A Gentleman in Moscow

by Amor Towles

As the book opens, you find Count Alexander in the midst of a trial for crimes against the country. His crime:  writing a poem, Where is it now?, stating a need for a 'call to action' - which was considered 'taking up arms' against the revolution.  This crime could land him in front of a firing squad or in Siberia. Instead, because of his friendships, he is sentenced to house arrest by the new Bolshevik regiment at the luxurious Metropol hotel in Moscow, now home to the new regime and where he had been living a glamourous life in a beautifully appointed suite.  

Count Alexander is promptly moved to a tiny attic room and is stripped of his valuable possesions, of his influences, and along with it, his high standard of respectability and etiquette. Improbably doomed to live out the rest of his life here, where the only posessions he can keep is what can fit in this room, we follow him, as he watches the world from within his tiny attic window, and as he learns to master the world of his imprisonment inside the hotel.   

"I consider it a modern masterpiece whose every paragraph, every bit of dialogue, every description kept me interested, charmed me, enlightened me, entertained me, and touched me. I have read countless books; this one ranks with the very best." 

Click here for a video summary of this book on the author's website.
“If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them. "
Set the Scene

Ambiance

When we walked into our hostess' home, we were greeted with a bar cart of Russian inspired signature cocktails which included a choice of Moscow Mules, Kir Royale, or White and Black Russians served in her finest cut-crystal barware.  Did you know, the current day Metropol Hotel offered a Gentleman in Moscow book club tour package that included a tasting of original cocktails created by Shalypin Bar and inspired by the novel?  There cocktails were:  “Golden Rose”, “Brick Wall”, “Robin's Plantain”, and “Kremlin Fur Tree”. 

Tchaikovsky was playing through her surround sound. Never underestimate the power of music.  Use an audio streaming service such as Spotify or Pandora to find a channel for your event.  For music ambiance, entertain your guests throughout dinner and discussion with a musical selection from the Literary Hostess spotify playlist which includes some of the following songs:
  • Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor (1892)
  • Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Act One (1892)
  • Chopin: Nocturnes, Op 9 No. 1-3 (1893)
  • Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 1 in C Major (1774)
  • Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor

​In addition to our tablescape design, we used several elements from the book to surround ourselves with the story.  We placed a large "A" on a serving tray to eliceit conversations of, 'Why the author started all of his chapters with a word beginning with A?'.    We placed a large  antique key as the placeholder to the open book on the coffee table to remind us of Count's possession of the passkey and his special relationship with Nina.  ​​

We used   Bookclubz  to announce and to manage our meeting.  It is a wonderful organizational tool for scheduling meetings, tracking rsvps and logging and rating your books.  You can upload the book you are reading and send it out to group members with your next scheduled meeting. 

Invitations
You decide how to introduce the first glimpse of your gathering.   Email or text a photo invitation, use an invitation service such as Evite, or make one yourself like our hostess did. 

Our hostess ordered antique keys online and created a tag that announced the details of our event.  How clever to give us the gift of a key to remind us of the master key given to the Count in the special package wrapped in a green ribbon.

Another thought was to create an invitation in the like of a Solviet court order (using typewriter font) to remand your guests to your residence.

Visuals
   
""But when he untied the bow and lifted the lid on this box, inside the cozy chamber, strung on a bit of the dark green ribbon, was Nina's passkey to the hotel."

Visuals and Props

Opera Glasses
The Count kept his mother's opera glasses as he was a regular attendee of the Bolshoi Theatre where he might hear musical selection suggested above.
Antique Key
Our hostess placed an antique key on an open page marking her favorite quote she read at the beginning of dinner, where we sit and discuss our story.
Twice-Tolling Clock
The Count’s father had believed that while a man should attend closely to life, he should not attend too closely to the clock.  
"One hour later, with his hair neatly trimmed and his chin cleanly shaved, the Count entered the Shalyapin and selected a small table in the corner at which to wait for Mishka..."
"For what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause: what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty of acclaim."
Cook the Book
​​Our hostess for the evening created a vodka and caviar station.  A  Moscow Mule served as the signature cocktail.  White and Black Russians were also available as an apertif.   She prepared a  beautiful borscht and guests brought sides such as salmon and a cucumber salad.   

Click on a food image to be directed to the recipe site. 
Menu
Deviled Eggs with Caviar
​Borscht 
​Smoked Salmon or Salted Herring
Black Bread
Latvian Stew
Chocolate Mousse and Bon Bons ​
"Manners are not like bonbons, Nina.  You may not choose the ones that suit you best; and you certaintly cannot put the half-bitten ones back in the box..."
At this Time in History
Metropol Hotel, then and today.




"For  the times do, in fact, change.  They change relentlessly.  Inevitably.  Inventively."
Discussion Notes
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