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In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count's endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.
Audio: Exemplary audio gifts
Yes, Commonwealth, Ann Patchett’s brilliant new novel, narrated by Hope Davis, is autobiographical. But it’s her fabulous, fluent storytelling, her understanding of family in all its cumbersome complexity and delicately nuanced affections and animosities that makes this group portrait so appealing. It all begins with a gin-soaked kiss at a christening party in 1960s Los Angeles that leads to divorce, a cross-country move and a blended but never homogenized family forced into intimacies that shift over the decades.
With clarity, smooth prose and a new cache of documents, Jeffrey Toobin tells the still-tantalizing tale that mesmerized a nation in the 1970s in American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst. It’s all here, set in context: how a captive became a bank-robbing comrade, how the jailed Patty became a Hearst again. All read with perfect pacing by Paul Michael.
On June 22, 1922, Count Alexander Rostov appeared before a Bolshevik Tribunal, accused of succumbing “to the corruption of his class.” Only his high-ranking friends kept him from being summarily shot. Instead, the handsome, gracious young count became a “Former Person,” sentenced to spend the rest of his life in Moscow’s famed Hotel Metropole. It’s the next 40 years of that life that Amor Towles so skillfully evokes in his quintessentially charming second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, read with impeccable Rostov grace by Nicholas Guy Smith.
Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, Hamilton: The Revolution is an irresistibly moving, revelatory account of the hottest, most heralded Broadway show in a generation. McCarter was in meetings, workshops and dressing rooms during the six years of the play’s development, and he talked with more than 40 people close to the show. He details Miranda’s constant rewriting and reshaping and shows how people from different backgrounds came together to make this stunningly audacious show work so wonderfully. Miranda reads the 300 funny footnotes he added to the libretto (on an accompanying PDF, which includes fabulous photos).
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With mastery worthy of Rembrandt, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith’s fourth novel, moves back and forth in time and place from 1631 Amsterdam when Sara de Vos painted her hauntingly beautiful “At the Edge of the Wood,” to 1957 New York when it was stolen from Marty de Groot’s Fifth Avenue penthouse and replaced by a flawless forgery. In 2000, the forger, Ellie Shipley, is in Sydney, Australia. She’s now a renowned expert on women painters of the Dutch Golden Age, awaiting the authentic de Vos painting and the forgery she made decades ago to arrive for an exhibition. Engrossing audio, elegantly wrought, elegantly read by Edoardo Ballerini.