I read this book over a month ago and still think about its atmosphere. In February I was in a bit of reading slump, reading but feeling like none of the books fully engages me. I could not find a book I would be drawn too, a book I’d want to go back to. When I spoke about this to my mum she told me about this book and how she liked it and as we share library on Kindle there was no harm in trying.
The book completely drew me in, it is a story of count Rostov, who is sentenced by Bolsheviks to house arrest. As his house at the time was a suite in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol that’s where he was ordered to stay. It would seem a nice place to be under house arrest, but Rostov is forced to move to a tiny attic room. He takes his fate stoically and tries to make the best of it. The hotel becomes his universe, providing enough entertainment to sustain him, becoming a whole world in miniature. We see a cast of fantastic characters that Rostov interacts with, including both hotel staff and guests. As the count remains the hotel for decades we also get to experience the drastic changes that communism brought over the years, the scary and gloomy ones but also the absurd, they all touch the life of the hotel, while Rostov tries to navigate his new life never losing his dignity and remaining as stoical as possible.
On one hand this book reminded me a bit of Grand Budapest Hotel, which is pretty obvious as the whole plot takes place in the hotel with its cast of distinct characters. On the other the atmosphere is different, Metropol is a serious place, an institution, not a weird crazy hotel in Zubrovka. I liked the care put into building the characters, their variety and great interactions with Rostov. The book ultimately is a fairytale about people being mostly good, striving to build community in all circumstances.
It is very difficult to give justice here to the beautiful atmosphere of the book, it really had something magical about it. Let’s be honest it may not be the most ambitious literature, but it is definitely ambitious entertainment. I do recommend it if you want to be transported completely to another world, in a good company to add.