(Penguin, 2016) which I consider the best, new adult novel I have read in years. I followed it up with his first book, Rules of Civility.
Here is my take on both.
First - the most basic differences:
Rules - spans one year
Gentleman - spans one adult lifetime
Rules - social climber
Gentleman - social outcast
Rules - Manhattan
Gentleman - Metropol Hotel, Moscow
Rules - female protagonist
Gentleman - male protagonist
My takeaway: Become the master of your circumstances or they will master you.
The protagonists in Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow manage their circumstances with aplomb, however, the characters could not be more different. One's fortunes are ascendant, the other's—quite the opposite. Both protagonists are smart, well-read, and appreciative of life's finer things.
Katherine (Katey) is a woman who enjoy life's smaller pleasures. She enjoys people-watching, a well-written book, a well-timed phrase or gesture. But her enjoyment is fleeting—a moment marked in time, appreciated, and discarded without sentimentality.
The Count enjoys similar simple pleasures—but he savors them, appreciating that it is these small joys that make a life worth living. Although his fortunes literally and figuratively spiral downward, his spirit and joie de vivre are rarely diminished. At the worst of times, he finds pleasure in the most basic events.
The Count has deep, genuine, and lasting connections with those people he counts among his friends—be they cook, revolutionary, poet or child. Katey, too, appreciates her friends, but in a more offhand manner—seeking or eschewing their company as it suits her mood or needs. Still, each has an ethic that suits his/her particular place and time.
Amor Towles' writing is replete with short literary passages that are worth reading on their own. That he has filled two historical fiction novels with thought-provoking commentary of literary quality is impressive. The words of a young girl in pre-WWII Manhattan and a disgraced aristocrat in post-revolutionary Russia jump off the page and insert themselves in the modern world in a way that is urgent and immediate, and not without surprises.
I know that I am late to the party and both books have garnered numerous awards, but I would like to add my hearty recommendation of Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow. I cannot wait to see what Amor Towles will offer next!
- A Gentleman in Moscow Reading Guide
- A look inside A Gentleman in Moscow
- Rules of Civility Reading Guide
- A look inside Rules of Civility
I judge a book by the number of passages that I mark for further reflection. A Gentleman in Moscow by @amortowles . pic.twitter.com/DJ2xiFLwSw— L Taylor (@shelfemployed) December 19, 2016