27th February 2017
Lara, by Anna Pasternak (Ecco). This history explores the affair between the author’s uncle Boris Pasternak and Olga Ivinskaya, the inspiration for the character of Lara in his novel “Doctor Zhivago.” It’s a largely unknown story: the author says that her family “repressed” it for a long time, because Pasternak had a wife, whom he didn’t like but wouldn’t leave, just as he wouldn’t leave Soviet Russia, despite fearing for his life. His somewhat baffling sense of loyalty was mirrored by Ivinskaya’s; she received punishments that Stalin was loath to dole out to Pasternak, doing two stints in the Gulag. The author confesses to being “frustrated” on Ivinskaya’s account: had Pasternak married her, he might have prevented her incarceration. By the end of this riveting, tragic tale, it’s hard not to share the sentiment.