Michael Wood writes:
Doctor Zhivago is full of coincidences, as Nabokov says in another of his swipes (‘stock situations, voluptuous lawyers, unbelievable girls, romantic robbers and trite coincidences’), but they are not trite, they are part of the novel’s deepest plot, the novelist’s attempt to get the chance to do his work, to smuggle a sense of shape into a recalcitrant history. Of course the young Yuri, riding through Moscow in a sleigh, sees ‘the same things that had caught Lara’s eye not long before’, even though he hasn’t met her yet. That’s how twinned destinies work. And when it turns out that the man (a voluptuous lawyer) who seduced Lara when she was a girl is also the man who nudged Yuri’s profligate father into committing suicide by jumping from a train – the same train we see from a distance suddenly stopping in the first pages of the book – we’re not surprised, we’re satisfied.