General Rating: Reading this book is a little like going on a dinner date with a genius. You can’t insult him by leaving too soon, but he’s a tad confusing. Long-winded. Using proper utensils. Announcing the origins and imported flavors of every bite—in French. Then Latin. You’re out of your element, aren’t sure what you’ve eaten, and dread the thought of some flame-throwing dessert. Then out it comes—the end—an ice cream cone with sprinkles.
(My rating fluctuated throughout . 8-7-8-9-8.5-9.5)
Who should read: Classic lovers. History buffs.
Favorite line: Fate would not have the reputation it has if it simply did what it seemed it would do.
Skip factor: 5-6%. I skipped in the beginning. Nothing if Nina’s or Sofia’s name crept onto a page.
Summary: In Russia, Count Alexander Roscov is sentenced to spend his entire life in a hotel. (I’m still not sure why. Something about being an aristocrat—too history for me. Evidently, a poem he’s written has spared his life and, yikes. For someone like me who runs and hikes, this is a fate worse than death.) Destined to wander the halls of the hotel Metropol, there he spends time philosophizing about life and his country.
When a child, Nina, makes her way into his daily routine, Roscov grows fond of her curious ways and occasionally engages in tomfoolery. A few friends and several acquaintances (he has no living family) come and go. He forms long-lasting friendships with Metropol staff, but when Nina suddenly returns as an adult in search of her husband who has disappeared, she asks Roscov to watch her child, five-year-old Sofia. Suddenly time is more forgiving. For Roscov and me.
I loved Alexander Roscov. He’s charming. Merry. Jaunty. The sort whom everyone relishes. (Is he rubbing off on me?) I liked his friend Mishka, the Metropol staff, his fling/love Anna, but oh how I adored Nina. Then Sofia. These characters were the honey of the story.
Storyline: This is different and I’d like to read it again because by the end, I realized I missed much. It’s deep, of course, the author so well read and knowledgeable on so many levels that I couldn’t comprehend them all. (I barely understood the reviews.) To someone who never reads history, I worried in the beginning that I wouldn’t like this. (I mean, how long can you talk about memories and politics because you’re bored before you, um, become bored?)
Nearly all the history and classics referenced were above me. (Could not seating Paris and Helen next to each other really have averted the Trojan War? Not only do I not know, I don’t care. Yet, if I was sentenced to live my life out in a hotel, I’d probably look it up.)
Writing: Well written, of course. You can’t have a gazillion five-star ratings and not be well written. There were parts that dragged for me despite the exquisite writing. But I agree, the writing is superb.
Read this author again? Hmmm. I may grab a copy of Rules of Civility, but not sure how that will go. I’ve been known to DNF award-winners so why not geniuses with eidetic memories?
CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two crime thrillers with sixth-sense components, Friends Who Move Couches and Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House, women’s fiction. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.