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A sympathetic portrait of a woman who saw her lover in the same “heroic light” as he saw himself.

A British journalist investigates her great-uncle’s love affair.

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) was 56 and married to his second wife, Zinaida, when he met 34-year-old Olga Ivinskaya and immediately fell in love: “She is so enchanting, such a radiant, golden person,” he exulted. “I never thought I would still know such joy.” Flattered by the attentions of Russia’s most lauded poet, Olga reciprocated his passion. Pasternak (Daisy Dooley Does Divorce, 2007, etc.) 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. At first, Pasternak worried about discovering that Boris “used Olga” but concluded that he did his best “within the constraints of his domestic situation to honour her and her family,” supporting them financially and trusting Olga “with his most precious commodity—his work. He sought her advice, her editing and typing assistance” and showed his love in his novel Doctor Zhivago, which Pasternak reads as a “long and heartfelt love letter to her.” 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. He was somewhat protected by fame, but Olga was vulnerable: twice she was arrested, sentenced to years in gulags. “I owe my life and the fact that they did not touch me in those years to her heroism and endurance,” Boris admitted. Yet he was so insensitive that upon her release from prison, he asked her daughter to tell her that their relationship was over. 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 (2014).

A sympathetic portrait of a woman who saw her lover in the same “heroic light” as he saw himself.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-243934-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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