Wrapping Up Doctor Zhivago

This epic novel is not for the faint of heart book club! In one of my groups, half the members were AWOL. (Am I that scary?) All in all, we decided that this is a wonderful, well-worth-reading, important book, but we can’t be reading novels like this every month. More than one member thanked me for choosing it, and said she would never have read it without me. Awww…And absolutely everyone who finished it was glad that they had read it. Not in the sense of “Whew! glad that’s done and dusted!”–but more in the sense of feeling satisfied at having read such a monumental work.

The conversations were glittering. (Hats off to a certain host who served Russian vodka and piroshkis to accompany our discussion, and whose house was filled with stunning white flowers to represent the ever-present Russian snow. Loved it!) An hour or two just let us scratch the surface, but the main take-aways were:

  • This is a book of BIG IDEAS, and everything else–the plot, the characters, the relationships–are all secondary.
  • This is NOT a love story. The movie with Julie Christie and Omar Sharif focuses on the love element, but the book is a sort of existential study of our earthly predicament.
  • Some members saw Yury as a weak, selfish character, while others felt he was doing the best he could under the circumstances. My favorite comment was from a member who felt Yury was similar to Tiger Woods. Love it!!! I did, of course, immediately raise the level of discussion by asking if a better comparison might not be made with Hamlet.
  • The book is “about” hope, whatever form that hope may take, be it art, passion, literature, or even forgiveness after confession.
  • The imagery of light and dark in the book helps to carry that message of hope to the reader.
  • A very astute and erudite member pointed out that Yury and Strelnikov were polar opposites in life as well as in death (think about how they each died!), and this contrast illustrated the different ways of living life. One was all passion and action, the other thought and caution.
  • Destiny, like the omnipresent train, cannot be stopped. History cannot be stopped, nor made. One must just ride it out, so to speak.

All in all, a success for those who stuck it out! How about you? Have you ever spent a snowy winter all snuggled up with Yury and Lara?

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