Not only is this a brilliant documentation of history, changes within society, the Russian Revolution and war, it is also a wondrous work of poetry; gracefully and delicately constructed, leaving you feeling lightheaded and dizzy with its tingling sensations of sheer genius.
Boris Pasternak manages this balance between realistic storytelling and imagination to perfection. The main character Yuri (otherwise known as Doctor Zhivago) is an evident proof of that. He embraces both the documental scientific knowledge and the more metaphysical philosophies. He is a doctor and a practical man - yet he writes poetry. Poetry that is in fact included in the story (however the intended meaning of those poems is probably lost in translation).
Ultimately this novel has two main purposes. It can surely be considered as an important historical observation, used for teaching and enlightening people of the ways of 1900-1930's Russia - but it most definitely also holds a psychological aspect of loneliness, melancholia, love, blame and destiny. You can choose to focus on the main character and his struggle - but the novel also offers you an opportunity to look at the historical context and the destiny of an entire nation.