I have inadvertently discovered a great way to stall your progress in reading and reviewing books, try reading The Quran (A book you never planned to review in the first place) and Doctor Zhivago simultaneously. It really brings everything to a slow agonizing crawl.
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy Doctor Zhivago, it just took me a long time to get into it. The story is told in a seemingly haphazard style that would make it hard to follow if the events taking place were simple, which they’re not. There are a few things that make it hard to follow, from the aforementioned haphazard style, to the fact that the many protagonists have multiple names all of which are Russian making it difficult to know how they are meant to sound when you’ve never heard them spoken before.
As well as following the tale of a number of different characters, the tale also takes place over many different areas of Russia, and over many different periods between the 1900’s and mid twentieth century. It’s just really difficult to stay focused, and on top of that it’s long anyway.
I’m going to describe it in a very simplified manner because if I attempt to dig deeper in trying to explain it I know I will end up getting lost in a maze of ramblings that will reveal nothing of any use. A handful of characters try and find their place in a early twentieth century Russia that has turned chaotic following the Russian revolution, World war one and two, gulags and all that nastiness that took place. It’s a bleak situation yet they hold on to hope and find company with those whose paths crosses their own on the search for their own place in this world.
The distortion and confusion work sometimes in giving that feeling of the hectic nature of the world in which the story is being told, but I also feel like I’ve missed something I shouldn’t have after putting the book down. There’s a love triangle thing going on, and betrayal after betrayal, it feels as though the setting isn’t as important as the characters. The book was used as a propaganda tool by America after its release but I don’t feel it was intended how they used it. As mentioned above the character is the primary aspects and therefore could be used to tell the human tragedy in any part of the world, it’s just that in this case Boris Pasternak used the world he knew, Communist Russia.
I’d give it a read based purely on the fact that no adaptation will ever be able to truly represent the original story, just make sure you have the free time and patience to do so. Although I’m sure if you knew your Russian history it wouldn’t be so difficult, but then again if you knew your Russian history I don’t imagine you’d be here reading this review you’d already be well aware of Boris Pasternak and Doctor Zhivago.