How did I run errands, rake leaves, or clean the house before I discovered the joy of downloading audiobooks to my phone? (I use Libro.fm.) I’ve listened to some incredible novels in 2019, including The Silent Patient, The Huntress, Woman 99, Where the Crawdads Sing, An Anonymous Girl, and The Female of the Species, but A Gentleman in Moscow is my favorite.
The breadth, and yet the smallness, of this story is stunning, and the narrator, Nicholas Guy Smith, gives a flawless performance. His voice is soothing, lyrical, and captures every nuance in every snippet of dialogue.
From page one, he is Count Alexander Rostov, former member of the jockey club. Rostov is the ultimate hero—honorable, stoic, kind, funny and able to create something wonderful out of the life he has been allocated by the Bolshevik Tribunal. Despite being a historical character during pivotal decades of Russian history, he has much to teach us in the current moment.
The plot, however, doesn’t belong to Rostov alone, because the world comes to him. Held under house arrest in a luxury Moscow hotel, he’s forced to relinquish his old suite and take up residence in an attic bedroom, but he’s allowed to roam the corridors, stairways, and roof. In the lobby, the restaurants, and hidden spaces, he befriends a cat, a pair of hunting dogs, a young girl, an actress, and a cast of endearing hotel workers who surprised me at every turn. Smith made each character—no matter how small their role—come alive with subtle inflections and tiny hits of humor.
No spoilers, but the end is perfect, with every carefully laid thread woven together.
A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW is a modern classic, and a novel I plan to re-read as a physical book.