“All poetry is a call to action.”
Bravo. A romance tucked inside an adventure stuffed into history festooned with whimsy and culture. Fully-realized characters burst off the pages as surely as they rupture the walls of Moscow’s historic Metropol Hotel.
“… and generally clamor about the world’s oldest problems with its newest nomenclature.”
Catches the spirit of each age. His grasp of the history and culture of Moscow in the span from after World War One into the 1950s betrays a respect one who looks for from a native. Pop culture references–music, politics, fashion, movies–appropriate to each decade.
“Adversity presents itself in many forms. If a man does not master his circumstances, his circumstances will master him.”
Comparable to Tolstoy; patronymics, diminutives and other naming varieties included. The scope of this work demands telescoping the timeline. Towles performs his chronological slight-of-hand without distracting from the various plot threads.
“A man can never be entirely sure that he is not a fuddy-duddy. That is axiomatic to the term.”
He identifies a key characteristic for significant characters–moving, think, acting on the “bias” for the “bishop;” the “willowy” lady–that serves as a shorthand throughout the story. Challenging, but appropriate vocabulary.
“When life makes it impossible for a man to pursue his dreams, he must contrive to pursue them anyway.”
Delves deep into the evolving Soviet Union without judging. Global issues are reduced to the struggle by one man to not just survive, but to make a life in his place of internal exile.
“Unlike political parties, artistic movements, or schools of fashion … the methods and intentions of the secret police never change.”
Quibbles: Towles separates dialog from action by the same actor into different paragraphs. Not his fault, but it’s a stupid convention which confuses who is talking and who is doing what. Confusing. Each problem is overcome as it presents itself. Episodic.
“One can revisit the past quite pleasantly, so long as one does so expecting nearly every aspect of it to have changed.”
Looking forward to trying Rules of Civility.
“No matter how much time passes, those we have loved never slip away from us entirely.”