Seen through the eyes of a young male journalist, this is a haunting tale of lost love as a woman waits for her lover's return from war. Thirty years on she is still waiting. Will he return? Do we discover his fate? This excellent translation captures the humanity, humility and mutual care of a group of women left alone in a Russian village after WW2 - the good times and the bad. A very powerful read.
In this remote corner of the Russian North I had expected to discover a microcosm of the Soviet age, a caricature of this simultaneously messianic and stagnant time. But time was quite simply absent from these villages, which seemed as if they were living on after the disappearance of the regime, after the collapse of the empire. What I was passing through was, in effect, a kind of premonition of the future. All trace of History had been eradicated. What remained were the gilded slivers of the willow leaves on the dark surface of the lake, the first snows that generally came at night, the silence of the White Sea, looming beyond the forests. What remained was this woman in a long military greatcoat, following the shoreline, stopping at the mailbox where the roads met. What remained was the essence of things.