Library Journal Review
Towles follows his best-selling novel of 1930s New York (Rules of Civility) with a sophisticated saga of life in Moscow under Bolshevik and Soviet rule. In 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is pronounced an "unrepentant aristocrat" and sentenced to house arrest in his home-away-from-home, the Metropol Hotel, only spared being "put against the wall" because of a prerevolutionary poem he wrote in 1913. After he is marched across Red Square, Rostov is warned that if he ever steps outside the Metropol, he'll be shot. Despite being moved from his sumptuous suite to a 100 square foot attic room, Rostov vows to live his reduced life to the fullest, remembering the words of his godfather, the Grand Duke: "if a man does not master his circumstances, he is bound to be mastered by them." After being befriended by Nina, a bureaucrat's delightfully precocious nine-year-old daughter, who wears a master key to the hotel around her neck, the two explore the intricacies of the grand building, encountering many charming and colorful characters along the way. As the years go by, Moscow undergoes tremendous political and social upheaval, but these changes lurk in the shadows as Rostov and his Metropol family somehow carry on, beautifully demonstrating the strength of the human spirit. Nicholas Guy Smith masterfully narrates this exquisite story, bringing to life an unforgettable protagonist who could well become a favorite to listeners. VERDICT For all lovers of good fiction. ["This enthralling work is highly recommended even for those unfamiliar with Soviet history": LJ 8/16 starred review of the Viking hc.]-Beth -Farrell, -Cleveland State Univ. Law Lib. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
House arrest has never been so charming as in Towles's second novel (following Rules of Civility), an engaging 30-year saga set almost entirely inside the Metropol, Moscow's most luxurious hotel. To Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, the Metropol becomes both home and jail in 1922, when the Bolsheviks spare his life (on the strength of a revolutionary poem written in 1913, when the count was at university). Forbidden to venture out, Rostov explores the intricacies of the grand structure and befriends its other denizens: precocious nine-year-old Nina Kulikova, a bureaucrat's daughter who demands instruction on how to be a princess; Emile, virtuosic chef of the Boyarsky, "the finest restaurant in Moscow"; Andrey, the Boyarsky's French expatriate maître d'; and the beautiful actress Anna Urbanova, who becomes the count's regular visitor and paramour. Standing in for the increasingly despotic Soviet government is the Bishop, a villainous waiter who experiences gradual professional ascent-he becomes headwaiter of the Boyarsky, finally putting his seating-chart and wine-pairing talents to use. But when the adult Nina returns to ask Rostov for a favor, his unique, precariously well-appointed life must change once more. Episodic, empathetic, and entertaining, Count Rostov's long transformation occurs against a lightly sketched background of upheaval, repression, and war. Gently but dauntlessly, like his protagonist, Towles is determined to chart the course of the individual. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.