Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak: Book Review

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Cover of Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak2 Stars
Set in the early days of the USSR, Doctor Zhivago is the story of the doctor and the sweeping changes he bears witness to.

Oh, I had a hard time with this one. It was sheer stubbornness that got me through. I didn’t particularly like Doctor Zhivago, I thought Lara was crazy, and I couldn’t keep up with the politics. I kept thinking that I should look up the Russian Revolution (or whatever it’s called) and try to make some sense out of what was going on, but I didn’t care enough to even do that.

There were philosophical discussions planted smack in the middle of conversations. Of course I didn’t believe anyone has ever actually talked that way. I couldn’t follow the philosophy and then I lost the thread of the conversation by the time the characters got back to talking about something I was interested in.

The doctor was the epitome of “not to decide is a decision.” He just went with whatever situation he found himself in. He had some ideals when he was young that he fought for, but then he became jaded and seemed not to really believe in anything. But I could be wrong about that. As his family life changed, he never fought for anyone. He just took the easiest path before him.

Lara was at least passionate but I felt she was inconsistent. Who did she really want to be with? I’m not entirely sure. She said one thing but did another.

What I did take away from the book is how confusing it must have been to live through a time like this. I have a feeling the confusion about who was fighting whom and why was done deliberately. I can’t imagine living through a war and never being sure who was on what side and which side I should be on to get through safely. You can see how tightly I would hold to my ideals–I just want to make it through!

And Russian novelists and their character names! Holy cow! I can’t keep up with everyone and their nicknames. I just can’t. That adds to my confusion as well.

Because I never fully caught the thread of the book, this is really all I can say. It was not the book for me, but if you’re curious, don’t let me discourage you.

Read an excerpt.

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  1. Well, I'm glad to know I wasn't alone, but I might be done with Russian Lit. I liked the actual story of Anna Karenina but I was bored to tears in all the essays about–let's just call it Communism–randomly shoved in. Does it get better?

  2. I'm a huge fan of Russian lit. My favorite novel ever is Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. But Dr. Z. was a struggle. Took me months to get through it, and I was just as confused as you were — and I majored in Russian history, so it's not like I was lacking in background. Good for you for making the effort, but talk to me next time you get a yen for a Russian classic.

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