New Read: A Gentleman in Moscow

Yesterday morning, I started reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, and I remembered to go to my card file and find my note on where I heard about this book. You remember the card file, don’t you? I mentioned it when I told you about Conversations With Friends. It’s my way of remembering what books I have on my TBR list and where I heard about them, sometimes I even remember to write down why I want to read them at the moment.

a gentleman in Moscow book cover

I heard an interview with the author on BBC Radio’s Bookclub Podcast back in… August, 2021. What?! No way! Man… time really does fly. This is exactly why I keep this notecard system. I also thought I had mentioned it in a Podcast Roundup, but I don’t see it. While looking for it, I realized I’ve been doing the Podcast Roundup for almost two years now and I could have sworn that I’d been doing it barely a year. Here’s the proof though, Podcast Roundup #1, all the way back in April, 2021.

a gentleman in Moscow notecard

After giving up on Ulysses, reading A Gentleman in Moscow is a breath of fresh air. A clear plot, comprehensible characters, ahh… what a relief! And it’s set in Russia during the Revolution, one of my favorite era’s to read about.

Two days and four hours in, and I’m fully enjoying this book, and not in a “oh this is reading candy” kind of way. The book has depth, but it isn’t beyond my tired brain, so I’m happy AND satisfied so far.

Let me give you a couple quotes before I run off and get some housework done.

“But experience is less likely to teach us how to bid our dearest possessions adieu. And if it were to? We wouldn’t welcome the education. For eventually, we come to hold our dearest possessions more closely than we hold our friends. We carry them from place to place, often at considerable expense and inconvenience; we dust and polish their surfaces and reprimand children for playing too roughly in their vicinity-all the while, allowing memories to invest them with greater and greater importance. This armoire, we are prone to recall, is the very one in which we hid as a boy; and it was these silver candelabra that lined our table on Christmas Eve; and it was with this handkerchief that she once dried her tears, et cetera, et cetera. Until we imagine that these carefully preserved possessions might give us genuine solace in the face of a lost companion.

But, of course, a thing is just a thing.”

I’ll tell you a secret. I am not prone to be overly sentimental about things. At least, that’s what I tell people, but I know deep down I am. There are things I would hate to lose that to some may look like extravagances or trash. Several family members have downsized the past few years, and some have passed away, leaving us to cull through their things and take a few mementos. That sounds so morbid. I’m also reminded of how hard it has been for my mom to let go of most of her things in the pursuit of a more nomadic “tiny home” lifestyle.

I never thought of those mementos as being “solace in the face of a lost companion.” But that is exactly what they are. The Christmas village I bring out every year remind me of my grandpa. The sewing machine that used to belong to my grandma makes me feel like she’s still close. A myriad of things around my house have belonged to someone else I wish to keep close to my heart.

One more…

“…imagining what might happen if one’s circumstances were different was the only sure route to madness.”

This one of my favorite things about fiction. We get life lessons from characters because we hear their inner thoughts, intentions, and backgrounds. It would be awkward if we were going for a walk and I said this to you, but if a character in a novel says it, well… that’s different!

And what an era Rostov is going through to have this sentiment in his heart!

It reminds me of a song I heard on the radio a few days ago, Happy Does by Kenny Chesney. This line was so good, I paused the song and wrote it down in my journal.

“But it damn sure ain’t in the lookin’ back on the stuff you never did”

He’s talking about happiness, my friends. No matter what happens in our life, the truth of the matter is that we can’t do everything and much of what happens to us isn’t our choice but the circumstances of our birth. There’s no sense in looking around wishing things were different. Take joy in what’s right in front of you, look to the future, and see if you can’t set your foot down in a steady spot in your next step.

Today is all we really have. Don’t waste it wishing it were different.

Read my next post about this book: Final Thoughts on A Gentleman in Moscow.


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