Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: Doctor Zhivago

I probably watched Doctor Zhivago three or four times in high school and college and never could remember the plot, beyond the basics about Omar Sharif being in love with two women – his earnest wife Tanya and the elusive, flawed, and beautiful Lara. Other than that, it was all snow, trains, battles, furry hats, theme music, and Julie Christie's doe eyes.

The book is the same, but without the balaclava music or Julie Christie.

There is a chronological order to it, but with big gaps. Some threads take so long to tie together I had forgotten where they started. And in between scenes of snow, trains, trains stopped by snow, trains buried by snow, battles, battles in snow, battles on trains, and more of the same, were rambling discourses on religion and political philosophy. And I thought the movie was slow!

The themes are grand and the writing, even in translation, is beautiful. Boris Pasternak won the Nobel Prize because of the book, although the Soviet government forced him to renounce the honor. There are many reasons to read Doctor Zhivago and many reasons to enjoy it. But it is a long and often frustrating read.


If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.


I read this one for the Eastern Europe Reading Challenge, the TBR Pile Challenge, the Mt. TBR Challenge, and the Off The Shelf Challenge. Since Pasternak won the Nobel Prize, I also made some progress on that list.


  1. I saw the movie once, and about all I ever remember is Omar Sharif trudging through the snow in the middle of nowhere as the theme music plays. One thing that's good for: in a heat wave I can almost make myself shiver if I recall that scene. :) I do love Lara's Theme though.

  2. I remember my mother going to see the movie several times when I was growing up but I've never seen it. Lara's Theme was quite popular back in the day.

  3. Barbara: Snow and theme music -- that's about all I remember too!

    Kathy: There is a more recent BBC production I am going to watch. I'm hoping it will be less "atmospheric" than I recall the original movie being.

  4. I rad it back in Jan but you probably don't want to link to my review because I hated it. I heard we read the wrong translation (I read the same edition you have pictured here.) I heard that it's too literal and therefore lost a lot of the poetry. Alas. I'll try another Russian novel again next year but my first foray into Russian lit was disappointing. I'm glad you liked it more than I did. I heard these translators did an excellent job on Anna Karenina.


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