Some subscribers may remember the OUMMCBNOM Unfinished Book Review, first featured many issues ago. As you may know, one fault of many book reviews is that they give away the ending of the book. To correct this situation, the OUMMCBNOM decided to start this innovative book review, in which the reviewer has only read about half of the book and therefore can't give too much away. Enjoy! Dr. Zhivago By Boris Pasternak, translated by Max Hayward and Manya Harari Poems by Bernard Guilbert Guerney 519 pages Reviewed up to page 336 Doctor Zhivago is about the life of a Russian doctor/poet during the Russian Revolution. The first problem I encountered in reading was my lack of knowledge of Russian history. This is not the fault of the author at all, but probably greatly affected my enjoyment of this part of the book. I could barely keep track of all the colors of the armies running around, much less the names of the characters, which are the next problem the book presents. Each character has approximately five names--first, middle, last, childhood, affectionate. The title character, for example, is Yurii Andreievich Zhivago; Yura as a child; Yurochka affectionately. The large quantity of children with amazing similar names for the first hundred pages added to the confusion. Confusion is one of the main things I experienced reading this section of the book. Because the book seeks to explore the ways in which people's lives are interrelated, with or without their knowledge, keeping track of these relationships is tricky, to say the least. Without a full understanding of these relationships, though, I think that something is lost in enjoyment of the book. The complex relationships of the characters tend to rely upon coincidence. When virtually all of the characters end up at the same hospital, the revealing of this fact by the author in one paragraph (for example, "The tall man was really Fred, the childhood friend of Bill, who was the man in the next room, and the nurse helping him was in fact Amelia, Bill's long lost sister whose husband, Lester, was fighting just across the field and the man he had just killed was Fred's father, Thomas, who had known Amelia's mother, Esmerelda, and, unknown to anyone, Lester was their child, who they had sent to an orphanage but had been adopted by Fred's uncle, whom Fred had never met. And they all had no idea!") is enough to make one slightly nauseous. Another problem found in the book is the awkwardness of the translation. Phrases which must have seemed poetic in Russian seem hopelessly strange, such as the current favorite line, "The whole world was growing, fermenting, with the magic yeast of life." The poems, meant to be by Dr. Zhivago, may suffer the most from the translation. For example, the second and final stanza of the poem Hopbines: Sorry-I erred. The shrubs in these thickets Are not ivy-grown but covered with hopbines. Well, we'll do better if we take this raincape And spread it out wide for a rug beneath us. A lovely story, of course, but not much of a poem. "If she is just going to keep whining about the book, I assume she isn't planning to finish it," you say. No, the book does have many good things about it. They simply aren't as much fun to describe, as they involve neither yeast or hopbines. Dr. Zhivago allows the reader to better understand how the Russian Revolution affected the lives of the Russian people and, when not nauseating, the relationships between the characters are interesting. Should you decide to read this book, be prepared to have to pay close attention to the characters' names, relationships, and it would help to have some background in Russian history. Good luck!
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