I kept looking at this book for ages before I decided to buy it. And then it sat on my pile of books to read before I decided to read it. I wonder what it is about somethings that interest and intrigue us but not enough to compel us to immediate action?
Anyway, its time came last weekend on a flight home from Cork. This was a perfect book for one of those times when you want to be distracted from yourself but without having to invest too many brain cells in the process of assimilating what is being read.
The basic premise of the story is that in 1922 Count Alexander Illich Rostov is sentenced to internal exile in newly Bolshevik Russia. His place of exile is the Hotel Metropol in Moscow. Count Alexander is safe as long as he doesn’t set foot outside the hotel doors.
The story is about Rostov’s life from 1922 to 1954. It tells of his friendships with the hotel staff. It portrays the growing confidence of the Bolshevik regime seen through their activities in the hotel. It relates how old and young learn from each other when it tells the story of Rostov’s friendship with lonely child Nina and then his guardianship of her daughter Sofia. Mostly the book tells us that it doesn’t matter how wide or narrow your physical horizons it is the openness of your mind to the possibilities life has to offer that counts.
If you discount the total improbability of someone being sentenced to imprisonment in a luxury hotel when they are accused of being an unrepentant aristocrat this is a gentle, enjoyable story of how a person’s life unfolds.
I found it frustrating not knowing what happened to Nina. Although, having read a fair bit of the history of the Bolshevik revolutions I can guess what is likely to have happened.
I suspect this might end up being one of those comfort reads that I go back to when I’m feeling unwell or out of sorts with the modern world.