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.