A Gentleman in MoscowBook - 2016
From the critics
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I've been reading presidential biographies, from 1 to 41. Amor Towles speaks to the reason I don't believe I will find an impartial biography of presidents 42-45 any time soon:
"We don't know how a man or his achievements will be perceived three generations from now, any more than we know what his great-great-grandchildren will be having for breakfast on a Tuesday in March. Because when Fate hands something down to posterity, it does so behind its back."
The book is a bit slow at first but it becomes clear it needed to be like that to develop the story of the Count and all the people he encountered in his life. A story of friendships and the importance and ease of them.
“Looking back, it seems to me that there are people who play an essential role at every turn. And I don’t just mean the Napoleons who influence the course of history. I mean men and women who routinely appear at critical junctures in the progress of art or commerce, or the evolution of ideas-as if Life itself has summoned them once again to help fulfill its purpose
“…if a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.” - p. 18
“Manners are not like bonbons, Nina. You may not choose the ones that suit you best; and you certainly cannot put the half-bitten ones back in the box. . . .” - p. 52
“Here, indeed, was a formidable sentence--one that was on intimate terms with a comma, and that held the period in healthy disregard.” - p. 68
“It is a sad but unavoidable fact of life," he began, "that as we age our social circles grow smaller. Whether from increased habit or diminished vigor, we suddenly find ourselves in the company of just a few familiar faces.” - p. 94
“After all, what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration—and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.” - pp. 120-121
“Showing a sense of personal restraint that was almost out of character, the Count had restricted himself to two succinct pieces of parental advice. The first was that if one did not master one’s circumstances, one was bound to be mastered by them; and the second was Montaigne’s maxim that the surest sign of wisdom is constant cheerfulness.” - p. 419
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The author shows insight into the customs. language, and values of his characters and their time. In just a few words he makes the reader picture the scene and often leaves gaps of years, leaving an explanation of what happened during this time for later in the story. A book that I couldn't put down.
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