Author Topic: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~  (Read 1004 times)

Mkaren557

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #80 on: February 13, 2018, 05:02:35 PM »
Thanks Barb.  The fact that Rostov introduces himself  with those titles must have galled the court, which is just what he intended, I think.

Jonathan

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #81 on: February 13, 2018, 05:09:05 PM »
I don't trust the cat. The 'Metropol's lobby cat...who let nothing within the hotel's walls escape his notice.'

What a rich writing style. Such amazing detail from different points of view. I'm reminded of Proust and Kafka...the despairing detail and the moral confusion. Caught in a whirlwind of history...'surely at long last it was time to drink the health of this nation.' (health!?)

Count Rostov's godfather was the Grand Duke Demidov, who left him the desk with all the hidden gold. That reminds me. We had Grand Duchess Olga, the Czar's sister, living here in
Toronto for many years. In humble lodgings on the floor above a storefront on Queen St. This book has me remembering Dumas and the Count of Monte Cristo. This book can be lived as well as read. Going to take some time.

BarbStAubrey

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #82 on: February 13, 2018, 06:27:46 PM »
Since my days in St. Benedicts where we were taught either the first line or the first paragraph or the first page summed up what we would be reading about and the way, or color a story was going to be presented, and so, not only have I smiled reading the poem followed by the descriptive exchange between our Gentleman and his adversaries which highlights the poem but, where various aspects of the poem caught my attention in order to catch a few alluded bits, I had to look them up for their symbolic meaning - after all this is poetry ;)

First the title just has to be a nod to Proust Things Remembered, but also to, Wadsworth's Ode speaking to the transitory nature of all things;

THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,   
    The earth, and every common sight,   
            To me did seem   
    Apparell'd in celestial light,   
The glory and the freshness of a dream.            
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—   
        Turn wheresoe'er I may,   
            By night or day,   
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.   

        The rainbow comes and goes,    
        And lovely is the rose;   
        The moon doth with delight   
    Look round her when the heavens are bare;   
        Waters on a starry night   
        Are beautiful and fair;    
    The sunshine is a glorious birth;   
    But yet I know, where'er I go,   
That there hath pass'd away a glory from the earth.   
 
Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,   
    And while the young lambs bound    
        As to the tabor's sound,   
To me alone there came a thought of grief:   
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,   
        And I again am strong:   
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;    
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;   
I hear the echoes through the mountains throng,   
The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,

(and so forth) and now more from Towles poem that tells us more than the surface words.

A melody in the semblance of a mountain cat.  Ah the juxtaposition with such irony between a melody and not a household cat but a mountain cat - here we would call them cougars or a puma - in Russia mountain cats are silent, elusive and what really catches the irony and therefore strengthens the inward looking, self aggrandizing and therefore transitory nature of all the sound of a Revolution is the story of how hunters/poachers captured mountain cats - they first capture the cubs and then litter their trail with mirrors. Chasing these kidnappers the mountain cat is attracted to the mirrors and stops to gaze at them, thinking it sees the cubs, as a man when he is dawn into the devil's traps, lead us to see things that do not exist, creating vain illusion.

With the eye-averting peeling of a pear The pear was already during the Homeric age sacred to Venus. suggests the female womb and Juno and statues of Hero were carved in pear wood. In the Psalms the taste of a pear is alluded to the sweetness of virtue. For some, the pear is identified with the famous tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Later during the Middle Ages the pear was no longer favored since the tree's wood easily rots. There is a painting of the Madonna holding out a pear branch to Jesus alluding to redemption.

Since our Gentleman rides the cusp before and after the Revolution his references could include Christian symbolism and his visit to Paris would connect the art and poetry that was an easy coupling between Russia and France before the Revolution.

With a bow I bid goodnight not the words typical of a peasant or a revolutionary and so we know the story will be about a gentleman's viewpoint. Through Terrace Doors which suggests open air and a simple garden of a temperate Spring - door usually in poetry suggesting an opening to a new life.  Compared to Autumn leaves, Ashes, and the blue pagoda Chinoiserie, the pseudo-Chinese decorative style which flourished in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, a sort of populist art form.

Vronsky's saddlebags in Anna Karenina, Vronsky gives 200 rubles to the watchman's family. ... After Anna's husband accuses her of having an affair.

Sonnet XXX - Bellamarie - remember - who knew our struggle through all 154 would come in handy :)

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus'd to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan th' expense of many a vanish'd sight;
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd, and sorrows end.

Not on twenty-seven red; 7- in the west is seen as a lucky number, and 27 contains a 7. People who like covering the sevens with, a 'Finales Cheval Plein' bet, will end up covering 7, 17 and 27 with one easy bet. The no. 27 is a red number.

We catch with Rostov's returns, his wit, his use of droll quips - he is buttoned up, not open to the thinking of Vyshinsky, representing the Party - his association has been with the upper class of old Russia and his "remembrance of things past" under a guise of manners, cultured learning that charm, achieves a small success, (his life ;)) from self satisfied change agents, who do not appreciate their temporary hold on history. 

So that is what I will be looking for in this story - examples of how this gentleman of charm shows us the old Russia dancing around the Soviets while hidden behind doors where he controls his life rather than, being controlled as those on the other side of the door. His world may be small but it is his to use as he will. There will be no Sturm und Drang - or characters that bludgeon their way through life for power. 

Mkaren557

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #83 on: February 13, 2018, 07:41:27 PM »
Thank you! Thank you!  When each of the allusions is explained it just takes us deeper into the poem, and into the novel.  I can't believe that you weren't a Lit professor; before your introduction I had no doubt that you were.   

bellamarie

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #84 on: February 13, 2018, 10:52:11 PM »
Barb, OMG I can not thank you enough!!  I kept feeling something very familiar and could not put my finger on it.  I knew if anyone could show it to me it would be you.  You've been very busy, great research. So glad to have you back. 

Jonathan
Quote
I don't trust the cat. The 'Metropol's lobby cat...who let nothing within the hotel's walls escape his notice.'
Did you miss my post #3182 on the prior page, about the cat?  I think the cat will have some sort of significance, just like the Cheshire cat in Alice In Wonderland.

I grew up with cats, I had a beautiful white & black cat with green eyes for 14 years.  Now, I don't really want to own a cat.  They are so quirky and untrustworthy in their actions.  I don't think cats are meant to be a loyal pet, they are the single species who owns their domain and will unexpectedly show you by jumping at your legs for no reason.  My son has a cat that is so enjoyable to watch.  My other son has a cat that refuses to come out of their bedroom, completely anti social.
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Mkaren557

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #85 on: February 14, 2018, 10:20:15 AM »
Happy Valentine's Day!  I got a job once because I liked cats!  I was interviewing for a job as a social worker at a juvenile correctional facility.  The interviewer asked if I liked cats and I said yes.  Then she explained that it is easy to love a dog because they are always glad to greet us and want to be near us, et.  BUT it is hard to love a cat because they want us on their terms and often are downright unaffectionate and turn of us.  Then she told me that is exactly the way these girls are.  She was very right about that.  I got the job!
      I thought you might like to know that although Czar Alexander II outlawed "serfdom" in 1865, in actually existed until the Russian Revolution in 1917.  Most people did not own land and had to produce crops for their "masters," who lived in absolute luxury on large estates like Idlehour, where the Count was raised.  These aristocrats controlled all the power and the wealth in Russia. 
     Rostov believes that "a man must master his circumstances, or otherwise be mastered by them."  In what ways does he act on this belief?  What is the significance of the incident in the barbershop? 

Jonathan

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #86 on: February 14, 2018, 12:00:39 PM »
Bellamarie: 'When I read this I could imagine Towles deciding, hmmm.... let's add a cat to the story...'

Of course I was mindful of what you had posted when I brought the cat into my post. Then I wondered...why not bug the cat with a listening device and use it for surveillance purposes. The Soviets got so good at that. When my Dad returned to Russia in the Seventies to search for family he hadn't seen in sixty years he was well received, given a car and chauffeur and intourist guide and sent on his way. He was quickly made aware that there was a listening and recording device in the car.

You did a fine bit of poetic analysis, And so did Barb. And Karen's comments made me wonder what Wordsworth would have done with St. Basils on a sunny summer morning. Russian poems could be like their dolls. Meanings within meanings. No doubt the revolutionary poets buried many coded things into their poems. It is well known that Stalin puzzled over them.

I watched a glorious Russian film last night. I've had it around the house for years. On the magnificent Hermitage and Winter Palace in Tsarist times. What splendour! In art and architecture. A grandly formal ball with a cast of thousands. In splendid formal dress or uniform. Taking stock of all the buttons was awesome. Something called: Russian Ark. Made in 1985, with English subtitles. I have a guide to the Hermitage in the house which tells me 'the collections, arranged in 330 rooms, contain over 2,700,000 items.

And now I've got to get out and get my Valentine some flowers, to put by her favourite reading chair, which is now occupied by her favourite stuffed dog, up on his four spread-out legs defying anyone trying to sit on it. For almost sixty years it lay curled up at the foot of the bed. Charming!

Just checked it agin. The guide was published Leningrad in 1983, and the film was made in 2003.

bellamarie

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #87 on: February 14, 2018, 12:12:45 PM »

   Happy Valentine's day to all of you!!

Jonathan,  Wow!  You had an insight to draw on, with knowing your Dad's car was bugged.  Now you really have me thinking more about this darn cat!! 

Karen, What an interesting story about getting hired due to liking cats.  A great comparison of a disloyal cat to the in female inmates.  Indeed both can turn on you on a dime.  My cat growing up would hide in my closet which had only a thin curtain for a door.  I would come up to my bedroom and sit on my bed after turning off the lights and that darn cat would leap out of the closet and attack my legs.  Scared the beans out of me every time. 

Okay more sweet tears came to my eyes Jonathan, what a dear loving gesture for your beloved.
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

BarbStAubrey

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #88 on: February 14, 2018, 12:42:13 PM »
Good heavens - glad I looked it up - Resurrection Gate and I am expecting maybe some artistic wrought iron scrolling with a large emblem in brass or gilded but not this

PatH

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #89 on: February 14, 2018, 12:54:54 PM »
Wow.

PatH

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #90 on: February 14, 2018, 01:02:06 PM »
During the Cold War, there were all sorts of bugging stories floating around, including tiny transmitters in martini olives, and the visitor who found wires under the rug in his hotel room, leading to a hole in the floor.  He cut them, and was rewarded by the crashing sound of the chandelier falling in the room below.

Our government sent my father to a meeting in Russia during this time (patent law, not anything classified).  They were warned they would probably be bugged, and told if they noticed anything just pretend they didn't see it.

PatH

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #91 on: February 14, 2018, 01:20:06 PM »
Quote
Their pinks, greens, and golds shimmered as if it were the sole purpose of a religion to cheer its Divinity..
Thanks for reminding me of that, Karen.

One I liked supposedly isn't Towles' writing, but if it isn't, I suspect he chose the wording of the translation to reinforce his point: describing some of the work of the constitutional drafting committee:

"Thus did the typewriters clack through the night, until that historic document had been crafted which guaranteed for all Russians freedom of conscience (Article 13), freedom of expression (Article 14), freedom of assembly (Article 15), and freedom to have any of these rights revoked should they be 'utilized to the detriment of the socialist revolution' (Article 23)!"

Footnote on page 15 in my hardback.


Mkaren557

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #92 on: February 14, 2018, 01:53:59 PM »
Yes, Pat, I loved that sentence from the footnote as well.  I do think the cat was to symbolize the Bosheviks lurking everywhere.  Just like my cat used to, they sneak up on you and all of a sudden they are there.  Didn't the new American Embassy in Moscow have to be vacated  before it even opened because of the bugs?
 

PatH

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #93 on: February 14, 2018, 02:21:35 PM »
Mikhael Fyodorvich Mindich, the Count's friend from student days, turns up.  Describing their former life together:

"It was fortuitous that they ended up above a cobbler--for no one in all of Russia could wear out a shoe like Mikhail Mindich.  He could easily pace twenty miles in a twenty-foot room.  He could pace thirty miles in an opera box and fifty in a confessional.  For simply put, pacing was Mishka's natural state."

I won't forget that image.

On the next page Mikhail notices What Rostov has used to prop up his three-legged bureau:

"'The Essays of Montaigne?'
'Yes' affirmed the Count.
'I gather they didn't agree with you?'
'On the contrary, I found them to be the perfect height....'"

pages 80, 81

bellamarie

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #94 on: February 14, 2018, 02:59:03 PM »
Oh Pat, that is funny!  I have not gotten this far in the book, but I suspected when the Count flung that book onto his bed, after counting down the minutes and pages he would not finish reading Montaigne.

Barb, beautiful pic of Resurrection Gate.

Gosh how exciting is this to learn not only Jonthan's father visited Russia, but now Pat's did too, and both were concerned about bugging devices.  Funny how our news since this election ended has been all about bugging and Russia.  Some things never change.
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Jonathan

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #95 on: February 14, 2018, 06:15:57 PM »
That's disappointing. Where I am in my reading, our Gentleman is still getting a lot of 'practicalities' from his Montaigne. By page 80  the book is more useful as a prop for a piece of funiture.

Thanks, Pat, for drawing our attention to the footnote on page 15. Isn't there a lot of irony in all those freedoms? And the new found peace and quiet on the sixth floor? But in a strange way the footnote adds to the problems I have with the narrator. He seems, almost, to be controlling the Gentleman. He seems almost like a bolshevik apparatchik with complete access to the Gentleman's files. Perhaps if I pick up my reading pace I won't get into such difficulties.

BarbStAubrey

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #96 on: February 14, 2018, 07:50:24 PM »
OH my Jonathan – how Montagnon your thinking on Towles controlling the story. Yes…

In Michel de Montaigne essays, he says, “It seems that it is, rather, the property of Man’s wit to act readily and quickly, while the property of the judgement is to be slow and poised. But there is the same measure of oddness in the man who is struck dumb if he has no time to prepare his speech and the man who cannot take advantage and speak better when he does have time…

I know from experience the kind of character which gets nowhere unless it is allowed to run happy and free and which by nature is unable to keep up vehemently and laboriously practicing anything beforehand. We say that some books ‘stink of lamp-oil’, on account of the harshness and roughness which are stamped on writings in which toil has played a major part.

In addition, a soul worrying about doing well, straining and tensely drawn towards its purpose, it held at bay – like water which cannot find its way through the narrow neck of an open gutter because of the violent pressure of its overflowing abundance. Moreover, the particular character which I am speaking of does not want to be driven and spurred on by strong passions such as Cassius’ anger (for such an activity would be too violent): it wants not to be shaken about but aroused; it wants to be warmed and awakened by events which are external, fortuitous and immediate. Leave it to act by itself and it will drag along and languish, its life and its grace consist in activity.“

Which makes sense as we share our thoughts and experiences we are not filtering them through the story telling devises used to get published - we are freer and can call on memory where as a story is constrained by literary devises just as, a movie is further constrained limiting the plots so the movie flows, leaving many of us, who read the book beforehand, disappointed.

We are so lucky to have you Jonathan with your first hand knowledge of this time in history to make richer our reading this book. Thanks... 

bellamarie

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #97 on: February 15, 2018, 11:53:32 AM »
Oh how I simply enjoyed the conversation between the Count and the little girl in yellow, who appears to be far older than her age.  I love how she pulls back the empty chair, sits down, and the Count asks:

pg 41  "Would you like to join me?" he asked.  By way of response, she wiggled back and forth to make herself comfortable then rested her elbows on the table.

She seems to be a bit intrigued in him being a Count, asking "How would a princess spend her day?"  after he responds she says, "My father says that princesses personify the decadence of a vanquished era." But then tells him that her Papa knows nothing about the workings of princesses.  Then she goes on to ask if he has ever been to a ball, about castles and duels, and mentioning "Lensky was killed by Onegin in a duel."  She seems to know quiet a bit for her age.  And lastly which brought me to a laugh out loud moment she is done, Placing her napkin on her plate and nodding her head once to suggest how perfectly acceptable the Count had proven as a luncheon companion, she rose from her chair.  But before turning to go, she paused.
"I prefer you without the mustaches."  she said.  "Their absence improves your countenance."  Then she performed an off-kilter curtsy and disappeared behind the fountain.


I could imagine the look on the Count's face once she left, him bewildered by her presence and questions, then simply leaving.  What was the meaning of all of this in the book?  Is it to show the softness and kindness of the Count?  She says they are traveling to the Black Sea.  I wonder if they ever meet up again. 
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

BarbStAubrey

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #98 on: February 15, 2018, 12:42:54 PM »
Wait - hold it - listening devices - can't be - this is 1922 that the Count is committed to live out his life in the attic of the Metropol - here is a link about technology available referring to a film that many think shows an early mobile phone and is only walkie-talkie's - it will be too easy to confuse experiences y'all know taking place in the 40s and 50s with life in the 20s and early 30s

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/a-mobile-phone-from-1922-not-quite-21291812/

Hope that makes it easier to see the story through different eyes  :-*

Mkaren557

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #99 on: February 15, 2018, 12:59:58 PM »
Thanks for the reminder Barb.  It becomes more evident as the book goes on that good old fashioned spying is going on. 

Jonathan

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #100 on: February 15, 2018, 06:02:03 PM »
This book is hilarious, with its extravagant notions. Count Rostov, the Gentleman, finds himelf in an awkward situation, forced to accomodate himself to a new lifestyle, to drop his aristocratic airs and become a 'comrade'. He consults Montaigne for tips on survival. Along comes nine-year-old Nina Kulikova who turns out to be a more practical guide to the new life than Montaigne.  Think of what Ariadne did for Theseus, what Tiresias meant to Odysseus, or what Vergil did for Dante. (p55)

Nina would like to be a princess. How comes she by this notion? We're four years into the revolution. Hasn't she learned that princesses get murdered for being princesses? Who knows? Perhaps she will inspire a Comedy in Count Rostov. The Boshevik Comedy? From a Gentleman's view. But what will become of Nina?

Jonathan

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #101 on: February 15, 2018, 06:17:47 PM »
I must get the author's other book. Rules of Civility. I always enjoyed meeting New Yorkers on the trails in the Adirondacks.  I had one who did his best to explain Zen to me as we walked along. I found it difficult to comprehend. Finally, in exasperation, he told me the experience was like  jumping from a great height and experiencing the feeling of wonderful freefall, unhindered by anything. I suppose that could be seen as revolutionary.

Mkaren557

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #102 on: February 15, 2018, 06:52:17 PM »
Jonathan, you always ask the best questions.  What will become of Nina?  For now, what role is she playing in the novel?  I am fascinated by the description "the girl with a penchant for yellow". What does Nina do for the Count?
I am still reflecting about you said Jonathan about the narrator?  It seems to me that much of the narration comes from the mind ans voice of the Rostov.  Yet there is that other voice that appears in footnotes.  Does that narrator appear other places in the text? 


bellamarie

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #103 on: February 15, 2018, 09:22:50 PM »
Jonathan
Quote
Hasn't she learned that princesses get murdered for being princesses?

Nina was a delight!  Not only does she intrude on the Count's lunch, but she manages to get him to share his fish with her, and engages him into a conversation on princesses.  I have a feeling she did indeed know all about princesses, she was wise beyond her years.   
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Mkaren557

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #104 on: February 16, 2018, 10:09:06 AM »
Good Friday Morning,
Getting to know Nina!  In the chapter "Anyway..." I love the exchange between Nina and the Count about the "rules for being a princess". I remember as a child feeling in a quandry about "respect for elders" and "thank you."  It was particularly perplexing when I learned after I was called to the principal's office to be punished, I needed to say, "Thank you Mr. Varney."  Now in my childhood I did "show respedt for my elders" and say 'Thank you" because my parents would have punished me if I had not.  Respect for elders seems a thing of the past in our society.  I wonder if these "rules for princesses" which the Count tries to get Nina to understand are necessary for a society to work.  Or are these just empty norms for the aristocracy, or as we say, the elite? 
   

BarbStAubrey

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #105 on: February 16, 2018, 01:42:40 PM »
The entire bit about the little girl in yellow had an un-worldliness about it - as if I was reading one of Eowyn Ivey's book - since he mentions the color yellow several times decided that made it worthwhile to look up - - Yellow is ambivalence, light of the sun, intelligent, intuition, faith and goodness, light, life, truth, the west.

The bit I liked was earlier when he associated what we keep with memory and how we attach memory to 'things'. Those two paragraphs gave me pause just as I've been slowly embarking on clearing my lifetime of 'things'.

So far the story seems to me to be small vignettes of experiences - all harking back to a past that like his mustache is no longer - and in that respect the story reminds me of Things Remembered or even the vignettes of life that de Montaigne uses as topics for his essays.

And so the books are his father's where as his library were mostly novelists - most of the authors, like Dickens would have been freshly published or not yet written during his father's lifetime.

Cannot figure out when he spreads out and commandeers the additional room if he fixes it up as more livable quarters or just uses it as a storage area. What do you think... I prefer to think he uses it as a second room and in time will clear out the other rooms so he occupies the entire floor of rooms - who would know except the staff and they seem to all like him so I cannot see them reporting him to any outside authority.

Mkaren557

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #106 on: February 16, 2018, 02:28:06 PM »
Thanks, Barb.  I have done nothing but move during the last half of my life.  The one constant that I have carried from place to place is boxes and boxes of books.  They do hold memories for me: the two books I got for Christmas from my husband that I devoured in a red plaid chair during Christmas vacation,  the summer I bought And Ladies of the Club and it helped me cope with my divorce, reading Gone with the Wind on the beach as I babysat.  Gradually I have rid myself of college textbooks, books I have had for decades and never read.  Isn't he reading Montaigne because he promised his father hhe would?  It feels to me like he is not really reading it for content: 25 essays in a morning.  I took a summer course once and had to read Das Capital overnight.  I also looked more at the clock than the book.  How about the Count's travels with Nina? 

nlhome

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #107 on: February 16, 2018, 03:36:10 PM »
Have not listened to much beyond this first section, and my copy won't be coming any time soon. But I certainly am enjoying this, especially the pre-discussion.

bellamarie

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #108 on: February 16, 2018, 05:48:22 PM »
Oh my!  Where do I begin?  I just finished the first book and am just in awe.  This author is magnificent in his style, he manages to grip you in the beginning, keep you focused, bring levity to the story, distract you from certain important pieces of information, draw on your emotions, and keep you wanting to read to see what is in the next pages.  I am so intrigued I seriously didn't want to stop at the end of book one but I did.

I absolutely love the interactions the Count and Nina have with each other.  Every person that comes into contact with the Count seems to like him and want to be of service or help him in some way.  Even the hotel manager Mr. Halecki acknowledges how his staff is referring to him with high regard and respect of nobility and carefully tells him it will not be allowed.  So, while the author creates this reason to call the Count into his office, he is pulled away long enough for the Count to discover a secret hidden door that shows him where the "brass fittings" are hidden. 

How can anyone NOT like the Count?

Now this scurrying around with Nina is just so fantastical!  She is having so much fun showing him all the secret hidden rooms, and rooms behind rooms.  She is one sharp little cookie.  Why do you suppose she attaches herself to him and becomes such a close friend?  Is it believable?  Where in heavens sake is that Nanny, allowing her out of her sight so long?  But, I am not complaining because I simply love it!  Why do I suspect all this is to come of help to the Count in some time in the future?  Not to mention for a Christmas present he give Nina his grandmother's opera glasses, and she gives him the hotel pass key!  They have both given each other a valuable gift.  I simply loved how she wrapped box, after box, after box.  My  hubby did that for me one year in giving me a precious ring.  Oh I still remember the fun and anticipation I felt as I unwrapped one box, only to find another, and another. 

Barb
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Cannot figure out when he spreads out and commandeers the additional room if he fixes it up as more livable quarters or just uses it as a storage area. What do you think... I prefer to think he uses it as a second room and in time will clear out the other rooms so he occupies the entire floor of rooms - who would know except the staff and they seem to all like him so I cannot see them reporting him to any outside authority.

It is in the chapter Around and About.  After Nina has shown him that rooms have secret door to discover more rooms he goes into his attic and opens his closet and finds behind a panel there is another room.  I love how he makes it into a study room, so he can feel less cramped in his other living space.  She showed him where all his other things were stored that he had left behind in his room, and so he helps himself to them to decorate his study. 

I could go on and on with my excitement, but I do have to pause for dinner.  This book is so much fun, with a whole lot of intrigue!  I will be back later.
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Mkaren557

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #109 on: February 16, 2018, 06:22:24 PM »
Bellamarie, I am so excited that you have finished the book and I am even more excited by your reaction to it. I have someone else who will be biting her tongue to not react to what others are asking.  Why she is drawn to the count is a great question.  It probably has something to do with the warmth with others  she sees in him as she is doing her spying. 
 Barbara, you talked about how so this is a series of incidents.  I didn't think about th.at when I first read it .  Now I see everyone and everything being revealed a little at a time,  including, in book one, the Metropol itself. 

Jonathan

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #110 on: February 16, 2018, 10:15:40 PM »
Thanks, Barb, for the helpful meanings with regard to the little girl in yellow. Isn't she a character! For some reason I find myself wondering how Van Gogh would have painted her. Or how Blake would have poetized her. The Count seems enchanted.

Bellamarie, that's just the way I feel about this book. It just keeps getting better, every time I reread a section. Afraid of missing something.

Karen, I was convinced Count Rostov was looking to Montaigne for help. He is, after all, determined to control the new circumstances in which he finds himself. Like others, down through the years, looked to Boethius' Consolations of Philosophy, or Marcus Aurelius's Meditations. I wonder he didn't try Das Kapital.

I just remembered. I have a book which at one time I thought I would propose for discussion. Published just a few years ago: How To Live, A Life of Montaigne, by Sarah Bakewell. So it seems he's still a 'go-to-guy' for advice. Montaigne is all-purpose. His Essays make a great door-stop. But how to make the best of it in a revolution? Whom can you trust? Well, Nina, for one.

bellamarie

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #111 on: February 17, 2018, 02:01:57 AM »
Karen, you have misunderstood my post, I have NOT finished the entire book, I have only finished "Book One" our weekly reading assignment.  I never read ahead when we read books to discuss.  First of all, I would forget half of what I would read, secondly, I would end up giving away spoilers which I hate when that happens.  Believe me, I so wanted to keep on going when I came to the end of Book One, because I am so anxious to see what happens next.

So many things I want to touch on in Book One's final chapters.  It seems Nina has given the Count a new purpose in life. His poem was about lost purpose, and look now how this sweet, little, dainty princess-like, nine year old has him crawling around on his hands and knees, splitting his very expensive slacks to snoop on the assembly.  I was laughing out loud when he had to take the slacks to the seamstress for the second time to be sewn up.

Interesting how the hotel manager Mr. Halecki, calls the Count into his office to discuss how he must stop all the staff from giving him so much respect and regal titles, only for him to be distracted long enough for the Count to discover the secret wall that holds the "brass fittings." Wonder if those will come into play down the road?

Do you notice like in Hansel and Gretel, crumbs are being dropped all along the way of his roaming the hotel?  Then for a Christmas gift he gives Nina this grandmother's pair of opera glasses, and she in turns gives him the hotel pass key.  Very valuable gifts I might say.  I loved how Nina wrapped the boxes one inside another, and another, and another, til he finally came to the smallest box holding the key.  My sweet hubby did that one year to me and I discovered a beautiful diamond tennis bracelet in the final box.  So, just what significance is the key being passed on to the Count?  Seems our sweet little Nina is showing him things, secret places, and providing him with a hotel pass key.  Make me wonder why she is providing him with all of these things, we will have to wait to find out how he will benefit from these little nuggets. I'm beginning to feel like Inspector Jacques Clouseau, from the Pink Panther all of a sudden.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTQCjnYZjUo

Now what really has my interest piqued is this:

Prince Nikolai Petrov.  He plans to meet up with the Count but is picked up after the men from the Cheka search his room and find the textbook__ a Latin grammar from Nokolai's days at the Imperial Lyceum.  pg. 101
"Is it yours?"  There is no point in lying.  "Yes," he says. "I attended the academy when I was a boy."  The officer opens the book; and there on the front plate looking regal and wise is a picture of Tsar Nicholas II--the possession of which is a crime.  The Prince has to laugh, for he had taken such pain to remove all portraits, crests, and royal insignia from his room.  The captain slices the page out of the grammar with the blade of a knife.  He marks the back with the time and place and has the Prince undersign it.  The Prince is taken to the Lubyanka, where he is held for several days and questioned once again regarding his loyalties.  On the fifth day, all things considered.  Fate spares him.  For he is not ushered to the courtyard and put against the wall; nor is he shipped off to Siberia.  He is merely given a Minus Six; the administrative sentence that allows him to roam Russia at will, as long as he never sets foot in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Kharkov, Yekaterinburg, and Tibilisi--that is the country's six largest cities.

......you needn't bother to remember the name of Prince Petrov, I should note that despite the brief appearance of the round faced fellow with a receding hairline a chapter hence, he is someone you should commit to memory, for years later he will have great bearing on the outcome of this tale.


https://travel.sygic.com/en/poi/tsarskoye-selo-lyceum-poi:47836
The Imperial Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg, also known historically as the Imperial Alexander Lyceum after its founder Tsar Alexander I, was an educational institution which was founded in 1811 with the object of educating youths of the best families who would afterwards occupy important posts in the Imperial service.

So, just where does Prince Petrov fit into this mystery?  What was he doing playing in the quartet despite a clear prohibition against doing so?  After attending the Lyceum, what position of importance in the Imperial service did they intend him to have?  What did he want to meet up with the Count for?  Was it a coincidence this quartet was playing at the Metropol hotel?  His old instructor is picked up later, they haul him before a troika, what seals his fate and end him to the camps is evidence that on multiple occasions he had hired Former Person Nikolai Petrov to play in his quartet despite a clear prohibition against doing so.  And lastly, why tell us he will have great bearing on the outcome of this story? pg 102  So many questions, so little answers.

We finally learn the name of the one-eyed cat is Herr Drosselmeyer.  Does it have any significance to the God father/uncle to Clara in the famous ballet "The Nutcracker" ,who gave Clara the nutcracker doll for Christmas, then she falls asleep and dreams,  after the Nutcracker defeats the king, he transforms into a handsome prince, which Clara falls in love with.  I don't think anything is coincidental in the book. 

Did you also know Arkady Renko is a fictional detective who is the central character of eight novels by the American writer Martin Cruz Smith?
 In Gorky Park, the first novel, he is a chief investigator for the Soviet Militsiya in Moscow, where he is in charge of homicide investigations. In the sequels, he takes on roles varying from a militiaman to a worker on a fish processing ship in the arctic.

Born into the nomenklatura, Arkady is the son of Red Army General Kiril Renko, an unrepentant Stalinist also known as "the Butcher", who sees Arkady as a bitter failure for choosing the simple life of a policeman over a military career, or even a career in the Communist Party.

This is an interesting read....... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arkady_Renko
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

bellamarie

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #112 on: February 17, 2018, 02:12:05 AM »
Jonathan, I have no doubt I am missing some things.  I have been taking notes as I go, trying to keep track of things I feel are clues.  Why do I even feel like I am in a mystery?  I borrowed this book from the library so I am not able to use a highlighter or add side notes in the pages.  Grrrr....

 
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

rosemarykaye

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #113 on: February 17, 2018, 03:01:28 AM »
Good morning, and apologies for m absence - I've had one of my daughters staying and we've been out and about a bit. I've just caught up with all these fascinating posts.

Books - MKaren, I too have moved very frequently, and the only thing I've insisted on lugging everywhere are my books. I even took all the books I then owned (not so many then as no charity shops existed!) to university, where i was surprised to find that most other students had not.

Like you, for me books hold particular memories. I think of Great Expectations, which I read on the beach at Crail when my children were little, or my very first Barbara Pym, which I devoured  in its entirety one Saturday afternoon in Cambridge. I did not inherit books from my family, as they had virtually none, though my parents were great library users. And I so agree about the burden of 'having to' read a book. That is why I never join face-to-face book groups. I didn't even read most of the set books at school, but still got high marks in the exams, which just shows, I think, the ludicrous nature of our exam system. I really don't like that Kindle thing whereby people tweet that they are '50% done with' a book; it sounds positively barbaric, as though someone is just ploughing through the words as fast as the can.

As to whether the Count's friendship with Nina, or Nina's unsupervised antics all around the hotel, are realistic, I think the more you read, the more it seems that nothing in this book is strictly realistic. For indeed, where is the nanny? And on another point entirely, where is the count getting his money from? - he's still leading quite a comfortable life, he's not dining on gruel. Would not his assets have been confiscated?

I loved this book but I sometimes felt Towles was ignoring reality to make his plot work. Then I began to realise that he had no intention of making everything strictly realistic. It's a story but it's also an allegory.

Rosemary

bellamarie

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #114 on: February 17, 2018, 11:03:52 AM »
Rosemary, 
Quote
And on another point entirely, where is the count getting his money from? - he's still leading quite a comfortable life, he's not dining on gruel. Would not his assets have been confiscated?

The thing about reading the book too quickly, is you tend to forgot many parts.  Here is where much of his income is coming from:

pg. 18  Built in the Paris of Louis XVI with the gilded accents and leather top of the era, the desk had been left to the Count by his godfather, Grand Duke Demidov.  The Count ran his hand across the desk's dimpled surface.  How many of the Grand Duke's words did those faint indentations reflelct?  He ran his hand behind the desk's right front leg until he found the catch.  When he pressed it, a seamless door opened to reveal a velvet-lined hollow that, like the hollows in the other three legs, was stacked with pieces of gold.

Then on pg. 24, 25  The Count meet with Konstantin Konstantinovich a Greek money lender and shows him the coins.  He took the coin, turned it once, and handed it back with reverence.  For not only was the piece pure in the metallurgical sense, the winking double eagle on the reverse confirmed to the experienced eye that it was one of the five thousand coins minted in a commemoration of Catherine the Great's coronation.  Such a piece purchased from a gentleman in need could be sold at a reasonable profit to the most cautious of banking houses in the best of times.  But in a period of upheaval?  Even as the demand for common luxuries collapsed, the value of a treasure like this would be on the rise.  "Excuse my curiosity, Your Excellency, but is that a....lonely piece?"  "Lonely?  Oh, no," replied the Count with a shake of the head.  "It lives like a soldier in a barracks.  Like a slave in a galley.  Not to moment to itself, I'm a afraid." 

In a matter of minutes the two men had struck an arrangement without a hem or a haw.

Yes, indeed this story is fiction and fantastical, an allegory as well.  I'm not looking for reality, the author himself stated he took facts and mixed them with fiction to write the book.  Just simply wonderful so far.
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

bellamarie

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #115 on: February 17, 2018, 11:20:01 AM »
Not to jump too far ahead, and with no intention of ending the discussion on "Book One,"  I must say the last lines in this section have me perplexed, to say the least:

pg 105  But had the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come suddenly appeared and roused the Count to give him a glimpse of the future, he would have been that his sense of well-being had been premature.  For less than four years later, after another careful accounting of the twice-tolling clock's twelve chimes, Alexander Ilyich Rostov would be climbing to the roof of the Metropol Hotel in his finest jacket and gamely approaching its parapet in order to throw himself into the street below.

I'm going to go ahead and begin "Book Two," since we begin discussing it on Monday.
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

BarbStAubrey

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #116 on: February 17, 2018, 02:14:57 PM »
Have not yet completed reading Book one - getting there - but I was struck by how it takes youth, a child to show us a deeper look at life - I remember how much I learned when my children were exploring everything that was new to them. 

I'm also remembering being aboard a large boat for an entire day and my cousin, who was 2 years older and myself explored all parts of the boat, from the captains bridge, that we were told we could not enter, to the engine room and mop closets while our mothers sat on deck chatting and serving from huge hampers, lunch and later dinner and at night the leftovers were finished off. Our fathers stood by the rail smoking and talking during most of the day - it was before WWII so I must have been 6 or 7 - I do not think 8 because by then I was being very blasé and independent - I remember my sister, who is 2 and half years younger and the youngest of all the cousins, was not allowed to roam the ship since she was "too young" and had to stay near Mom - I remember being so excited late in the afternoon taking Mom and Dad down to see the huge engine when they were taking a stroll - and so in keeping with the 1922 time frame and my experience in the late 30s, I bet it was not unusual for a 9 year old to be unaccompanied for hours, as long as she stayed in the hotel.

I loved the Count's thinking when they found all the silver behind the blue door - I remember, again - all this remembering - it seems to be a story that dredges up memories - anyhow, I remember when I was a member of the board of directors for the area wide Girl Scout Council - after a couple of years I remember thinking at the time that we were like two wheels and if by happen chance anything we do on the board level fits and helps the large wheel of troops, girls and adult leaders it was purely by accident - the cogs of those two wheels did not automatically fit and work each other. And so when the Count realized that another group was running the show and that with all their austerity and less look of pomp and circumstance they too would, at times be surrounding themselves with fine dining and 'occasion' to which the masses would not be invited.

I also smiled, how boring the Count thought the topic for the assembly of railroad workers. He was witness to this sort of rule making by a more educated and cultured group and for the most part was not discussed since the Royal head of Russia made all these decisions - it took the wide eyed curiosity of a child, who experiences everything as new, to open his eyes even if he only came away with a few more synonyms and antonyms. Given his views on the whole bolshevik movement splitting his breaches seemed apropos   ::)

Ah and rooms within rooms - that are nailed off and made secret - reminds me of our inner rooms and how some of our thinking and even past experiences are closed off from public view and yet, in these closed off rooms is where we do our most in-depth thinking without the pressure of anyone agreeing or approving.  Saint Teresa of Avila's The Interior Castle - St. Anthony the Abbot, whose living space was a cave in the dessert that was the example for him of his interior room. Saint Catherine of Sienna, whose last three years of her life were in her cell where during this solitude, her life became almost one continual vision and ecstasy, as her union with God became more and more intimate.

I think we are now learning that secret rooms and rooms within rooms are not only a part of our interior life but, the way of things - the way governments operate, the way industry operates as they develop new techniques or products in secret and glory only knows what other secrets in secret rooms are a hidden part of life for good and for evil.

Come to think of it anyone who is separated from their community and family would have to have or create a secret room within to get through the isolation without going mad.

bellamarie

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #117 on: February 17, 2018, 02:44:18 PM »
All great insights Barb!  This especially rings true for me:

Quote
I think we are now learning that secret rooms and rooms within rooms are not only a part of our interior life but, the way of things - the way governments operate, the way industry operates as they develop new techniques or products in secret and glory only knows what other secrets in secret rooms are a hidden part of life for good and for evil.

In my neighborhood just a mile and a half away, our county want so build a new jail to house six hundred and fifty inmates.  There are several residential streets across from this site and a mobile home subdivision directly behind the site.  We are hearing from our Mayor, and council men and women why this seems to be the perfect spot, while our surrounding neighborhoods are opposing it and letting them know why it is NOT an ideal spot considering how close it is to residential neighborhoods, several elementary schools, day care centers, parks and child activity businesses within a one to three mile radius.  Secrets and secret meetings have taken place and continue to pass this levy coming up in November to give them the income to afford to build this jail.  We feel like it's a done deal, yet we will not give up.  The things active members in our group to oppose is digging up is beyond our wildest imagination.  I'm an optimist by nature and a faith filled person, but I can tell you as these things come to light, the shooting that just occurred in Florida finding out the FBI dropped the ball and so much more in the news I find your last statement is oh so helpful.  Isolation is not the only determent we find necessary to deal with, society as a whole is becoming maddening.

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Come to think of it anyone who is separated from their community and family would have to have or create a secret room within to get through the isolation without going mad.

Spring is around the corner, so I will go to my happy thoughts even though today I was looking out my kitchen window at the birds coming to my bird feeders, only to see several mice eating the seed off the ground.  Ughhhh..... not only a few minutes later I see a huge hawk land on my shed, he waits patiently for a few minutes turning his head toward the area where my feeders are.  Within seconds he swooped down and hate himself a mouse, carrying him off for I suspect his lunch.  I told my hubby it is time to take down the bird feeders!!!

“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Jonathan

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #118 on: February 18, 2018, 02:50:27 PM »
Bellamarie, I have a birdfeeder across the street. Every morning he comes out with a pail of feed and finds a huge flock of pidgeons waiting for him. Later in the day he uses the pail when he rakes the lawns on either side for poop. He talks to them while they're feeding . Perhaps it's a sermon.

What will become of our Count? In his confined space. A spiritual odyssey? A life of vision and ecstasy, like St. Catherine of Sienna.? I believe he is too philosophical for that. He finds additional space in the second room, whose dimensions are limited, the author tells us, only by the dimensions of his mind. And he does have his memories. The railway workers' assembly hall is the former grand ballroom where he used to meet the aristocracy. Listening to the gossiping, cursing old women in the company of Nina is worth the split pants, not so?

This morning's walk took me to our neighborhood pharmacy. What caught my eye on the newstand? LIFE's glossy, 75th anniversary celebration of Casablanca: "The Most Beloved Movie of All Time.'  It cost me almost as much as the book. It's a modern day Romeo and Juliet.

Rosemary, I'm taken by your suggestion that the book may be an allegory. I was already thinking of it as a new literary genre.

Mkaren557

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Re: A Gentleman in Moscow~Amor Towles~Winter-Spring Book Club Online~
« Reply #119 on: February 18, 2018, 06:39:29 PM »
     It has been quite a week in Moscow.  Book One has so much in it that I know we will have more to say as we move on in the book.  Don't hesitate to revisit something we have already talked about or point out places that we skipped over or that you want to note in some way.  Tomorrow we can begin the discussion of Book Two and part of Book Three.  Let me say that the schedule as I put it together a month may not be working.  Please suggest any changes you would like to make. Happy reading!