Lara is both a tragic love story and a dramatic account of the sheer determination it took to write and publish an uncompromising literary masterpiece under dismal circumstances. The book, enhanced by family photographs, vividly captures Olga's risky loyalty to the defiant, desperate, and strikingly handsome author during increasingly hostile persecution in the late 1950s, when Doctor Zhivago was first published in Italy and Pasternak was forced to renounce the 1958 Nobel Prize in literature ... With its overview of Russian history in the mid-20th century, including the privations of World War II, the abominations of Stalin's Great Terror, and Khruschev's insufficient thaw, Lara is a chilling, upsetting reminder of what can happen when free speech is curtailed.
...the 'untold' in the subtitle simply isn’t true. The story of Pasternak’s affair with Olga has been told repeatedly — for instance, in Olga’s own memoirs, which serve as a central source for Lara and are available in English, as are memoirs by several of Pasternak’s family members and friends ... In Lara, Anna Pasternak treats Doctor Zhivago as a romance, more or less interchangeable with the hit movie, and she displays minimal understanding of Pasternak’s literary achievement. (Though he is best known outside Russia for Doctor Zhivago, Pasternak’s most innovative and influential work was poetry.) Lara is poorly organized and larded with romantic clichés. Evgeny Pasternak, the poet’s eldest son, provides more insight in a few quoted lines than Lara manages to do in a chapter. Pasternak fans and incurable romantics will be better off sticking to Doctor Zhivago, or searching out the earlier memoirs that serve as this new book’s central sources.
Writing about her great-uncle, Anna Pasternak brings 'the cloud-dweller' to life. She draws together a wealth of letters, diaries and poetry to present the story of the love affair between Pasternak and his mistress Olga Ivinskaya, who inspired the character of Lara in Doctor Zhivago. Set against a turbulent political backdrop, Lara opens a new window on to one of the most charismatic minds of the 20th century. At times the narrative feels a little erratic, but Anna Pasternak has produced an irresistible account of joy, suffering and passion.
Lara can be erratic for the first 50 pages, as it sets up short backgrounds of the Pasternak and Ivinskaya families, only to reset the timeline in the next chapter. This pace may be especially disorienting to readers unfamiliar with Soviet history, since the book covers the impact of events such as Stalin’s purges and collectivization efforts on the Moscow literati scene. After its hectic exposition, the book excels as it chronicles the private tension between two lovers saddled with other families, and the wider antagonism between Pasternak and the Kremlin ... Given its setting, Lara could have easily devolved into a melodramatic saga of ill-fated passion in a time of tyranny. Instead, Anna Pasternak admirably refuses to reduce the lovers to stock tragic figures. She presents a warts-and-all, at times scathing portrait of the pair ... The ominous ease with which one of history’s most brutal dictators can get a second chance at a legacy makes Lara — the story of one of Stalin’s innumerable victims — a particularly poignant book.
...someone had to pay for Pasternak’s anti-Soviet novel Doctor Zhivago, and this was Olga Ivinskaya, the writer’s lover, muse, and the woman upon whom the fictional character of Lara was based. Lara and Yuri’s romance, Anna Pasternak argues, was a 'passionate cri de coeur' to the love of Pasternak’s life ... Pieced together for the first time – family members before the author (Boris’s great-niece) have always denied Olga’s significance – it’s a story with enough romance and suffering to make a moving novel or film in its own right.
Olga Ivinskaya, mistress of rock star Russian poet and Doctor Zhivago author Boris Pasternak, suffered mightily for love ... His [Pasternak's] novel, 20 years in the making, was a 'long and heartfelt love letter' to Olga, who inspired the character of Lara, Zhivago’s lover ... Anna Pasternak, Boris’ great-niece, draws upon published works by Olga and Irina, interviews with since-deceased family members and correspondence unearthed in a HarperCollins vault in Glasgow to tell the engrossing story of Olga and Boris and Doctor Zhivago ... Pasternak offers an insightful, exhaustively researched and highly recommended portrait of an artist and his muse, as well as a horrifying look behind the old Iron Curtain.
Pasternak draws on family correspondence; memoirs by Olga, her daughter (whom Pasternak interviewed), Boris’ sister and son; and Boris’ own writings to sensitively examine the dramatic relationship as well as to rescue the reputation of the woman whom the Pasternak family derided and denounced ... Nevertheless, Boris comes across as self-absorbed, at best naively romantic, enjoying 'the drama of anguish' and torment that he created for long-suffering Olga and his wife and children. He seemed to care nothing about putting them at risk with his defiance of Stalinist policy ... Pasternak’s recounting of the publication of Doctor Zhivago, and Soviet pressure for him to renounce the Nobel Prize in Literature, draws largely on Peter Finn and Petra Couvée’s The Zhivago Affair ... A sympathetic portrait of a woman who saw her lover in the same 'heroic light' as he saw himself.
This accessible history sketches the stories of a literary love affair and a great novel whose cultural and political impact may now seem almost unimaginable to a modern audience. Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, an epic of revolutionary Russia and the passion that burned between its eponymous protagonist and his beloved Lara Guichard, had a history nearly as tumultuous as its story line ... Boris emerges here as self-absorbed, vain, reckless, and also brave enough to get his opus published. Pasternak doesn’t always convey the larger historical context, but nonetheless this is a sensitive and fairly careful account of one of literature’s great backstories.