The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book (Peter Finn and Petra Couvee, 2014)


Why did you choose this book?

I’ve mentioned before I think that I lead book discussions as part of my job.  This is our library book club pick this month.

What’s it about?

Boris Pasternak was a well-known Russian poet before he wrote his masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago.  Due to the restrictions placed on literature by the Soviet government, the novel would not be published in Russia.  This book is part biography of Pasternak, part the path the novel took to publication, and part the ramifications of the book on Pasternak/the Soviet Union/the world.


Nonfiction, biography, Russian history, history of literature

Other recommended reads?

This is a hard one because it depends on what draws you to the book.  If you like it for the history of literature, you might also like The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills (2015).  If you like it for Russian history, you might like Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous LIfe of Svetlana Alliluyeva by Rosemary Sullivan (2015).

Final thoughts?

I found this book to be a bit of a struggle.  I’m not a lover of Russian literature (I gave up on Crime and Punishment after about 50 pages in high school, though I kept my copy to try again later).  It was very densely packed with historical research and I really wanted the author to provide a glossary of important figures, as the names all blended together (example: Surkov and Simonov).  When the individuals aren’t mentioned frequently, it’s hard for someone not familiar with Russian names to keep them straight.

Up next?

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone


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