A Gentleman in Moscow
The next meeting of the Book Club will be on Thurs Oct 11th when we will be talking about ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ by Amor Towles. NB: This is a change from the original choice ‘Educated ‘ by Tara Westover, as that book is not yet in paperback.
Doors open for refreshment at 6.30 pm and discussion starts at 7.00pm.
For introduction and discussion questions see below:
A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in an elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov.
When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin.
Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavour to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.
A Gentleman in Moscow: Discussion Questions.
- Start with the Count. How would you describe him? Do you find him an appealing, even memorable character?
2.In the transcript at the opening of A Gentleman in Moscow, Rostov states “I have lived under the impression that a man’s purpose is known only to God.” To what extent is A Gentleman in Moscow a novel of purpose? How does the Count’s sense of purpose manifest itself initially, and how does it evolve as the story unfolds?
- The Metropol serves literally and symbolically as a window on the world. What picture does Amor Towles paint of the Soviet Union—the brutality, its Kafka-esque bureaucracy, and the fear it inspires among its citizens? What are the pressures, for instance, faced by those who both live in and visit the Metropol? Does Towles's dark portrait overwhelm the story's narrative?
- Nina helps the Count unlock the hotel (again, literally and symbolically), revealing a much richer place than it first seemed. What do we, along with the Count, discover?
- The Count’s life under house arrest is greatly influenced by his relationship with four women: Nina, Marina, Anna, and Sofia. What is the nature of the Count’s relationship with each of these women? How do those relationships differ from his relationship with the members of the Triumvirate—Andrey and Emile?
6.Over the course of Book Two, why does the Count decide to throw himself from the roof of the Metropol? On the verge of doing so, why does the encounter with the old handyman lead him to change his plans?
7.The majority of A Gentleman in Moscow is told in the third person from the Count’s point of view. There is, however, an overarching narrator with a perspective different from the Count’s. Initially, this narrator appears in footnotes, then in the “Addendums,” then in the historical introductions of “1930,” “1938,” and “1946.” How would you characterize this narrator? How does he differ from the Count in terms of his point of view and tone of voice? What is his role in the narrative?
8. In the “1946” chapter, Mishka, Osip, and Richard each share with the Count his perspective on the meaning of the revolutionary era. What are these three perspectives? Are you inclined to agree with one of them; or do you find there is some merit to each?
9.What might Casablanca be the Count's favourite film? What does it suggest about his situation?
10. In what way does his gilded cage, his "prison" for decades, transform Count Rostov? How do you see him changing during the course of the novel? What incidents have the most profound effect on him? Consider the incident with the beehive and the honey.
11. At the opening of Book Five, the Count has already decided to get Sofia out of Russia. What occurs over the course of Book Four to lead him to this decision? Why does he choose to remain behind?
12. Near the novel’s conclusion, what is the significance of the toppled cocktail glass in Casablanca?
13. This is a novel with a somewhat fantastical premise set half a century ago in a country very different from our own. The Count was imprisoned for writing the poem, "Where is it now?", which questioned the purpose of the new Soviet Union. Do you think the book is relevant today? If so, in what way? Care to make any comparisons now with Russia under Putin, 70-some years later?
PROGRAMME FOR AUTUMN 2018
Sept 13th The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists: Robert Tressell
Oct 11th a Gentleman in Moscow: Amor Towles
Nov 8th American Pastoral: Philip Roth
Dec 13th Bookworm: Lucy Mangan
Jan 10th Ruth: Elizabeth Gaskell