From 1001 Books:
Pasternak's epic story of the love affair between Lara and Yuri, set against the historical and geographical vastness of revolutionary Russia, was banned in the USSR from its first publication in Italy until 1988. While Pasternak was silenced by the Soviets, he won extravagant plaudits in the West, receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958.
It is a bitter irony that this divergence between Soviet and Western responses to Doctor Zhivago has had such a profound influence on the way that the novel has been read. Pasternak has been caricatured by both the West and the East as a writer who prioritizes a romantic Western concept of individual freedom over the iron cruelties of the socialist state. In fact, rather than being in any simple sense counterrevolutionary, the book is a subtle examination of the ways in which revolutionary ideals can be compromised by the realities of political power. The relationship between Laura and Yuri, one of the most compelling in postwar fiction, grows out of a fascination with the possibilities of revolutionary justice and is closely interwoven with it. The novel is driven by the struggle to achieve a kind of perfect truth, in both personal and political terms, but its drama and pathos are found in the failure of this striving toward the ideal and in the extraordinary difficulty of remaining faithful to a personal, political, or poetic principle.
On of the most striking things about the novel is the Russian landscape itself, which emerges with a wonderful spaciousness and an extraordinary beauty. It is from its elegiac encounter with the vast landscape upon which this drama is played out that Doctor Zhivago produces an extraordinary sense of happiness and a sense of the boundlessness of historical and human possibility.