Perhaps it is inevitable that a novel which relates the experiences of a man spending his life entirely ensconced in a Moscow hotel is somewhat episodic, at times reading more like a collection of little vignettes than anything else. If so, then the fact that Amor Towles’ “A Gentleman in Moscow” is c.450 pages long only serves to enhance that impression.
Which is a shame.
At the heart of the book there is a coherent story and a well-written narrative, so if that ‘episodic impression’ exists – and it did for me for probably the first two-thirds of the book – then it can only be a detraction.
On reflection (the day after, as it were) I suspect my criticism is unfair, and that the episodes are, by and large, all relative to the narrative. In that case, the conclusion I must subsequently draw is that the book is simply too long. Were it a hundred pages shorter with any superfluity removed, I cannot help but feel it would be more coherent – and coherent sooner – and would move along at the satisfying pace it reaches in the last quarter.
But don’t let that put you off. I think it’s a good book and a good read, and I wouldn’t hesitate to read something else by the author.