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Article  •  8 October 2021


The 3 crucial lockdown lessons from A Gentleman in Moscow

Can a life without luxury actually be the richest of all?

Count Alexander Rostov is marched across Moscow’s Red Square, through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol.

This is now where he is to live out his days, with no contact with the outside world.

But can a life without luxury actually be the richest of all?

A Gentleman in Moscow has been touted as the ultimate lockdown read, with its plot reminiscent of what we’re experiencing in the Covid pandemic, teaching lessons about the importance of community and resilience.

A Gentleman in Moscow, written by Amor Towles — who has just released his new book The Lincoln Highway — is about a man in Russia who is sentenced to live the rest of his life on house arrest in an opulent hotel.

The Oprah Magazine has claimed the book has become a manual for getting through the pandemic and there are several lessons we can learn about being asked to stay indoors. 

With more than a million copies sold worldwide, A Gentleman in Moscow reminds us now more than ever the importance of managing to survive a life of limits.

Appreciate the little things

Towles beautifully captures the importance of strength and resilience. In his story he focuses on living life to the fullest and how to appreciate the small things around you.

Despite living out his years in confinement, Rostov’s world doesn’t shrink around him.

He faces his new reality, interested in other characters coming through the revolving doors of the hotel and not descending into madness by focusing on his disconnect from the outside world.

'Imagining what might happen if one’s circumstances were different [is] the only sure route to madness,' Towles wrote.

Rostov spends his years in the hotel focusing on the importance of his present, rather than ruminating in the past or what could have been.

Sticking to routine

In lockdown we know how crucial it is to keep a routine to bring balance and productivity to your day.

Rostov embraces his restricted life with daily rituals and exercise regimes to maintain order.

'As he waited for the coffee to brew, he did thirty squats and thirty stretches and took thirty deep breaths,' Towles wrote in his novel.

'From the little cupboard in the corner, he took a small pitcher of cream, a pair of English biscuits, and a piece of fruit (today an apple).'

Rostov awakes no later than 6am, keeps his noon appointment with his barber every Tuesday, and makes good use of the morning so he can enjoy lunch without a guilty conscience.

Keeping a routine in lockdown is imperative to managing our mental health, with Beyond Blue saying structure and control offers the stability we are missing from our lives before the pandemic.

Psychologist Sabina Read said rituals and routines helped us to create a ‘new normal’.

Discovering purpose

Despite being in a hopeless and never-ending situation, Rostov does not dwell in the darkness of what he is living through.

Rather he seizes it as an opportunity to find meaning, helping those around him in the hotel and teaching what he knows about the world he was once a part of.

After looking after a young girl and interacting with the hotel employees around him, he is rewarded with kindness, love and loyal friends.

'Having acknowledged that a man must master his circumstances or otherwise be mastered by them, the Count thought it worth considering how one was most likely to achieve this aim when one had been sentenced to a life of confinement,' Towles wrote.

In lockdown, finding a purpose within our own confines and discovering new ways to connect with others has never been so crucial and these three lessons could be key to helping us get through such unprecedented times.

A Gentleman in Moscow 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.

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