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This Week

A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel by Amor Towles

Review from Booklist: In his remarkable first novel, the best-selling Rules of Civility (2011), Towles etched 1930s New York in crystalline relief. Though set a world away in Moscow over the course of three decades, his latest polished literary foray into a bygone era is just as impressive. Sentenced as an incorrigible aristocrat in 1922 by the Bolsheviks to a life of house arrest in a grand Moscow hotel, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is spared the firing squad on the basis of a revolutionary poem he penned as an idealistic youth. Condemned, instead, to live his life confined to the indoor parameters of Metropol Hotel, he eschews bitterness in favor of “committing himself to practicalities.” As he carves out a new existence for himself in his shabby attic room and within the magnificent walls of the hotel-at-large, his conduct, his resolve, and his commitment to his home and to the hotel guests and staff together form a triumph of the human spirit. As Moscow undergoes vast political changes and countless social upheavals, Rostov remains, implacably and unceasingly, a gentleman. Towles presents an imaginative and unforgettable historical portrait.— Margaret Flanagan

Next Week

Rather Be the Devil (A Rebus Novel) by Ian Rankin

Booklist review:

It’s a setup as old as the genre: an unofficial sleuth keeps butting in on a police investigation while the coppers get increasingly pissed. But give the setup a quarter turn to the left, and make the sleuth not some blueberry muffin–­baking amateur but John Rebus, the legendary but now retired Edinburgh detective, and you have a very different situation. Rankin has been improvising on this theme ever since he wisely decided to reinvent the Rebus series after the curmudgeonly detective turned in his shield (Exit Music, 2008). This time the spur in Rebus’ saddle comes from his recollection of an unsolved murder (promiscuous society lady killed in fancy hotel, possibly by a gangster); intrigued and needing something to do, Rebus begins to walk back the case, but soon enough he’s strolled into a mess of trouble involving turf battles both within the police and among Scotland’s reigning crime lords. There’s lots of juicy interplay between outsider Rebus and his successors, Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox, but best of all, there’s the re-emergence of another character on whom the mantle of retirement is sitting awkwardly: Big Ger Cafferty, former crime boss and Rebus’ longtime frenemy. The ongoing pas de deux between these two aging antiheroes has been one of the best things in crime fiction for years, but Rankin kicks it up several notches here, with both men facing mortality and screaming in two-part harmony against the dying of the light.— Bill Ott

Author Extra

This Week's Guest:

Amor Towles

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel. Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow is brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another.

Air Date:

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Bookmarks by Mary Ann Gwinn

The Humanitarian Impulse and Its Costs I am fascinated by what makes humanitarians like Dr. Larry Brilliant tick and their will to help the world’s oppressed, whether oppression takes the form of poor health care, lack of economic opportunity or religious discrimination. get the full list >

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The Wonder
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