Griffin Betz's Reviews > Dr. Zhivago

Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
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's review
Nov 07, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: read-fiction
Recommended for: patient readers who enjoy rich settings as much as (or more than) tight narratives.
Read in April, 2008

My first reading of Dr. Zhivago was in high school. At 15, the book was a chore. Impenetrable and numerous Russian names (often for the same character) and endless description of the Russian landscape left me exhausted and unimpressed. After re-reading and enjoying other high school assignments, I came across Dr. Zhivago on my bookshelf and wondered if I would find more appreciation for Mr. Pasternak's novel ten years later.

Yes, I did. And no, I didn't.

With ten more years of life, a wife and a job I found a connection with the characters. I understood the way outside forces can pull a person in strange directions and the way life can drop a person into unexpected and unwanted situations. I understood that sometimes people are swept into and out of the place they want to be - and why they stay where things are bad and leave where things are good. Dr. Zhivago is at its heart a love story. No 15 year old understands the kind of love Pasternak puts in his character's hearts. Ten years on, I understand Yuri far better than I did in High School. I also had a far greater appreciation for Pasternak's obviously loving descriptions of his homeland.

That said, the things that drove my dislike of Dr. Zhivago the first time were still still there. The sprawling story and unending task of keeping the characters straight was still a detraction. I don't know if my problem with character names springs from the fact that, being Russian names, they are unfamiliar to my mind or if Pasternak simply failed to rein in his cast of thousands. Unresolved plot lines rarely bother me but, when combined with extensive background on what ending up being minor characters, Dr. Zhivago felt a bit as if Pasternak let the narrative get away from him. Maybe that was the point. Sometimes life just gets away from you. After all, he's the one with a Nobel Prize. Who am I to criticize?

While I actually liked the novel this time, I feel as if I should have liked Dr. Zhivago more than I did. Maybe it's that I can't escape my first impression.

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04/07 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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K.D. Absolutely Yes, I agree that if I read this book when I was a teenager, I would have not liked it at all. Now that I am a husband and a father, I was able to relate to Yuri and his being torn between Tonya and Lara more!
Nice review!

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