The funny thing about A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is that I’ve had this for almost three years, but avoided reading it because I assumed it would be a heavy book. It’s a Russian novel! But when I saw a friend write online that her blood pressure dropped every time she read it, I gave it a go. I’m glad I did.

It’s about Count Alexander Rostov, who, at age 30, is sentenced to house arrest. The “house” in this case is the Metropol hotel in Moscow in 1922. A Bolshevik tribunal determined he was an unrepentant aristocrat, but spared his life because of a poem he wrote 1913. Instead, he is sent to live out his days in the belfry of this luxury hotel near the Kremlin.

Alexander makes the most of it, living a full, often delightful life inside. My friend was right: I did feel soothed every time I opened the book. It was a warm friend on some of the shortest nights of the year.

I’m pretty sure I bought this on March 14, 2020, when were were told if we stayed home two weeks, the whole COVID-19 thing would blow over (I know the date because I put in my COVID diary, which is now 307 pages long). Though of course that wasn’t the case, and I knew at the time that this prediction was wrong, as I started writing about the pandemic in February of that year, and I could hear the panic in my sources’ voices. Our local bookstore, Inkwood Books, did one last “buy some reading material while you stay at home!” before just about all of New Jersey shut down, and I went.

Maybe things worked out that I saved A Gentleman in Moscow for now, heading into our third pandemic Christmas, where it’s still not safe to do much of anything indoors with other people. It’s an understatement to say it’s a huge bummer, but it is. I’m glad I had this book to provide some light.

Nail polish: Fear of Missing Out by Nails, Inc.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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