Sunday, March 22, 2009

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Last night, I finally finished Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago. I've had this on my list for a while, it being one of those works that are considered a "classic," although I think the movie is more of a classic than the novel.

The book tells the story of Yuri Zhivago, from his childhood on, as he deals with one of the most turbulent times in Russia's history - the Russian Revolution. He marries and begins a family, then is sent off to war, where he meets his One True Love, Lara. They are again separated by the war, and he spends quite a bit of time with the opposing forces.

I'll be very honest: all I know about the Russian Revolution, I learned from a Danielle Steele novel. That made it decidedly hard to put anything in the novel into context. I couldn't keep all the Reds and Whites straight (which were the Bolsheviks?) and, while some names - Tolstoy, Blok, etc. - were familiar to me, I'm not well-versed enough in their work to know what it meant during the Revolution. Overall, I liked the story, especially Pasternak's writing (I believe he was a poet first). But there were too many names. Unpronounceable names. Russian names. Place names, people's names, even animals' names!!! And, since I'm unfamiliar with Russian, I had a hard time keeping all the people and places straight.

I would give this book 3 out of 5 Whatevers. It was enjoyable while I was reading it, but I often found it hard to make myself go back to it. I think it would have appealed to me more if I'd had longer, uninterrupted stretches in which to read it. It's a must for Russian literature lovers and lovers of beautiful prose, but if you need action, skip this one.


Staci said...

You had me laughing at "all I ever learned about Russia was in a Danielle Steel novel" I loved it and hey as long as we're being honest too!! Plus a few Royal Diaries that I read about Anastasia!!
Glad you made it're very brave!

Lexi said...

Sadly, it's true. Zoya was my first glimpse of Russian history. I'm glad I read Doctor Zhivago, since it's really a classic, but I won't re-read it. It's getting Mooched.