Many (now many, many) years ago I went to the Interscholastic Forensics Competition, portraying young Eloise who lived at the Plaza Hotel. I was inevitably inspired by Kay Thompson’s young  heroine, filled with vigor and an adventuresome spirit. Today, perhaps in the want of similar inspiration, I think my readers might really appreciate Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow. Instead of residing on Fifth Ave. as Eloise did, the hero, Count Rostov, lives in Stalinist Russia which was formerly a land of classic radiance and wealth for a few…not just brutes in the form of oligarchs.

amor towles

The Count is a “Former Person” and is sentenced to House Arrest by being forced to reside in, and never leave, Moscow’s most luxurious and historic hotel – still standing today – the exquisite Metropol. The hotel becomes Rostov’s world, within the context of his uniquely optimistic perspective. Residing there from 1922 through the 1950’s and through post-revolution scarcity, the hotel still struggled but creatively dazzled with upscale restaurants and barber shops, candlelight, and always dark corners. The Count lives in a 100 sq. foot former storage room, but creates an opulent study next to it , secretly entered through his small closet and camouflaged by his few hanging jackets. His view is always creative, even amidst the dour Russian history and occurrences resembling those of the current Russian state. When he bounces on the bedsprings in his tiny retreat, he notices they are all creaking “in G sharp.” The antics are memorable and the result is a treasure.

So, lovers of Eloise at the Plaza and Heidi and other great works, get to work on this one…..!

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