Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is placed under house arrest in 1922, because the Bolsheviks cannot decide if his pre-war poem is seditious enough to warrant the firing squad or exile to Siberia. Or perhaps they should let him go?


He is arrested and imprisoned in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, a hive of activity where Communists and artists mingle.

One might think that a 30-year saga about an erstwhile Russian aristocrat who is confined to a what is essentially a cupboard on the top floor of the hotel would be boring. But I found this tale unexpectedly delightful, enlivened by two generations of precocious girls. First, there is Nina, whom we meet in 1922 at the age of nine. Then there is her daughter, the aptly-named Sofia, who appears in 1938 at the age of five. Nina hands over her daughter to the count in 1938 and…disappears. We do not know what becomes of her. Meanwhile, Sofia becomes very attached to Count Rostov, calling him “papa” by the time she turns thirteen.

I will not say more, so as not to spoil it for the rest of you who have not had the pleasure of reading this volume. Suffice to say, you will not be disappointed. Five stars.