My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A Gentleman in Moscow can easily be called a masterpiece. It almost seems silly to even bother explaining why–the book so clearly speaks for itself–but if I were held at gunpoint, I’d have to say the key to its beauty is the prose. Amor Towles is clearly a man smarter than the rest of us, and this is evident with how many literary, historical, philosophical, and just plain cultured references can be found within the book. While all the essential story-telling elements are found within its pages and masterfully executed, the fact that each and every paragraph is fun to read on its own merit is what pushes this novel into the stratosphere, leaving most other books to wallow in shame as they crane their necks to look above.
Thematically, Towles’s novel has come at a much needed time. A Gentleman in Moscow is about the evils of a foreign government and the humanity of its citizens who are often the primary victims of their government’s misdeeds. In the same way Middle Easterners face the violence of Islamism and Islamic extremism more than anyone else in the world, with a death toll of approximately twenty million, the Soviet Union’s citizens suffered more than those who were invaded by it. This book reminds us that while it’s important to identify who is our friend and who is our enemy in this world elevated to the geopolitical scale, the most important thing of all is to identify who is innocent.
Towles also provides an elegant defense of aristocracy and enjoying the privileges some are given by being born as the right person. It is interesting just how aptly the practices of communism are criticized within this book, while at the same time, not giving enough consideration as to why those practices were ever felt necessary in the first place. But though the book may not directly defend the proletariat, it indirectly comes to their aid by showing how easy it is for new tyrants to take place of the old, by showing just how wrong a revolution for the people can go. While Towles never mentions what the motivations for a collectivist government are, or provides examples of successful ones that didn’t go as far as the communists did, he does provide a criticism that, if appreciated, would make the world a better place for everyone, both rich and poor alike.