A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
It’s not often I have the same thoughts as Bill Gates but in respect of the book ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’, by Amor Towles, I do. He apparently thought it a great novel as did I. Whilst set in a dour time of Russian history this is not a dour book. On the contrary it is uplifting. A perfect read for this time in our history as it follows the life of Count Alexander Rostov, an extraordinary gentleman who, in 1922 is sentenced to life under house arrest in the luxury Metropol Hotel, across the street from the Kremlin. He must now live in an attic room in ‘isolation’ whilst the Bolsheviks take power outside and events unfold around him. As a friend reminded me recently he makes some early decisions, which we would be wise to remember now...“The first was if one did not master one’s circumstances, one was bound to be mastered by them; and the second was Montaigne’s maxim that the surest sign of wisdom is constant cheerfulness”.
The book follows him over the next 30 years as he makes the best of his circumstances. Although it is fictional, the Metropol is a real (magnificent) hotel. When I was in Moscow I sipped a delicious cocktail there and found it was easy to build a picture what it was like at that time. I thought of the Counts sage words on cocktails, “a cocktail should be crisp, elegant, sincere—and limited to two ingredients.” .."But they must be two ingredients that complement each other; that laugh at each other’s jokes and make allowances for each other’s faults; and that never shout over each other in conversation. Like gin and tonic,” It is awash with humour and whilst it is a work of historical fiction it’s also a page turning thriller with romance and an eclectic cast of characters who by the end of the book I regarded as friends. It has it all. A Gentleman in Moscow is available to buy on Book Depository and Audible.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
In these strange days where we are all literally and figuratively isolated, what we need apart from kindness and courage is hope, and this a hopeful book. It is a debut novel and an outstanding one at that. The author is a renowned Natural History writer and that would explain the theme of this book. The main storyline follows Kya Clark as she grows up alone in a shack in the swamps of North Carolina after being abandoned by her family. Her love of nature is a major theme and her detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna clearly reflect the authors background.
It is a very ‘human’ book that follows the ups and downs of Kya’s life and includes romance and mystery whilst highlighting racial and social issues of the times (1950-60’s). It’s a reflection of the authors great writing that the book manages to connect these issues to contemporary issues such as the environment. It's part crime drama, which is why you have to read it to the end, and part survival. It is about isolation at an extreme level whilst simultaneously being eventful with some great twists and relatively fast moving. And yes you guessed it Where the Crawdads Sing is going to be a movie with Reese Witherspoon producing. Available in Kmart for just $12 or on Audible, we highly recommend this read.
Mythos by Stephen Fry
While I have had some time on my hands, I thought I should turn my eye to not only being entertained while reading but being informed. What better person to provide that magical mix than Stephen Fry. His book Mythos (note- I would highly recommend you listen to this as Mr Fry himself reads it) gave me hours of enjoyment. Fry’s distinctive voice undoubtedly adds something lively and humorous to the experience, and it’s great to garden to! It’s not a complete guide to Greek myths nor is it a Dummies guide to them. For me it provided a highly entertaining introduction to what some say are the greatest stories ever told.
He has selected a very small number of stories and provides the explanations for us to recognise the impact they have had on our contemporary culture and language. He turns them into very relevant tales for our world. He starts at the very beginning when we hear how from Chaos came Cosmos (Order), he then leads us to the birth of the gods and the creation of the first human. Along the way we hear amazing tales of warfare, worship, love affairs, tragedies and triumph and importantly life lessons. He weaves into these stories some witty amusing asides and for any of you who have been to Greece they will resonate. "The Greeks still add pine resin to wine, call it retsina and offer it to visitors. No one knows why a normally kind and hospitable people should do such a thing! It tastes like what it essentially is, the kind of turpentine artists use to thin their oil paints. I love it." As Stephen Fry loves retsina I loved this book. Listen to Mythos on Audible or purchase the hardcopy on Amazon.
Have any great book recommendations for the Monte & Lou community? Leave a comment below! Stay tuned for more content in our #HOLIDAYATHOME series.