ChatSach’s Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ /5

I’m not sure where to begin with my review of this book. There are so many praises and good reviews for it already. That was one of the reasons I picked it up to read. The title sounds boring, the synopsis is even more boring, what could it be that thousands of people place this to one of the top books of their reading chart?

If I was to describe this book in Amor Towles’s own word, it was a book that had been written with winter nights in mind. Without a doubt, it was a book for when the birds had flown south, the wood was stacked by the fireplace, and the fields were white with snow; that is, for when one had no desire to venture out and one’s friends had no desire to venture in. It was a book that really should stop people complaining about the current social distancing situation with Covid. You still at least have the freedom of speech to complain about measures that can save someone’s life, comparing to the Count Alexander Rostov’s house arrest situation.

While Count Rostov isn’t the type that let the circumstances master him, he does allow the situation to take over in his relationship with Anna. I just love the way the romance was described: To be a step ahead in matters of romance requires constant vigilance. If one hopes to make a successful advance, one must be mindful of every utterance, attend to every gesture, and take note of every look. In other words, to be a step ahead in romance is exhausting. But to be a step behind? To be seduced? Why, that was a matter of leaning back in one’s chair, sipping one’s wine, and responding to a query with the very first thought that has popped into one’s head. This does set a tone for the rest of Count Rostov’s relationship with others as well.

On the surface, it seems that he’s a great conversationalist, often always know what to say. But really he is much more better at observations, the way he sees the world, and the underworld… Why is it that so many ghosts prefer to travel the halls of night? Ask the living and they will tell you that these spirits either have some unquenched desire or an unaddressed grievance that stirs them from their sleep and sends them out into the world in search of solace. But the living are so self-centered. Of course they would judge a spirit’s nocturnal wanderings as the product of earthly memories. When, in fact, is these restless souls wanted to harrow the bustling avenues of noon, there is nothing to stop them from doing so. No. If they wander the halls of night, it is not from a grievance with or envy of the living. Rather, it is because they have no desire to see the living at all. Any more than snakes hope to see gardeners, or foxes the hounds. They wander about at midnight because at that hour they can generally do so without being harried by the sound and furry of earthly emotions. After all those years of striving and struggling, of hoping and praying, of shouldering expectations, stomaching opinions, navigating decorum, and making conversation, what they seek, quite simply, is a little peace and quiet.

I know I’m quoting a lot from the book, but there are just so many quotes I really enjoyed. It has been a while since I actually highlighted passages on my kindle to re-read later. There were so many witty remarks, either spoken aloud or thought internally. There was also a definite love for Russian literature, which makes me want to read some Dostoyevsky again.