One of my greatest enjoyments in reading is the discovery of idiosyncratic books which have escaped public awareness, but manifest elements of genius; often quirky and flawed. This is the pleasure of the treasure-hunter at having stumbled across something precious among so much that is common and derivative. I would definitely include Gerhardie's book "Futility" in this personal grouping, along with such disparate authors as Robert Aickman who wrote wildly different horror, and David Lindsay who penned the one-of-a-kind "Voyage To Arcturus". The only thing these authors have in common is that they are different from anything else I've read. Gerhardie's novel seems at first to be an amusing farce which belies the bleak connotation of the title. A young Englishman born and educated in pre-revolutionary Russia is gradually initiated into the absurd complexities of a very extended Russian family with whom he becomes acquainted. The patriarch and provider has cascaded his obligations into astronomical proportions by having successively declared his love for three different women. One remains his legal wife, one is an ex-mistress, the other his current mistress. Each of these relationships has brought into Nikolai Vasilievich's domain numerous relatives who continue to look to him for their livelihood. The young Englishman,called Andrei Andreiech, while trying to establish a romantic relationship with one of the attractive daughters becomes involved, sometimes to a degree he regrets, in these complicated affairs. For the most part,though, he maintains a sympathetic but detached observation of the progress of this situation, which actually adds up to no progress at all. The desires, illusions, delusions, expectations and eccentricities of the many players in this drama all seem to add up to nothing but a perpetual waiting for something to happen, or futility. There is a frequent airing out of emotional states reminiscent of Doestoevski's novels but without his oppressive morbidity. So it seems you can label this as an amusing social satire. Then a rather deeper tone makes itself felt. The story enters the period of the revolution. The families remain absorbed in their own local tempest even while the world they knew is being dismantled by outside events. The stupidity and blundering of the leaders and the bloodthirsty rampaging of the mobs drag on and on until there is no longer any possibility of humane solutions. A more universal futility encompasses the localized futility of the family. The narrator maintains his detached-observer attitude, almost to the point of glibness, in the face of such monstrous events. But now, surprisingly, we see our young Englishman begin to occasionally make astute comments about the war, the various personalities he comes in contact with, and life in general. What might have been construed as glibness is really, it seems, a determination to maintain his objectivity in the face of the unbridled irrationality rampant in the world. Ironically, he himself is caught up in an irrationality of which he is well aware, and that is his vain pursuit of the capricious daughter, Nina. There is a definite story in this work . It is told plainly enough to be easily understood in a literal fashion. This was the great charm of the book for me. Without any allegory, symbolism or pretentious post-modern trappings, it seemed to me a penetrating look at humanity with its mixture of the tragic, the comic, and the mundane; always waiting for "real life" to begin, while "real life" is continually passing and sliding away behind us. The characters are amusing in their quirkiness, but I think the real point is that their quirkiness serves to exemplify the extremes of human nature. Perhaps this work contains some structural or stylistic flaws, but I have to give it 5 stars based on my personal engagement with it.