The troubles of sensitive Doctor Zhivago
4t! DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, by Boris Pasternak (Collins, 21s.).
THE PROSPECTS A R E PLEASING, by Honor They (Methuen, 15s.).
THE PEACOCK BRIDES, by Gerald Bullet (Dent, I5s.).
DOCTOR Zhivago is a very
long epic novel covering the years of the Russian Revolution and those immediately after it. Its hero, Yury Zhivago is a sensitive poetic paler 'cordials who escapes with his wife and child from Moscow and joins other refugees on a day's-long snowbound train journey into the mountains.
Later, arrested by terrorists and separated from his family, he falls in love, almost against his will. with a young girl and lives with her. Back in Moscow he dies and friends come from far and near to his funeral.
Was it Somerset Maugham who said that it is much harder to write interestingly about a virtuous man than a vicious one because there are so many ways of being bad and only one of being good?
I THINK the trouble here is not 1. so much that Doctor Zhivago is a good man as that his creator is so taken with him that he cannot laugh at him a little.
I could have been interested in Zhivago's philosophic reflections which form a good part of the book, l could have sympathised with him in his care for his family and later for his mistress: I could even have read with patience the 40 pages of Zhivago's poems which wind up the novel, if only at his funeral one friend had turned to another and remarked : "A delightful fellow, Yury, but he was a bit of a bore at times."
A breath of objective malice would have relieved the creamy perfection of this much acclaimed book and brought it a shade closer to the work of Tolstoy, a humorist above all, with whom Pasternak has been loosely compared.
MISS HONOR TRACY'S new
novel, "The Prospects are Pleasing". is redolent of the batsman who has decided he is on a good wicket and means to stick to it even if the ground is getting a Mt worn.
The broad humour of her earlier book about the Irish "Mind You, I've Said Nothing!" now has a done-over parochial flavour as though Miss Tracy had herself become infected with the smallmindedness of the people she is satirising.
Instead of flaying with acidity she now gently teases and her Puritans are not so much spat at as smiled on tolerantly.
The story is complicated, whimsical and highly unlikely.
It tells of Tommy, a coy Irish
nationalist, who steals a picture from London and takes it hack to Ireland to deposit in the Dublin "Prado" where, needless to say, there are no pictures of nudes. Amusing enough in its quiet way, it gave me a queasy feeling as though a marble tombstone had been set in securely above an unquiet and restless turning corpse.
THE PEACOCK BRIDES" is a Jane Austen-ish reconstruction of what happened to the Peacock girls after they were married off by scheming Mamma (see "The Daughters of Mrs. Peacock"). With none of Miss Austen's bite but all her cosiness. and a bit more besides, this is splendid escapist reading.