Lead Review

  • Book: To the Lake
  • Location: Albania, Greece, Macedonia
  • Author: Kapka Kassabova

Review Author: Tina Hartas



To the Lake is the story of an escape drive from Moscow to the far north of the country. It was first written as a blog in 2008 when Moscow was in the grip of a major flu outbreak, then re-issued as a book a few years later. It has been translated into 14 languages and make into a Netflix series. It has, of course, recently received much publicity… The world it describes – Moscow locked down in quarantine, food and medical shortages, thousands dying – is only a smallish step forward in imagination from the Covid pandemic. The book has become increasingly real.

The escapees are Anya and her husband Sergey, their son, Sergey’s father, Sergey’s first wife and son, their neighbours in Moscow and their young daughter, and another couple they meet on the road north. The characters are a motley bunch and well drawn. Their are many opportunities for disagreement and falling out – but they are all focused on their ultimate goal of reaching a run down house on the lake in the far north of Russia (near the Finnish border) that belonged to Sergey’s family. It is very well isolated and they plan on staying there until the outbreak burns out.

The journey is hazardous and fraught with danger. They travel – often through roads covered in deep snow – in a convoy of four cars. They  avoid ambushes manned by desperate and frightened people, they drive through a town where bodies are being wheeled to a church, they help themselves to diesel from an overturned truck by the side of the road, and they steal diesel from the one person on the journey who was trying to help them. One of them is stabbed in a fight he could not avoid and they struggle to provide him with the necessary medical care. The feel of the book is one of a post apocalyptic dystopian nightmare… All that was cherished has disappeared.

You get pretty involved in the story, willing the convoy on to its destination – where who knows what awaits it.

To the Lake is a powerful book.

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