Guardian Review links

It’s ages since I’ve written a post about some of the articles in the Guardian Review which have particularly interested me – so here goes.

Patti Smith answered some questions here. I was particularly interested that she mentions Pinocchio as the book that she wished she had written. It has been on my Classics Club list for some time, I feel more inclined to get around to it soon now. I’m slightly perturbed that she had such anxiety while reading Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper – and that she actually threw up! She has never finished it. I completely understand her reaction to Villette though as I’ve also been so freaked out by the ending to a book that I had to rewrite it in my head, it was one by Paul Auster if you’re interested. Patti fell in love with books at a young age – I completely agree with what she says about Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.

A friend is reading Elton John’s autobiography Me at the moment and enjoying it, I plan to get around to that one sometime. I’ve never seen him live but Elton was such a feature of my young teenage life and even when I got married we had Jack’s Yellow Brick Road poster hanging on our bedroom wall, and here we are – both over 60 now and still enjoying Elton, in fact everywhere we went on that recent Baltic cruise we were being accompanied by Elton, he’s really popular in ‘the east’ especially Russia. I’ll never forget watching that concert in the USSR on TV when he was the first western pop star to play there. The audience hardly dared move, never mind sing and dance as they would have been doing here.

There’s an interview with Elizabeth Strout. I am possibly the only person to have been unimpressed by her book Olive Kitteridge. I really disliked Olive and the whole thing seemed disjointed to me, but apparently it won a Pulitzer – go figure as some people elsewhere say. Are you a fan?

There’s a new John le Carre book out called Agent Running in the Field, you can read about it here. I have to start reading him again, I have so many to catch up with. It’s a Brexit novel, there’s no getting away from it it seems.

There’s ‘a wheen o’ crime fiction written about here, or maybe it’s just ‘a hantle’, there are five of them.

You can read about Doctor Zhivago and a CIA plot here.

I hope you enjoy some of these links.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

It has only taken me about 30 odd years but at last I got around to reading Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. The 506 closely printed pages had put me off all those years, but I must say that I really did enjoy it. I suppose most people will have already read it or at least seen the fab film, starring the gorgeous Omar Sharif as Doctor Zhivago.

Having read Liza/A Nest of Nobles by Turgenev recently I have to say that I think Doctor Zhivago is far better than Liza. I know there is about 100 years in between the publication of the two books, so it maybe isn’t fair to compare them, but there is just so much more in Doctor Zhivago to get your teeth into.

The Zhivago family had been wealthy, and Yura could remember a time when he was a child when there were Zhivago factories and a Zhivago bank. But his father lost all of their money and committed suicide. Yura’s mother was already dead.

When Yura (Yurii) grows up he becomes a doctor and marries his childhood sweetheart, Tonya. They have a son and when Tonya is pregnant for the second time Yura starts an affair with Lara. Lara had was married to her childhood sweetheart, Pasha, but she believed him to be dead. Using the name of Strelnikov, he was now high up in the Red Army. Was he modelled on Trotsky?

Whilst on one of his journey’s to Lara’s house Yura is abducted at gunpoint by some soldiers who are in search of him to replace their dead doctor but eventually he escapes from the army and ends up back with Lara.

It’s years since I saw the film but I seem to remember that the whole thing concentrates on the love affair between Yura and Lara and I thought that Tonya (his wife) was portrayed as a sort of feckless pain in the neck. Presumably the director David Lean thought he had to do that because people would not be keen on the truth, which was that Yura started screwing around when he realised that his wife was pregnant. I could be completely mis-remembering it. Anyway Pasternak wrote Tonya as being very resourceful and strong, coping with her child, her elderly father and a nursemaid who was still a child herself.

On the other hand Lara hadn’t even managed to seal up the rat holes in her apartment, with the result that the rats were everywhere. I think if I had been in that situation I would have played ‘splat the rat’ until they got the idea and skedaddled.

Yes, as ever, I’m on the side of the wife!

If you are into history, then you will definitely get a lot out of the book which it just isn’t possible to put in a film and as Russia/the Soviet Union has always fascinated me, the book was right up my street.

I was brought up during ‘the Cold War’ when the U.S.S.R. threat was always in the background – especially as my dad worked in the nearby nuclear submarine base at Coulport on the River Clyde. I was still in primary school when I realised that there was a Soviet nuclear missile pointing straight at us, so there wasn’t any point in worrying about it as we would be blasted into oblivion very quickly.

Happy days.