Sunday, August 22, 2010

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - Doctor Zhivago***

"This tale of revolutionary Russia is rich with detail and the character of Lara is almost more fascinating than that of Zhivago himself."

Well . . . I love the Russian writing style! This is only the second Russian novel I've read but they both shared a uniquely Russian style that I really appreciated. This does include some jumping around which can be confusing at first but it all comes together eventually. I also love all the beautiful Russian names, which also can be confusing but the main characters are the ones that keep turning up and the others don't matter as much so don't worry about them.

Now, in terms of the actual story. It literally took me until the last page of the epilogue to decide whether or not I liked the book. In the end I definitely liked it. The book is really more about how people's lives intertwine than about Zhivago or Lara specifically. There is one passage from the book that really illustrates this: "The man who had just died was Private Gimazetdin; the excited officer who had been shouting in the wood was his son, Lieutenant Galiullin; the nurse was Lara. Gordon and Zhivago were the witnesses. All these people were together, in one place. But some of them had never known each other, while others failed to recognize each other now. And there were things about them which were never to be known for certain, while others were not to be revealed until a future time, a later meeting."

On the last page of the epilogue the idea is also put forth that main character of the book is not actually Zhivago but, rather, the city of Moscow. "But Moscow, right below them and stretching into the distance, the author's native city, in which he had spent half his life - Moscow now struck them not as the stage of the events connected with him but as the main protagonist of a long story, the end of which they had reached that evening, book in hand." As a matter of fact, Zhivago, himself, is not a particularly likeable character. Even Lara is not nearly as good as she's painted. By far the best character in the book is Tonia. And poor Pasha is just pitiable.

I think I would have discovered that I enjoyed the book much earlier had I had those two ideas, that the book was about the intertwining of people's lives and that Moscow was the main character, in mind. In fact, I would like to re-read the book and see if I enjoy it any better now that I understand that.

Some great quotes:

  • "She must stop all this nonsense. Once and for all. Stop playing at being shy, simpering and lowering her eyes - or it would end in disaster. There loomed an imperceptible, a terrifying borderline. One step and you would be hurtled into an abyss."

  • "and she merely wondered: 'Does one always humiliate those one loves?'

  • "The intended revolver shot had already gone off in her heart - and it was a matter of complete indifference whom the shot was aimed at. This shot was the only thing that she was conscious of. She heard it all the way to Petrovka Street, and it was aimed at Komarovsky, at herself, at her own fate, and at the wooden target on the Duplyanka oak tree."

  • "I don't know a movement more self-centered and further removed from the facts than Marxism. Everyone is only worried about proving himself in practical matters, and as for the men in power, they are so anxious to establish the myth of their infallibility that they do their utmost to ignore the truth."

  • "People must be drawn to good by goodness."
  • "There are limits to everything. In all this time something definite should have been achieved. But it turns out that those who inspired the revolution aren't at home in anything except change and turmoil, they aren't happy with anything that's on less than a world scale. For them, transitional periods, worlds in the making, are an end in themselves."

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