The Vanishing Futurist

Charlotte Hobson
Date Published
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Now a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime

The debut novel from award-winning author of Black Earth City: A Year in the Heart of Russia.

When twenty-two-year-old Gerty Freely travels to Russia to work as a governess in early 1914, she has no idea of the vast political upheavals ahead, nor how completely her fate will be shaped by them.

In 1917, revolution sweeps away the Moscow Gerty knew. The middle classes – and their governesses – are fleeing the country, but she stays, throwing herself into an experiment in communal living led by charismatic inventor Nikita Slavkin, inspired by his belief in a future free of bourgeois clutter and alight with creativity. Yet the chaos and violence of the outside world cannot be withstood forever. Slavkin’s sudden disappearance inspires the Soviet cult of the Vanishing Futurist, the scientist who sacrificed himself for the Communist ideal. Gerty, alone and vulnerable, must now discover where that ideal will ultimately lead.

Strikingly vivid, this debut novel by award-winning writer Charlotte Hobson pierces the heart with a story of fleeting, but infinite possibility.

Critic Reviews

‘Easily the most original novel of the year … Entirely sui generis, it also boasts the year’s best cover design. This is the book I’ll be giving people for Christmas.

Cressida Connolly, Spectator Books of the Year
Critic Reviews

Like her futurist's revolutionary schemes, Charlotte Hobson's novel is a marvel: a beautiful lament for doomed dreams and innocents crushed by history's brutality, an expedition on the hazy border between victimhood and guilt – and, at the same time, an ingenious, vivid, mesmerising story. I loved it.

A.D. Miller, author of Snowdrops and The Faithful Couple
Critic Reviews

The Vanishing Futurist is breath-takingly original, luminously intelligent and impossible to put down. It is a great novel by any measure.

Anthony Beevor
Critic Reviews

Deftly pulls you into the exhilarating vortex of revolution, and leaves you weeping yet somehow full of wonder on the other side. That rare case of a profound book being unputdownable.

Peter Pomerantsev
Critic Reviews

An extraordinary novel which captures the mixture of tragedy and idealism that has characterised Russia’s modern history.

Marcel Theroux
Critic Reviews

Hobson’s award-winning memoir [Black Earth City], as dreamily lyrical and pragmatic as any Russian novel, beautifully captured the uncertainty, chaos and infectious euphoria of the end of the cold war. Fifteen years on, and Hobson has turned to fiction to examine perhaps the most epoch-defining point in Russia’s history – the revolutions of 1917, the dissolution of tsarist rule, the Bolshevik rising, subsequent civil war and its aftermath – choosing a protagonist who, like Hobson herself in Black Earth City, is an English outsider in Russia during a period of turbulence and wild optimism. The result is a rapturous, carnival-like ride into political disorder, heady romance and absurdity as one societal infrastructure is dismantled and replaced with another ... What is conveyed most affectingly, with all the reviving powers of a shot of Armenian brandy, is the exhilaration and promise of a dream, an exceptional historical moment that continues to reverberate today.

Catherine Taylor, Guardian

Charlotte Hobson’s first book, Black Earth City, won a Somerset Maugham Award and was shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize and the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award. She lives in Cornwall with her husband, the writer Philip Marsden, and their two children.

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