambiance is so relaxing and a perfect book for my bedtime reading. :D


message 11: by Mabelle (new) - added it

Mabelle Ortega | 139 comments Just saw this... Pwedeng humabol?


message 12: by Lik (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lik C | 16 comments Mabelle wrote: "Just saw this... Pwedeng humabol?"

Hi Mabelle! Sure, welcome! I'm not yet halfway through the book.


message 13: by Monique (last edited Sep 09, 2018 07:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monique (attymonique) | 2127 comments Hello, buddies!

I'm just a few pages shy of finishing Book Two. But since we're supposed to be on Book Three by this week, Here are a few notes so far.

- I'm only now learning about that part of Russian history when the Russian Empire was practically abolished, together with the autocracy. No more Tsars! No more Dukes and Duchesses, no more Prince and Princesses. Sad :( But it's amazing how it happened - I'm still reading about Tsar Nicholas II's abdication of the throne and what happened thereafter.

- I'm still a bit indignant (?) about why the Count's house arrest is not confined to his rooms, as he is allowed to roam the Metropol freely. It's probably harsh to confine him to his rooms but really, if it's supposed to be a penalty, then he shouldn't be allowed to access fine dining restaurants, bars, etc. even within the hotel itself. But then again, if he isn't allowed to roam the Metropol, what would he be doing all day in his quarters? I should think this is where the author's imagination comes in.

- The banal goings-on in the Count's life is to be expected. After all, his day-to-day activities can be found within the 4 corners of the hotel. It's interesting to note that even before he was placed on house arrest, he had been living in the hotel for 4 years, and Nina, his young friend, also practically grew up in the hotel (they met when she was 9 and by the end of Book Two, she was already 13). I never realized that people could stay for waaay extended periods in hotels like that, because it would be more expensive than renting an apartment, wouldn't it? Perhaps, back in the early 20th century, it wasn't as costly, or it was commonplace to practically reside in hotels?

- More than anything, I like the witty dialogue especially that between the Count and the actress. On this note, I haven't yet found any worthy relationship of the Count's. Nina, the actress, Mishka... Oh yes, Abram of the bees and the honey was very warm. I love the idea of sitting on the rooftop, sipping coffee, and having bread with honey. Very idyllic.

- It appears from the first two books that the Count has no family of his own. Instead, his memories of family involve only his sister and the other elders. Don't you find his life a bit lonely? He has a title, of which he is very nearly stripped, he is on house arrest for writing a seditious poem, any trace of family he has is gone, he is left to find ways to spend his days in the hotel with acquaintances... Perhaps that's what drove him to climb to the parapet..? But then again, I'm not certain that he *did* commit suicide. For now, I'll interpret it as an attempt sans the details that he really went ahead and jumped. Done reading the entirety of Books One and Two and yay! (view spoiler)

- I am very indignant that they removed the labels of the wine bottles..!!

------------------------------------------------

LIK: Very astute observations. I'm looking forward to "meeting" Helena very soon, as she appears to be a central character in the Count's life.

IVAN: Buddy reading involves some criticizing, sharing opinions, and posing questions about stuff we'd like to be enlightened about. I'd love to know what you thought about the first two books, too. :)

MABELLE: By all means. :)


Monique (attymonique) | 2127 comments By the way, here's a photo of the Metropol hotel:

description

Supposedly the Boyarsky restaurant:
description


Monique (attymonique) | 2127 comments Several pages into Book Three:

(view spoiler) I don't remember how long the house arrest should be anyway. Is that supposed to be for as long as he lived? Because Book Three is already well into the 1930s and he's still in the Metropol.


message 16: by Kitteh (last edited Sep 12, 2018 02:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kitteh (mimikyuu16) | 11 comments Is that so? Haha, pardon me. It’s actually my first time joining a buddy read. I haven’t read Book 3 yet (I’ll do my best to keep up because I’ve been very busy this week). Okay, here are my opinions from Book 1 and 2:

I think that the beginning of the book was really clever. In my honest opinion, I think it really sets up the mood and paints a beautiful picture of what to expect from this book. For me, Meeting the book’s protagonist is one of the vital “magical” parts in reading a book. It’s either a “Dear God you’re annoying”, a “meh, I hope your character grows on this book” or an “Okay, you’re interesting. Please don’t break my heart”. Rostov is the third one and I really like his character so far.

I have a love-and-hate relationship with the book’s chosen words. The wordings and phrases in the book were very descriptive. The vocabulary has its ups and downs. Sometimes, too complicated and hard to understand. Sometimes, it feels like listening to a harmonious song that keeps you high and peaceful. I always keep my phone open whenever I see unfamiliar words. I mean I don’t know any Russian words and their historical events. I kind of wish they teach some basic stuff on history classes in the Philippines.

I love cats. Every time a cat is mentioned on a book I always squeal from cuteness. I find Marshal Kutuzov really cute (I find all cats cute. Even the stray ones. ). This one-eyed cat is one of the reasons why I’m loving this book so far. Even though it’s kind of insignificant from the story, that little pet somehow completes me (I hope he remains safe and not be bothered throughout the book).

But overall, I think Count Rostov is a very brave man. He is very brave for dealing with his isolation every single day. Being sentenced to loneliness is really messed up. I have been dealing with being alone for a very long time and I think that’s what really draws me in on him. I relate myself too much from him. Based on my experience, loneliness can do many things to people. That is why I think reading his short stories and adventures really put a smile on my face. It’s like being a part of him and see him acting on with his own problems. He is doing his best in dealing with his narrative despite being stripped of his dignity. I admire him.
This book makes me feel things. And that’s what I’m looking for in a book. It’s a good escape. I like that.

(if you think my opinions sucks please don’t be too hard on me. I’m sensitive hahaha)


Monique (attymonique) | 2127 comments Ivan Renz wrote: "I have a love-and-hate relationship with the book’s chosen words. The wordings and phrases in the book were very descriptive. The vocabulary has its ups and downs. "

On that note, did you guys notice that Towles has a penchant for alliteration (the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words)? Clever, as you would say.

Also: your opinions don't suck. It's why we buddy read: for perspective. :)


message 18: by Lik (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lik C | 16 comments Hi everyone! How's your reading going? I'll reply first to your reviews so far:

I didn't know that people from Moscow were called as Muscovites. For some reason, I was reminded of the medicine Mucosolvan

Monique: I'm also indignant about how the Count is still allowed to roam the Metropol freely, and how he's able to enjoy its luxuries, like drinking in the bar, even after he became a waiter. Though we should consider the author's imagination, but this part does not seem realistic enough. Or not convincing enough for me.

And how come he was allowed to become a waiter?! I also don't remember how long the house arrest should be.

I also agree with having not found any worthy relationship of the Count's, even after finishing Book Three. Though the part where he tried to converse with little Sofia is cute (him taking care not to do small talk). But it was just left at that.

Nice interpretation on that he really went ahead and jumped. I'll not even be bothered if he did jump. And maybe the other books were just his visions of heaven? :D

Okay, so we are expecting so much of Helena. Maybe, she's just another character after all.

On alliteration: I only noticed these on the Chapter titles all starting with letter "A". I found this was also frequently asked to him by readers (http://www.amortowles.com/gentleman-m...).

But I noticed that he tend to use a lot of "fillers" to emphasize his descriptions. Admittedly, I found them annoying at times, like the one I mentioned about the sounds comparing with the scales. And here's another one I found about the chime of the bells.

Quoting page 32.
"Never had the chime of twelve been so welcome. Not in Russia. Not in Europe. Not in all the world."

Then Quoting page 212.
"Never had the toll of a bell been so welcome. Not in Moscow. Not in Europe. Not in all the world."

Okay, sometimes I have an eye for those mundane things :D

Ivan: Yes, I also have a love-and-hate relationship with the book's chosen words. Sometimes, I think this novel lacks "parallelism" in terms of writing... usually it goes formal like gentlemanly, then suddenly shifting to informal like a romance novel.

I'm also a cat lover. But going into Book 3, the cat seemed to just have disappeared into thin air. What happened to the cat?!

(By the way, I'm recommending The Travelling Cat Chronicles)

Currently composing my thoughts on Book 3.


message 19: by Lik (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lik C | 16 comments Thoughts on Book 3:

So Book 3 is set a few years after Book 2. For me, the transition wasn’t smooth. Also, for someone not knowledgeable so much about Russian history (I haven’t done my background reading yet), I felt bombarded with historical information sloppily placed here and there.

I’m introduced to Collectiveness, Komsomol Youth, Kulak (was defined later in Book 3), Arachne’s Art (okay, so Arachne = spider), Politburo, Pravda, OGPU, Mayakovsky, Chekhov. I was also lost in the portion about the triumvirate eating the bouillabaisse… how the fish and the sauce went into their journey around the world ending at the mouths of the triumvirate. I remembered my teacher saying that it is most difficult to write about food. Sadly, I wasn't impressed by the food write-up here.

I’m disappointed that in this Book, the Count and his encounters still fail to make an impression on me. Most of our friends in Book 1 and 2 have disappeared in Book 3, but we are introduced to new friends here.

Perhaps in this section, what I liked was his initial conversation with little Sofia. I’d have to commend the Count for thinking carefully about how to reach out to Sofia by asking her about her dolly, and not the usual small talk –where are you from, you know the drill.

And some more scrutinizing:
- How was Sofia able to go on living in the hotel? I got confused. Was it because she was linked to the willow actress perhaps having an illegitimate child with a politician, and it was all hushed up?
- How was Sofia able to “go to school” as mentioned in the book?
- What makes the Count a “Person of Interest” aside from the poem mentioned?
- How was the Count chosen by Osip to enlighten him about the West (e.g. America)? I mean, I’m not sure if the Count is the right person…. We are not informed of his past with America. I’ve only remembered France.
- Unclear end of Count’s sentence. Or shouldn’t there be an update or catch-up session with the Committee and the Count’s situation?

More and more things are going on unresolved, and for me, more questionable. But, I found someone in Metropol who agrees with me.

Anna (Willowy Actress): “You told me that preposterous story about the apples of Nizhny Novgorod.”
Count: “But that story’s true!”
Anna: “Oh, come on. Apples as big as cannonballs? In every color of the rainbow?”

Also, I wanted to dwell more on Mishka’s sentiment that why Russians destroy everything they create, but I found myself zoned out in that section.

But! I shall go on reading :)


Kitteh (mimikyuu16) | 11 comments Lik wrote: "Hi everyone! How's your reading going? I'll reply first to your reviews so far:

I didn't know that people from Moscow were called as Muscovites. For some reason, I was reminded of the medicine Muc..."


"I'm also a cat lover. But going into Book 3, the cat seemed to just have disappeared into thin air. What happened to the cat?!"

I know right! But, I'm kind of glad the cat just disappeared. I don't actually want him to play a part in the story (although I do want a scene where Sofia plays with him. that would be very cute)

I'll be adding "The Travelling Cat Chronicles" to my reading list then.! I just hope I won't be too emotionally attached to this book. If the cat dies, I'll be blaming you for my heartbreak :)


Monique (attymonique) | 2127 comments On Book Three:

I love little Sofia! She is one smart little lady... and she, together with the Count's oldest friend, Mishka, are my favorite characters so far.

Lik: Yes, Sofia was allowed residency in the hotel because of her connection to Anna, and because Anna was involved with some military man (or other) who was married, they thought that Sofia was an illegitimate kid. Probably thought it was better to allow her free lodgings with the Count and away from prying eyes rather than make up a furor over it and discover her identity (which, as we all know, is NOT Anna's illegitimate kid).

I'm not sure if it was formal schooling that she went to. Perhaps, some tutoring from Marina and the Count? I have to go back to the context again.

What I understand from "Person of Interest" is someone who used to belong to the old form of government/autocracy that was overthrown by the October Revolution and Bolsheviks. I think Osip chose him precisely because of his education, as a member of the Rostov family, and because no other oligarchs or members of the royal family remained in Russia (I remember that he helped his family escape to Paris before they could be found by the Bolsheviks and Alexander only returned to Moscow because he "missed the climate" - remember the Inquiry at the beginning of the book?). Not sure if he's been to America, though. So far I haven't read any reminiscences about it.

------------

I may not be that much fond of the Count but I felt his distress when Sofia (view spoiler) All thoughts of his house arrest - which I'm certain now is to last for the rest of his life - flew out of his head when he desperately sought to bring Sofia to the hospital. I was half expecting someone to shoot him once he stepped outside the Metropol, I was nervous. Haha. I would have done the same thing, though. And wouldn't you know it, Osip became a good friend to him by letting his transgression pass and even helping him get back to the hotel in one piece. I am inclined to think that Osip was merely doing him a favor but I'd rather believe that the two men formed a friendship. It feels better that way.

I'm reading this book the way Towles must have written it: with a certain romance in things. There are, indeed, seemingly incredulous stuff in there but I'm setting aside my skepticism (only for a bit) to allow his flair for the romantic to hit me.

I'm nearing the end of the book (I want to know how it all ends already, haha) and there's a small part in Book Four where (view spoiler) So far, Mishka is the only person who has struck a chord with me.


Monique (attymonique) | 2127 comments Hi, reading buddies. As of yesterday, I'm already done with the book. :)

I will wait for you to finish before I write down my thoughts. :)


message 23: by Lik (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lik C | 16 comments Me too! Will send my thoughts at the end of the week.

Skeptic – thanks for this word Monique! Yes, I have the skeptic / realist side and romantic / imagination side when reading a novel. But for A Gentleman in Moscow, my skeptic side won.

(Aside: I remember this novel The Little Paris Bookshop as a book club book-of-the-month. This was also one cheesy novel which took us journeying with the book shop keeper to the south of France. While the book won my romantic side, the other members were skeptic of the novel. I remembered this guy seated next to me who did highlighted the cheesy lines from the novel – something I carried over here. The session concluded with the members looking for the culprit who decided it to be the book of the month.)


message 24: by Lik (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lik C | 16 comments We’ve finally reached the end of the novel. It’s been a great journey of reviewing this novel with you guys :D It’s been a while since I last did a buddy read.

The last two books resolves for me the purpose of the placement of most characters in the novel. From Nina to Sofia who becomes the Count’s “daughter”, Anna the “mother”, the hotel staff who have “no inkling” of this plan and to the diplomats who help the fugitives escape. Finally, things have gotten exciting in the escape portion, but I did hope it was built up early on. Though the ending was sweet, finally the Count escaped, and in style. (Another skeptic observation – were there guards in the lobby of the hotel?) He didn’t jump off from the parapet as I’ve thought he did. It was a fitting closure to his enclosure.

Despite the nice ending, it wasn’t enough for me to like the book. I was caught too much on the language which annoyed me as I read on, some events which were incredulous for me to believe in, and some mundane events/ encounters leaving me “okay, what was that for…” and I don’t know … perhaps I just didn’t connect well with the characters. It’s still a good read though, it introduced me to a lot of things about Russia, but still not at par with other historical books I’ve read which I really felt the extensive research done by the authors. Even if there was the lack of research, the story side didn’t work for me much. Maybe the author can also use some improvement on putting his thoughts together. I felt that he wanted to achieve so much in his novel, fusing things from his imagination, historical events and forcing morals into his stories.

Despite me not enjoying the novel much (but I did enjoy scrutinizing it), I’m glad you guys did!

I've read that Kenneth Branagh is going to produce this novel into a mini-series, and he’s going to be the Count.


Monique (attymonique) | 2127 comments So, it ends. And I love how it did! (view spoiler) All the planning and excitement leading up to it just had me reading on, and it was a good climax to an otherwise slow-going story.

I didn't expect a lot of Russian history in the narrative; I figured that if I wanted to read extensively about Russian history, I might as well pick a memoir or a proper history book, for that matter. What I did read from this novel, I found was sufficient enough to lay the setting for the Count's story, and it was all up to me to do my own research, if I wanted. Perhaps that's what helped me approach the novel from the romantic, ideal point of view; I was also skeptical about certain points (especially that part about him being allowed to freely roam the hotel despite his presence there being a house arrest, i.e., a punishment) but I didn't want to dwell on those too much. By and large, this is still a fictionalized novel of a certain part of Russian history, and while there may be some plot holes that made me scratch my head in wonder, I chose to dwell on the parts that did, in some way, make sense.

The one thing that did annoy me constantly was the author's use of the ellipses. As in ... ... ...
I mean, couldn't he have thought of something to fill in the silences in the narrative instead of utilizing those three dots?? They distracted me a lot.

LIK: Kenneth Branagh is just the perfect Count! Thanks for the info haha. I will surely watch out for this series. :D


Kitteh (mimikyuu16) | 11 comments Hey guys! I'm so sorry. I feel really bad about missing out and not participating this week. Too bad I missed the deadline but I'm still going to finish this book.
(I don't know if this is okay to share but)

I haven't been reading because I've been sick. I got food poisoned. Every darn second I was trying so hard not vomit. Reading makes me nauseous and I've been spending my days watching sitcoms (subtitles off) just to get through. I tried listening to this book's audiobook but after listening for an hour, I was spewing my lunch in the bathroom. It took me a week to recover and now I'm okay now (never eat 3-day old, unrefrigerated tuna egg sandwich )

Anyways, I really loved your reviews. Both of you. I think you guys are really awesome. I love Monique's honesty and Lik's skepticism. Thank you for letting me join this buddy read :D


message 27: by Lik (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lik C | 16 comments No worries, get well soon Ivan! Read easy books :D


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