Truly one of my reading highlights from 2018 - I loved this book! It's a beautiful piece of work and I wanted to savor every perfectly crafted sentence, with its many clever historical and literary references.
The book is set during a turbulent period in Russia's history, a few years after the Revolution. Count Alexander Rostov, a handsome and charming gentleman, has been hauled before the courts and sentenced to a life under house arrest after being declared a 'Former Person' for writing a counter-revolutionary poem. At the time of his arrest, the Count was living in a luxurious suite at Moscow's Hotel Metropol, and so this becomes the place of his imprisonment - although he was downgraded from his suite to a small, pokey bedroom.
On the outside, Moscow is enduring a time of violent upheaval, but the Hotel Metropol is an oasis of sorts, a microcosm of a world gone by, where revolving glass doors reveal distinguished guests who take their place in the grand dining room, to sip on expensive French wines and meticulously prepared haute cuisine - even when the chef has to be creative with his ingredients due to food shortages.
Over the years, we learn more of the Count's story and meet his friends living and working in the hotel, who make his life rich and rewarding despite its restrictions. This book was full of endearing characters, but none more so than the Count himself, who was intelligent, sophisticated and classy - the perfect dinner guest! It's a slower paced, meandering novel rather than a gripping fast-paced action story, but I completely fell in love with both the characters and Amor Towles' beautiful writing. Highly recommended - 5 stars from me.