A Gentleman in Moscow begins with (ex-)Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov being called to a Peoples’ Commissariat just as the new communist government is cracking down on opposition. Normally an aristocrat like Rostov would’ve been summarily executed, but because he voluntarily returned from Paris at the start of the revolution and because he had written a poem against the old regime when it was still in power which made him a literary hero for the revolution, his life is spared and he is confined, under house arrest, to Moscow’s Hotel Metropol.
The plot is more of a series of character-driven vignettes – interesting, entertaining and even colourfully humourous at times, the plot doesn’t seem to flow as a novel should. The writing is good, but doesn’t make up for the lack of a plot.
One of the many characters that enter the Count’s life is a young girl, a gifted musician, and possibly (perhaps I have this right) his grand-daughter. He takes responsibility for her and so she joins him, living in the hotel. The plot suddenly takes off as the Count prepares for the girl’s escape to Paris.
The Count’s character is well-developed as is that of his (maybe) grand-daughter, but most other characters are not well-developed and the reader is left wanting more about the many supporting characters – or perhaps less.
I like fiction to at least be possible, but A Gentleman in Moscow lacked credibility. I’m sure others will enjoy the book, but for me it lacked substance.