Kathy's Reviews > Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
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's review
Sep 29, 11

liked it

I read this a few years ago and just remember that it was excruciating to finish. Normally I'm a huge fan of Russian literature, so this was a disappointing first for me.
After some clunky dialogue, Pasternak will suddenly decide to describe some trees for what seems like forever. Although sometimes beautiful, it became eye-rollingly tedious and I'd skip to the end of the paragraph to wait for something to happen. I love description, but not to the detriment of what is supposed to be transpiring in the plot at that moment.
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I was unsympathetic towards the characters and felt little warmth for Yuri and Lara's affair. While at certain points I'm sure this is intentional, I failed to empathise consistently.
Many reviews cite the multiple nicknames and patronymics to be confusing for knowing who's who; I fortunately didn't find that so much because I'm familiar with that from other Russian novels. No, for me the confusion stemmed from the multitudes of characters, the descriptions of their life story, then it emerges that they're completely irrelevant and we never see them again. Tolstoy, of whom Pasternak was a fan, also did this, but did so in a way that the novel felt like a smoothly scrolling lens zooming in and out of focus on each character; from each 'zoom-in', we learn a new slice of life in this Russian society, then leave them as we zoom out, all the wiser for it. Not so for Pasternak, who zooms in, then completely cuts away to the next thing and abandons the character, leaving me in a state of confusion as to what the point was.
Overall, I'm disappointed that I didn't enjoy this. I may try to read it again and see if my opinion's changed, but I have little faith. This really is a rare instance where I say the film (2002 BBC version) is much better than the book. If it's an epic Russian novel you're after, go for Anna Karenina by Tolstoy instead.

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