Dr. Zhivago, whose name means 'to live' , is truly a man of his age. Not only did he live through the turbulent age of revolutionary Russia, he was al...moreDr. Zhivago, whose name means 'to live' , is truly a man of his age. Not only did he live through the turbulent age of revolutionary Russia, he was also a man who was swallowed by the tides of history, pulverized and then spat out by it. It was impersonal, these forces of history that ultimately destroyed him, his family and others who were caught between senseless wars and concentration camps. Totalitarian regimes, Reds or Whites, have no place for independent human will and affections. An individual is nothing but a cog in the wheel of the greater cause, either to be elevated or destroyed according to the whims of those in power at a particular time. A profoundly sad, but also beautiful book.
The first hundred pages, which introduces a number of main and side characters could be rather confusing to read, and I was forced to resort to the character list page from time to time. A reasonable understanding of events in Russian history during that period would be really helpful in making sense of these early chapters, which can feel rather disjointed in places. However, everything coalesce towards the middle of the book, to resolve in a heartbreaking finale, in which realism is sacrificed to emotional resonance.(less)
Troyat's 700-plus pages biography reads like a Tolstoy novel. It follows Tolstoy's life in detail, quoting extensively from his and his family's copio...moreTroyat's 700-plus pages biography reads like a Tolstoy novel. It follows Tolstoy's life in detail, quoting extensively from his and his family's copious diaries. His marriage, which started happily enough, and then turned into a nightmare for both him and his wife was morbidly fascinating. It was like watching a slow train wreck. Altogether, a satisfiying if rather lengthy portrait of a complicated genius.
200 pages shorter than Troyat's monumental biography, Wilson gives us less of a novel of Tolstoy's life and instead offers us more insights about the...more200 pages shorter than Troyat's monumental biography, Wilson gives us less of a novel of Tolstoy's life and instead offers us more insights about the man and his times. His theory is that Tolstoy's genius lies in his ability to seamlessly merge fact and fiction, resulting in the supreme ilussion of his novels.
Wilson questions the veracity of several incidents accepted as fact by Troyat and other biographers. His discussion of events in Russian history from an outsider's perspective is enlightening, and perhaps more helpful than Troyat's novelistic approach in understanding not only Tolstoy but also the milleu in which he was creating his novels.(less)
This is the first Dickens that I've read and I didn't like it that much. The plot relies on way too many improbable coincidences, and some of the majo...moreThis is the first Dickens that I've read and I didn't like it that much. The plot relies on way too many improbable coincidences, and some of the major characters are crude cardboard cutouts, or are sentimental caricatures (Lucie Manette, a sweet blonde saint -- gag! ). I concede that Dickens successfully captured the larger than life quality of the French Revolution, but I feel that much is sacrificed in terms of character development and story nuances.
Improbable coincidences :
SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF BOOK III
Book I : Darnay happens to be in the same mail coach going to Dover with Mr. Lorry.
Book II : Darnay and Carton happens to look alike, so alike that they could be mistaken for each other by people who actually know them.
Book III :
- Darnay happens to be the son of Marquis Evremonde, who put Dr. Manette into jail.
- Mrs. Defarge happens to be the sister of the woman and her brother who were wronged by the Evremonde brothers.
- Cruncher happens to open Roger Cly's false grave and thus knows that Barsad is lying --- from all the graves that he opens, he happens to open that one and remember it well enough years later !?
- Barsad happens to be Miss Pross' brother (not revealed until almost the end of Book III).
- Miss Pross and Cruncher happen to meet Barsad in a Parisian shop while going grocery shopping.
Anyone notice more of these?
What are the odds of all of those coincidences happening in real life? I can see how they help to tie up the plot together at the end of the book, but I think Dickens uses too much of these coincidences, so much that it considerably lessens the story's overall impact.