off the shelf
A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW AMOR TOWLES '83
(Viking/Penguin Random House)
A Gentleman in Moscow, the highly anticipated second novel from New York Times best-selling author Amor Towles ’83, explores 32 years of protagonist Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov’s home arrest within the walls of Moscow’s upscale Hotel Metropol. Stripped of his freedom for the crime of poetry during the political upheaval of Russia in the early 1920s, Rostov determines to “master his circumstances or otherwise be mastered by them.” With the help of a young girl dressed in yellow and an assortment of close friends, the Count realizes the kaleidoscopic complexities contained within the building’s many rooms and passageways. By virtue of the hotel’s constantly revolving doors, Count Rostov encounters a miniature of early-20thcentury Moscow within his prison’s walls. In skillful free
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indirect discourse, Towles’ prose speaks to the reader in the cheerful and refined accent of the Count as he crouches behind banisters and exploits the staff stairwell to eavesdrop on the debates of the regime that imprisons him, conveniently hosted in the hotel’s ballroom and suites. The vibrant life of the confined protagonist proves that the miles traversed by an explorer can fold in on themselves without sacrificing their intrigue. If Towles’s Rules of Civility examined the influence of fate, this second novel explores the influence of one’s reaction to fate. It is an appropriate subject for Towles, who visited Nobles upon the publication of his first novel to advise students to “take things as they come” and not be dismayed by life’s little roadblocks. Towles’s interest in writing began at Nobles, where he served as editor of the Nobleman and won the English prize at graduation. He went on to Yale University and then earned his M.A. in English from Stanford University. He cites Nobles English teachers Dick Baker and Tim Carey and Nobles photography instructor Joe Swayze as major influences on his continuing interest in the humanities. Never one to bow to convention, Towles’s interest in creative writing first led him to the world of finance, where he worked for many years as a principal at an
investment firm in New York City. With the success of his breakout novel, which hit the best-seller lists of the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times, Towles dedicated himself to writing full time.
MISSION HILL PAMELA WECHSLER ’78
(St. Martin’s/Minotaur Press) In crime and detective fiction, the list of beloved heroes—or, sometimes, antiheroes—is finite and includes relatively few women until the last decade or so. Then Pamela Wechsler ’78 introduces a Birkin-bag-carrying heroine, Abby Endicott, chief of the Boston district attorney’s homicide unit who lives in Boston’s Back Bay. Publishers Weekly calls the crime series debut “muscular” and praises the realism with which Wechsler characterizes the glitz of Boston’s best neighborhoods as well as the grit of its rougher corners. Salon.com writes, “Wechsler’s multilayered
plot realistically touches on legal ethics, political intrigue and construction double-dealings with aplomb with plenty of twists.” Writer, actor and director Billy Bob Thornton encouraged Wechsler to write the novel and calls it “a thrill ride, crackling with suspense, wit and style.” While the plot centers on the murder of Abby’s ex-lover, Wechsler deftly connects the murder of Abby’s childhood friend and the corruption of local figures. She also has fun with Abby’s complicated identity: “My brother’s wedding is being held at the Gardner Club. …I’ve been at the morgue all day, and I’m running late. I retrieve my floor-length black velvet Armani from the trunk of my car and change in an unoccupied autopsy room. …I slip into the dress, step into a pair of black Jimmy Choos, and throw on my great-grandmother’s pearls. As I start to sweep my hair up into a chignon, two coroner’s assistants come charging through the doors, pushing a gurney with a fresh body on top.” The storyline is not all about contrasts of neighborhoods and wealth. Through Abby, Wechsler explores ideas of justice and duty with great nuance. Wechsler, who is a lawyer and has consulted and written for television shows including Law and Order, lives in Los Angeles and is working on her next Abby Endicott novel.