If the ability to get people talking is the measure of success of a novel, then A Gentleman in Moscow was clearly a hit with the WU’s Breakout Novelist Book Dissection Group, generating more comments than any of our previous reads. Then again, given the authorial machinations hidden beneath the surface of a blithe and bubbling narrative, perhaps it isn’t all that surprising. Our crew of writerly explorers gobbled up the breadcrumbs author Amor Towles left behind, intent on understanding how the story of one man confined to a single location captivated worldwide audiences, as well as the eye of Kenneth Branagh, who plans to direct and star in a television adaptation of the tale.
“How did the author do it?” is the overriding question that drives all of our discussions. It’s not a matter of liking or not liking a book, though the task is certainly easier when one feels an affinity. In this case, the group generally found the narrative appealing, despite quibbles with early pacing and a desire for more complexity in a few secondary characters. But over the course of our exploration, the following writing strengths emerged as the pillars that sustained a novel offering a fresh perspective on the notion of blooming where you are planted:
- Towles crafted a fully immersive setting, building an entire world within the confines of a solitary hotel, one shielded but not immune from the chaotic history swirling beyond its doors.
- He perfected a breezy narrative voice that masked the complexity of the underlying tale.
- He developed a durable story structure, allowing a saga that unfolds over three decades to provide continual surprise and discovery for the reader.
Fair warning that *spoilers* lurk in the following samplings from our discussions on these attributes. [Read more…]