A deadly flu epidemic sweeps through Moscow, killing hundreds of thousands. Anya and her husband Sergey decide they have no choice but to flee to a lake in the far north of Russia.
Joining them on their journey are her son and father-in-law; Sergey’s ex-wife and son; and their garish neighbours. But then some friends of Sergey show up to complete Anya’s list of people she’d least like to be left with at the end of the civilised world.
As the wave of infection expands from the capital, their food and fuel start to run low. Menaced both by the harsh Russian winter and by the desperate people they encounter, they must put their hatreds behind them if they’re to have a chance of reaching safety…
Inspired by a real-life flu epidemic in Moscow, To the Lake was a number one bestseller in Russia, and has now appeared in a dozen languages and been adapted into a Netflix TV series.
My thoughts: it took me a while to get into this book, I might be a bit pandemic fiction-ed out, but as I went on reading and Anya’s convoy went on driving across Russia, I got more into the story of these determined survivors crossing the snow in search of refuge.
You forget how vast Russia is, even though I’ve been there, I travelled from Moscow to St Petersburg on the sleeper train, completely unaware in the dark of the distance. There’s also 9 different timezones. The lake in question is not far from the Finnish border, which seems crazy when you look at a map, Russia is absolutely huge. It takes them 12 days, including a few stopped in a small summer cottage, to reach it. You can drive from one end of the UK to the other in less than 2.
Thankfully those 12 long days mean that a lot can happen in a book, interactions with people, friendly and not so, the farmer who rescues them from the snowdrift was kind and they behaved badly, which is a shame as they were “good people” in his eyes. I’m glad Anya made a canine friend, animals are always worth having around and he made he feel better. I felt bad for Mishka, wanting to be an adult and be with the men, but often treated like he’s still a child, like Dasha and Anton.
I’m not sure how well they’re all going to get along on the island, lots of personalities clashing, and Ira stirring up trouble because she’s still angry that Sergey left her. At least he came to get them and took her and Anton with them. Yes, I got very involved with the characters in a book again, it happens! And now I’m going to watch it on Netflix and see if the way the actors play the characters reflects the way I saw them when I was reading.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.