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“Styron’s most impressive performance … Belongs on that small shelf reserved for American masterpieces.” —Washington Post Book World

Winner of the 1980 National Book Award, Sophie’s Choice is William Styron’s classic novel of love, survival, and regret, set in Brooklyn in the wake of the Second World War. The novel centers on three characters: Stingo, a sexually frustrated aspiring novelist; Nathan, his charismatic but violent Jewish neighbor; and Sophie, an Auschwitz survivor who is Nathan’s lover. Their entanglement in one another’s lives will build to a stirring revelation of agonizing secrets that will change them forever.

 

Poetic in its execution, and epic in its emotional sweep, Sophie’s Choice explores the good and evil of humanity through Stingo’s burgeoning worldliness, Nathan’s volatile personality, and Sophie’s tragic past. Mixing elements from Styron’s own experience with themes of the Holocaust and the history of slavery in the American South, the novel is a profound and haunting human drama. The result is Styron at the pinnacle of his literary brilliance.

 

This ebook features a new illustrated biography of William Styron, including original letters, rare photos, and never-before-seen documents from the Styron family and the Duke University Archives.

Topics: World War II, Brooklyn, New York City, Psychological, American Author, 20th Century, 1940s, Germany, Poland, First Person Narration, Provocative, Family, Love, Race Relations, Made into a Movie, Death, Grief, Survival, Secrets, Suicide, Writers, Nazis, Ethics, Drugs, Depression, Slavery, Judaism, The Holocaust, Trauma, Schizophrenia, Concentration Camps, Guilt, Virginia, Tragic, Philosophical, and Heartbreaking

Published: Open Road Media an imprint of Open Road Integrated Media on
ISBN: 9781936317172
List price: $14.99
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One of those books everyone else loved and I loathed. I thought the book was pointless and overwrought, rather like Meryl Streep's acting in the film of the same name.more
“Someday I will write about Sophie’s life and death, and thereby help demonstrate how absolute evil is never extinguished from the world.” Scribbled on tear-stained paper in the bathroom closet of a train, Stingo encapsulates the desire and purpose of his book. The thought was accompanied by another, “Let your love flow out on all living things.” By the time Stingo reads these nascent thoughts, journaled while traveling back to New York to learn the fate of his friends Sophie and Nathan, he has the experience of years and life, but the conundrum of the two thoughts quickens his soul.Young Stingo meets Sophie and Nathan in the Brooklyn boarding house where he has come to write his first novel in the years after World War II. Sophie, a Polish survivor of Auschwitz, and her lover, Nathan, befriend the green Southerner. Over the course of a summer, whenever the love affair between his new friends grows tempestuous, Sophie slowly confides the story of her life before the concentration camp and the events that led to her survival. As Sophie reveals more of her truth, Stingo learns more of the truth of the world and the human capacity for evil.Published in 1979, William Styron’s [Sophie’s Choice] was one of the first major and successful literary works to examine the evil of Nazi Germany’s plan to exterminate a race of people. With a young Southern man as the narrator, Styron parallels the Jewish tragedy with the Southern slave culture. In doing so, he is able to examine the grand failure of humanity along with individual choice. The result is a view into the hearts and minds of characters in the midst of base immoral behavior. The tortured souls Styron portrays are leagues beyond any simple judgment – a Nazi doctor who chooses which new arrivals at Aushcwitz will be sent to their immediate death in the gas chambers and which will be sent to a longer death in forced labor; or the young Jewish man who hunts down collaborators and strangles them with piano wire. Nothing is easy.Though it might be hard for a person of faith to swallow, Styron’s message is completely rooted in humanism. During Stingo’s reflection on his journal thoughts about absolute evi.e, Styron recounts the old adage, “’At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?’ And the answer, ‘Where was man?’” While a fair point, for those who would cling to their faith in the face of such evil, I would suggest Victor Frankl’s [Man’s Search for Meaning]. Frankl, himself a survivor of Auschwitz, posits that faith is the reason many retained their hope and survived the camps, that small acts of compassion and mercy were a reflection of God, even in a place so base. Styron’s appeal, outside of superb story-telling, is his word craft. Each page is densely jammed with long, smart sentences. Styron’s mellifluous and intelligent prose is the polar opposite of Hemingway or Steinbeck – more in the style of James, only imminently more readable, or Stegner. I can’t write this way, nor do I aspire to, but I enjoy the immersion that is required and necessarily results from reading this kind of book.The only criticism is a personal one. Styron’s humanist point of view is supported in the book by evidence of all of the things that lift the human to the next level of adoration. There are scads of literary and musical references, and the value of the characters is colored by their appearance. So, it is no surprise that sex plays a large role in the story. Indeed, [Sophie’s Choice] is one of the rare recent works of literature that still stirs the soul of book-banners – the book was pulled from school shelves in Florida as recently as 10 years ago. The book shouldn’t be banned, unless you want to ban it from your house. But I found the volume of sex and coarse descriptions of sex tiring and unnecessary.Bottom Line: Beautifully crafted examination of evil in the world.4 1/2 bones!!!!!more
One of the most well-written book I've read to date, Sophie's Choice is like a Beethoven symphony - perhaps Pastorale was in Styron's mind while he wrote the novel, as that title came up more than once as I recall - and one needs to take care reading it to comprehend how truly remarkable this book is.I thought, through most of the pages, that the choice in Sophie's Choice refers to the fact that Sophie tangles with two men in her life and she has a choice to make. Of course, I was fooled through 500 plus pages of wading through heavy but incredibly beautiful and stunning prose until that powerful and shocking revelation. I did find the book thick at times, especially through the middle, but I was drawn deeply to Styron's mastery of words. I found myself wanting to learn from the work, not just its wealth of fresh words, but the shrewdness in the way Styron sees and describes things, his approach, and everything else about his process as a writer, which he so cleverly encapsulates in Stingo's character.I loved the many references to classical music and literature. It's not easy to finish, but it's an important book to read and I believe it's one of the best books I've read.more
My first umambiguous thought is that I really, really liked this book. And I almost feel guilty saying that, because the subject matter was so heavy and sad, that it feels wrong to say that I enjoyed reading it. Yes, there were some parts that were very sad, and shocking, and horrible, but Styron kept you on your toes as a reader, waiting until the very end to find out the truth about Sophie and Nathan, revealing things piece by piece, getting to the very core of his characters and their experiences. The characters were all multi-dimensional and easy to sympathize with, even Nathan, once I learned that he was psychotic and on drugs and couldn't really help his horrible behavior. They were all characters that came from broken places. The writing was beautiful and I was sucked in from page one.I haven't read any books on the Holocaust, and in fact on our family vacation to Washington, DC last month, actively campaigned to skip the Holocaust Museum, knowing how gut-wrenching it would be to see, or even learn about any of that. Now I am sorry I missed it. I had no idea that the Holocaust affected so many people of all ages, and not all of them Jewish or German.What I found most interesting at many times during the book was how Styron would take Nazi characters like Hoss, his daughter Emmi, or the doctor on the platform, reveal them one moment as unfeeling automatons who believed and did as they were commanded, but then in the next paragraph would show something of their humanity, showing that even inside terrible people is something human we can relate to. Everyone in the book had a dirty secret or guilt that they were trying to live with, whether they were Nazi or not. In the end, we're all human and imperfect.I am reading my way through the Modern Library's Top 100 Board's books, and out of Books 100-96, it was the only one so far that I sank into and never wanted to resurface. Totally recommended.more
I read this (sort of) once before, in 1985 after seeing the movie. I remember I was traveling on a plane from New Mexico (where I lived at the time) to Seattle (to visit family). I had the book on the plane & had been reading it, but having a hard time with it & when I left the plane I left the book without finishing it. Leaving a book behind is extremely unusual for me - I never go anywhere without a book & I just about always finish just about everything. I decided that I just wasn't meant to read this book if I'd left it behind. I was 22. I had equal trouble with Lie Down in Darkness - just couldn't get through it. I loved his book on his own struggles with depression - Darkness Visible - I thought it was one of the truest pieces of writing about depression that I had ever read. I figured eventually I'd get back to his fiction.I picked up Sophie's Choice again as part of a reading challenge - to read some American prize winning books & compare them. I'm glad I did. This one won the National Book Award. Styron can write & he can tell a story - painful though it may be. I loved the craft of this book, the interplay of language & the brick-by-brick-by-word-by-word deftness of his creations - Stingo, Sophie, & Nathan & long ago far away Brooklyn.As much a meditation on his younger days as a fledgling writer as it is a Holocaust story, this novel is also a Southerner's rumination on what it means to be Southern, to be liberal, to have lived through the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis & to see similar horrors perpetrated in your home (see also, slavery & lynchings). There are aspects of this book that remind me very clearly of North Toward Home - Willie Morris' wonderful memoir about being a Southerner among Northern intellectuals. Styron beautifully captures Stingo's naivete & self-conscious youth as he struggles with his first novel.Equally well-drawn are the doomed Nathan & Sophie - their mutual histories of madness & despair intertwined in fatal & beautiful ways. It is worth remembering that more than Europe's Jews were caught up in the Nazi insanity - Sophie's story is just one of many.This is a difficult, painful & ultimately worthwhile novel. Read it - you won't regret it.more
Set in Brooklyn in the late 1940’s, the story’s narrator, Stingo, an aspiring writer, becomes very good friends with Nathan and Sophie who live in the same boarding house. Both Nathan and Sophie have dark secrets that are revealed to the narrator throughout the course of the novel. The darkest secret, which is alluded to by the title, deals with Sophie’s experiences in Auschwitz as a Holocaust survivor.I was hooked at the beginning of the novel with the narrator’s sarcasm as he describes his work as a manuscript reader in the publishing house McGraw-Hill, but there were times throughout the novel when the narrator is tedious and immature. As the novel progresses, the narrator isn’t quite as annoying. This may have been the author’s intention to show his increasing maturity or maybe it is more engaging because the characters have finally been established and the narrator spends more time developing their back stories, either way I’m a bit surprised I stuck with it. Perhaps the suspense Styron creates regarding the secrets Nathan and Sophie have, were enough to keep me reading, or perhaps Styron’s gift for character development was enough, but the story really didn’t pick up until about page 250. At this point in the novel, I couldn’t wait to read more of Sophie’s back story. Overall, I’m glad I put forth the effort to read Sophie’s Choice. Styron is a gifted writer in terms of his complex plot structure, development of suspense, and complicated characters. His writing evokes emotional responses from the reader—irritation at Stingo, anger at Nathan, and empathy toward Sophie. Given the situation of the times, the characters seem believable and make the reader ponder what one might do in a similar situation.more
Story wise I thought this was great, although heartbreaking. Sophie's back story was extremely engaging, I couldn't wait to hear more but most of the present part of story was tedious. A large part of the problem was how wordy the prose was, some sections seemed to go on forever and once I got to the end of them I was left thinking, so what was the point of all that? The other thing that really got on my nerves was the inclusion of Stingo's constant preoccupation with sex. Yes, it ties in with one of the final scenes but he could have done that without using so many pages ... actually chapters. Not a book I'm going to recommend to my friends and family.more
I expected more of this book. It was beautifully written, but I felt let down at the end. The story is involving and I certainly enjoyed getting to know the characters, but it left me feeling a bit empty at the conclusion.Sophie is a very sympathetic character and I felt her pain - Styron is a master of nuance and emotion, no question. I think I was put off by the narrator, Stingo, actually. I found him tedious and more than a bit self-involved and even towards the end of the book when he is trying to save Sophie, he is really doing it for his own ends. Nathan, Sophie's lover, was larger than life and whilst he was a threatening character, I liked him more than Stingo. This could, of course, say more about my penchant for villains than it says about the characters...The accounts of life in the concentration camps was searing and did not sugar coat anything. The arbitrary nature of the decisions some of the commandants and their minions made were captured well. This was the writing I enjoyed most in the book, not the content per se, but the mastery and economy of language. Styron is rightfully in a class of his own there.My biggest gripe is that when the "choice" finally came, I was alread losing interest because of Stingo's rambling on so many tangents. That is the biggest fault of this novel for me - too much wandering. It's like Styron thought he needed to fill some more pages so the book looked longer or something.At least now I can say I have read it.more
Styron's luminous writing guides readers through very dark subject matter: alcoholism, abuse, violence, war, and the Holocaust. His world is richly enveloping, his characters larger than the paper they inhabit. I never saw the movie made from this book, and am I glad I didn't. I don't see how any film adaptation could do justice. If you love language and complexly woven novels, you must read this book. Styron is often cited as the writer of The Confessions of Nat Turner, but I think he never exceeded Sophie's Choice.more
I hate this book. I tried for over 3 months to swallow this slop and made it to page 96. Styron's writing is horrid! It takes him a paragraph to say a sentence, several pages to make a point. It's ridiculous. The vocabulary diarrhea is unappealing. I don't even know where the plot was going. So, I gave up. I'm glad I never had to read this for any classes.more
It's been a long time since I've read this novel, but I'm still can remember the powerful emotions I felt reading this story of a Polish survivor of the Holocaust and a young man from the South who befriend one another in Brooklyn in the late 1940's. It's both laugh out loud funny and incredibly depressing, tragic yet inspiring.more
What a great book! I learned a lot about the WW II era from this book. It provided me with a new perspective on the Holocaust.more
Just as the holocaust was the ultimate example of cruelty that goes beyond imagining, this novel demonstrates the strength of the human spirit to survive despite having undergone the most vicious evil the world has ever known. The cruelty that Sophie has experienced is overwhelming in its magnitude, and her choice to live means a lifetime of self recrimination. Styron's own bouts with depression are obvious "drivers" of the plot and its characters. If you finish this book with your heart intact, read it again. There is indomitable strength and hope in Sophie that will make all of us re-examine our own darkest hours.more
Incredible novel of the war, and how it forces choices that are unimaginable. Beautiful prose!more
Well plotted, great characters. I read it in Germany and wrote Styron a letter. Lo and behold, he wrote back--on a note dated Christmas Day 1980. A very kind gesture.more
When Stingo moves to New York he meets Sophie and Nathan. Throughout his time there, Sophie starts to tell him her story. This is a great and moving book about how even though the war technically ends, its effects are longstanding and inescapable.more
Styron, William. Sophie's Choice. Vintage International, New York, 1976. A sad story, beautifully told. This is a book that makes you think about the nature of evil and the effect it has on the lives of ordinary people. Some things to ponder when reading, or re-reading, this book. How unreliable a narrator is Sophie? How much can we believe about her story and character? Second, why is there so much sex in the book? It seems completely extraneous and distracting. What purpose does it serve in the story? These are the questions that occur to me; I haven't taken the time to think up satisfactory answers. When I reread the novel, that's what I'll do.more
Pray you never have to make Sophie's Choice.more
Sophie, a woman, is a concentration camp survivor. This has left her, not unsurprisingly, with a lot of problems.This carries over into her life in the United States, and the relationships she has, in particular with one man. He is also an unstable and broken individual.This is not set up to be a happy story.more
In Sophie’s Choice, William Styron does as masterful job of telling a horrific tale in bearable way. Sophie is a Polish Christian who survived 18 months in Auschwitz before the camp was liberated by the Allies. Of course her story is heartbreaking. But Styron unfolds the tale in a way that allows the reader to take it all in without being crushed by the sadness of it. First, instead of marching out the story of Sophie’s capture and imprisonment in chronological order, Styron layers it on, each layer building on the next. When the 22-year-old narrator, Stingo, a Southerner moved to Brooklyn to write novels, first meets Sophie in the summer of 1947, she gives him only the briefest version of her experience in the war. It is only as they grow closer as friends that Sophie, through a series of drunken encounters, provides more details to Stingo, each time admitting that she had lied to him before in earlier versions of her tale. By presenting the horrifying particulars bit by bit, Styron seems mindful of the warning, and even quotes Stalin as saying, that a “single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” The reader sees the tragedy of Sophie’s experience because, by offering just a little at a time, Styron allows the reader to digest her story, along with a great deal of information about the Holocaust in general. If Styron had presented her story in full from the beginning, the awfulness would be numbing. Also, Styron balances Sophie’s tragic past with her tragic present in Brooklyn. In love with Nathan, a brilliant drug addict subject to violent fits of jealousy, Sophie has no chance of building a “normal” life in America. But, given her experiences in the concentration camp, it is impossible to imagine how she could. Rather than present an unbelievable fairy tale of survival, Styron uses the tortured relationship between Nathan and Sophie as the catalyst for her revelations to Stingo, as well as the vehicle of her ultimate, and well-foreshadowed, undoing.Finally, for all its sadness, there is plenty of humor in the book. Some of Stingo’s failed romantic adventures are downright funny, as are his self-deprecating descriptions of his writing efforts. Again, without these side stories offering a respite from the main narrative, Sophie’s story would be unbearable.Sophie’s Choice is going in my Top 10 favorite novels of all times. I don’t know yet what it is bumping off the list, but it is definitely going on.more
Read all 22 reviews

Reviews

One of those books everyone else loved and I loathed. I thought the book was pointless and overwrought, rather like Meryl Streep's acting in the film of the same name.more
“Someday I will write about Sophie’s life and death, and thereby help demonstrate how absolute evil is never extinguished from the world.” Scribbled on tear-stained paper in the bathroom closet of a train, Stingo encapsulates the desire and purpose of his book. The thought was accompanied by another, “Let your love flow out on all living things.” By the time Stingo reads these nascent thoughts, journaled while traveling back to New York to learn the fate of his friends Sophie and Nathan, he has the experience of years and life, but the conundrum of the two thoughts quickens his soul.Young Stingo meets Sophie and Nathan in the Brooklyn boarding house where he has come to write his first novel in the years after World War II. Sophie, a Polish survivor of Auschwitz, and her lover, Nathan, befriend the green Southerner. Over the course of a summer, whenever the love affair between his new friends grows tempestuous, Sophie slowly confides the story of her life before the concentration camp and the events that led to her survival. As Sophie reveals more of her truth, Stingo learns more of the truth of the world and the human capacity for evil.Published in 1979, William Styron’s [Sophie’s Choice] was one of the first major and successful literary works to examine the evil of Nazi Germany’s plan to exterminate a race of people. With a young Southern man as the narrator, Styron parallels the Jewish tragedy with the Southern slave culture. In doing so, he is able to examine the grand failure of humanity along with individual choice. The result is a view into the hearts and minds of characters in the midst of base immoral behavior. The tortured souls Styron portrays are leagues beyond any simple judgment – a Nazi doctor who chooses which new arrivals at Aushcwitz will be sent to their immediate death in the gas chambers and which will be sent to a longer death in forced labor; or the young Jewish man who hunts down collaborators and strangles them with piano wire. Nothing is easy.Though it might be hard for a person of faith to swallow, Styron’s message is completely rooted in humanism. During Stingo’s reflection on his journal thoughts about absolute evi.e, Styron recounts the old adage, “’At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?’ And the answer, ‘Where was man?’” While a fair point, for those who would cling to their faith in the face of such evil, I would suggest Victor Frankl’s [Man’s Search for Meaning]. Frankl, himself a survivor of Auschwitz, posits that faith is the reason many retained their hope and survived the camps, that small acts of compassion and mercy were a reflection of God, even in a place so base. Styron’s appeal, outside of superb story-telling, is his word craft. Each page is densely jammed with long, smart sentences. Styron’s mellifluous and intelligent prose is the polar opposite of Hemingway or Steinbeck – more in the style of James, only imminently more readable, or Stegner. I can’t write this way, nor do I aspire to, but I enjoy the immersion that is required and necessarily results from reading this kind of book.The only criticism is a personal one. Styron’s humanist point of view is supported in the book by evidence of all of the things that lift the human to the next level of adoration. There are scads of literary and musical references, and the value of the characters is colored by their appearance. So, it is no surprise that sex plays a large role in the story. Indeed, [Sophie’s Choice] is one of the rare recent works of literature that still stirs the soul of book-banners – the book was pulled from school shelves in Florida as recently as 10 years ago. The book shouldn’t be banned, unless you want to ban it from your house. But I found the volume of sex and coarse descriptions of sex tiring and unnecessary.Bottom Line: Beautifully crafted examination of evil in the world.4 1/2 bones!!!!!more
One of the most well-written book I've read to date, Sophie's Choice is like a Beethoven symphony - perhaps Pastorale was in Styron's mind while he wrote the novel, as that title came up more than once as I recall - and one needs to take care reading it to comprehend how truly remarkable this book is.I thought, through most of the pages, that the choice in Sophie's Choice refers to the fact that Sophie tangles with two men in her life and she has a choice to make. Of course, I was fooled through 500 plus pages of wading through heavy but incredibly beautiful and stunning prose until that powerful and shocking revelation. I did find the book thick at times, especially through the middle, but I was drawn deeply to Styron's mastery of words. I found myself wanting to learn from the work, not just its wealth of fresh words, but the shrewdness in the way Styron sees and describes things, his approach, and everything else about his process as a writer, which he so cleverly encapsulates in Stingo's character.I loved the many references to classical music and literature. It's not easy to finish, but it's an important book to read and I believe it's one of the best books I've read.more
My first umambiguous thought is that I really, really liked this book. And I almost feel guilty saying that, because the subject matter was so heavy and sad, that it feels wrong to say that I enjoyed reading it. Yes, there were some parts that were very sad, and shocking, and horrible, but Styron kept you on your toes as a reader, waiting until the very end to find out the truth about Sophie and Nathan, revealing things piece by piece, getting to the very core of his characters and their experiences. The characters were all multi-dimensional and easy to sympathize with, even Nathan, once I learned that he was psychotic and on drugs and couldn't really help his horrible behavior. They were all characters that came from broken places. The writing was beautiful and I was sucked in from page one.I haven't read any books on the Holocaust, and in fact on our family vacation to Washington, DC last month, actively campaigned to skip the Holocaust Museum, knowing how gut-wrenching it would be to see, or even learn about any of that. Now I am sorry I missed it. I had no idea that the Holocaust affected so many people of all ages, and not all of them Jewish or German.What I found most interesting at many times during the book was how Styron would take Nazi characters like Hoss, his daughter Emmi, or the doctor on the platform, reveal them one moment as unfeeling automatons who believed and did as they were commanded, but then in the next paragraph would show something of their humanity, showing that even inside terrible people is something human we can relate to. Everyone in the book had a dirty secret or guilt that they were trying to live with, whether they were Nazi or not. In the end, we're all human and imperfect.I am reading my way through the Modern Library's Top 100 Board's books, and out of Books 100-96, it was the only one so far that I sank into and never wanted to resurface. Totally recommended.more
I read this (sort of) once before, in 1985 after seeing the movie. I remember I was traveling on a plane from New Mexico (where I lived at the time) to Seattle (to visit family). I had the book on the plane & had been reading it, but having a hard time with it & when I left the plane I left the book without finishing it. Leaving a book behind is extremely unusual for me - I never go anywhere without a book & I just about always finish just about everything. I decided that I just wasn't meant to read this book if I'd left it behind. I was 22. I had equal trouble with Lie Down in Darkness - just couldn't get through it. I loved his book on his own struggles with depression - Darkness Visible - I thought it was one of the truest pieces of writing about depression that I had ever read. I figured eventually I'd get back to his fiction.I picked up Sophie's Choice again as part of a reading challenge - to read some American prize winning books & compare them. I'm glad I did. This one won the National Book Award. Styron can write & he can tell a story - painful though it may be. I loved the craft of this book, the interplay of language & the brick-by-brick-by-word-by-word deftness of his creations - Stingo, Sophie, & Nathan & long ago far away Brooklyn.As much a meditation on his younger days as a fledgling writer as it is a Holocaust story, this novel is also a Southerner's rumination on what it means to be Southern, to be liberal, to have lived through the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis & to see similar horrors perpetrated in your home (see also, slavery & lynchings). There are aspects of this book that remind me very clearly of North Toward Home - Willie Morris' wonderful memoir about being a Southerner among Northern intellectuals. Styron beautifully captures Stingo's naivete & self-conscious youth as he struggles with his first novel.Equally well-drawn are the doomed Nathan & Sophie - their mutual histories of madness & despair intertwined in fatal & beautiful ways. It is worth remembering that more than Europe's Jews were caught up in the Nazi insanity - Sophie's story is just one of many.This is a difficult, painful & ultimately worthwhile novel. Read it - you won't regret it.more
Set in Brooklyn in the late 1940’s, the story’s narrator, Stingo, an aspiring writer, becomes very good friends with Nathan and Sophie who live in the same boarding house. Both Nathan and Sophie have dark secrets that are revealed to the narrator throughout the course of the novel. The darkest secret, which is alluded to by the title, deals with Sophie’s experiences in Auschwitz as a Holocaust survivor.I was hooked at the beginning of the novel with the narrator’s sarcasm as he describes his work as a manuscript reader in the publishing house McGraw-Hill, but there were times throughout the novel when the narrator is tedious and immature. As the novel progresses, the narrator isn’t quite as annoying. This may have been the author’s intention to show his increasing maturity or maybe it is more engaging because the characters have finally been established and the narrator spends more time developing their back stories, either way I’m a bit surprised I stuck with it. Perhaps the suspense Styron creates regarding the secrets Nathan and Sophie have, were enough to keep me reading, or perhaps Styron’s gift for character development was enough, but the story really didn’t pick up until about page 250. At this point in the novel, I couldn’t wait to read more of Sophie’s back story. Overall, I’m glad I put forth the effort to read Sophie’s Choice. Styron is a gifted writer in terms of his complex plot structure, development of suspense, and complicated characters. His writing evokes emotional responses from the reader—irritation at Stingo, anger at Nathan, and empathy toward Sophie. Given the situation of the times, the characters seem believable and make the reader ponder what one might do in a similar situation.more
Story wise I thought this was great, although heartbreaking. Sophie's back story was extremely engaging, I couldn't wait to hear more but most of the present part of story was tedious. A large part of the problem was how wordy the prose was, some sections seemed to go on forever and once I got to the end of them I was left thinking, so what was the point of all that? The other thing that really got on my nerves was the inclusion of Stingo's constant preoccupation with sex. Yes, it ties in with one of the final scenes but he could have done that without using so many pages ... actually chapters. Not a book I'm going to recommend to my friends and family.more
I expected more of this book. It was beautifully written, but I felt let down at the end. The story is involving and I certainly enjoyed getting to know the characters, but it left me feeling a bit empty at the conclusion.Sophie is a very sympathetic character and I felt her pain - Styron is a master of nuance and emotion, no question. I think I was put off by the narrator, Stingo, actually. I found him tedious and more than a bit self-involved and even towards the end of the book when he is trying to save Sophie, he is really doing it for his own ends. Nathan, Sophie's lover, was larger than life and whilst he was a threatening character, I liked him more than Stingo. This could, of course, say more about my penchant for villains than it says about the characters...The accounts of life in the concentration camps was searing and did not sugar coat anything. The arbitrary nature of the decisions some of the commandants and their minions made were captured well. This was the writing I enjoyed most in the book, not the content per se, but the mastery and economy of language. Styron is rightfully in a class of his own there.My biggest gripe is that when the "choice" finally came, I was alread losing interest because of Stingo's rambling on so many tangents. That is the biggest fault of this novel for me - too much wandering. It's like Styron thought he needed to fill some more pages so the book looked longer or something.At least now I can say I have read it.more
Styron's luminous writing guides readers through very dark subject matter: alcoholism, abuse, violence, war, and the Holocaust. His world is richly enveloping, his characters larger than the paper they inhabit. I never saw the movie made from this book, and am I glad I didn't. I don't see how any film adaptation could do justice. If you love language and complexly woven novels, you must read this book. Styron is often cited as the writer of The Confessions of Nat Turner, but I think he never exceeded Sophie's Choice.more
I hate this book. I tried for over 3 months to swallow this slop and made it to page 96. Styron's writing is horrid! It takes him a paragraph to say a sentence, several pages to make a point. It's ridiculous. The vocabulary diarrhea is unappealing. I don't even know where the plot was going. So, I gave up. I'm glad I never had to read this for any classes.more
It's been a long time since I've read this novel, but I'm still can remember the powerful emotions I felt reading this story of a Polish survivor of the Holocaust and a young man from the South who befriend one another in Brooklyn in the late 1940's. It's both laugh out loud funny and incredibly depressing, tragic yet inspiring.more
What a great book! I learned a lot about the WW II era from this book. It provided me with a new perspective on the Holocaust.more
Just as the holocaust was the ultimate example of cruelty that goes beyond imagining, this novel demonstrates the strength of the human spirit to survive despite having undergone the most vicious evil the world has ever known. The cruelty that Sophie has experienced is overwhelming in its magnitude, and her choice to live means a lifetime of self recrimination. Styron's own bouts with depression are obvious "drivers" of the plot and its characters. If you finish this book with your heart intact, read it again. There is indomitable strength and hope in Sophie that will make all of us re-examine our own darkest hours.more
Incredible novel of the war, and how it forces choices that are unimaginable. Beautiful prose!more
Well plotted, great characters. I read it in Germany and wrote Styron a letter. Lo and behold, he wrote back--on a note dated Christmas Day 1980. A very kind gesture.more
When Stingo moves to New York he meets Sophie and Nathan. Throughout his time there, Sophie starts to tell him her story. This is a great and moving book about how even though the war technically ends, its effects are longstanding and inescapable.more
Styron, William. Sophie's Choice. Vintage International, New York, 1976. A sad story, beautifully told. This is a book that makes you think about the nature of evil and the effect it has on the lives of ordinary people. Some things to ponder when reading, or re-reading, this book. How unreliable a narrator is Sophie? How much can we believe about her story and character? Second, why is there so much sex in the book? It seems completely extraneous and distracting. What purpose does it serve in the story? These are the questions that occur to me; I haven't taken the time to think up satisfactory answers. When I reread the novel, that's what I'll do.more
Pray you never have to make Sophie's Choice.more
Sophie, a woman, is a concentration camp survivor. This has left her, not unsurprisingly, with a lot of problems.This carries over into her life in the United States, and the relationships she has, in particular with one man. He is also an unstable and broken individual.This is not set up to be a happy story.more
In Sophie’s Choice, William Styron does as masterful job of telling a horrific tale in bearable way. Sophie is a Polish Christian who survived 18 months in Auschwitz before the camp was liberated by the Allies. Of course her story is heartbreaking. But Styron unfolds the tale in a way that allows the reader to take it all in without being crushed by the sadness of it. First, instead of marching out the story of Sophie’s capture and imprisonment in chronological order, Styron layers it on, each layer building on the next. When the 22-year-old narrator, Stingo, a Southerner moved to Brooklyn to write novels, first meets Sophie in the summer of 1947, she gives him only the briefest version of her experience in the war. It is only as they grow closer as friends that Sophie, through a series of drunken encounters, provides more details to Stingo, each time admitting that she had lied to him before in earlier versions of her tale. By presenting the horrifying particulars bit by bit, Styron seems mindful of the warning, and even quotes Stalin as saying, that a “single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” The reader sees the tragedy of Sophie’s experience because, by offering just a little at a time, Styron allows the reader to digest her story, along with a great deal of information about the Holocaust in general. If Styron had presented her story in full from the beginning, the awfulness would be numbing. Also, Styron balances Sophie’s tragic past with her tragic present in Brooklyn. In love with Nathan, a brilliant drug addict subject to violent fits of jealousy, Sophie has no chance of building a “normal” life in America. But, given her experiences in the concentration camp, it is impossible to imagine how she could. Rather than present an unbelievable fairy tale of survival, Styron uses the tortured relationship between Nathan and Sophie as the catalyst for her revelations to Stingo, as well as the vehicle of her ultimate, and well-foreshadowed, undoing.Finally, for all its sadness, there is plenty of humor in the book. Some of Stingo’s failed romantic adventures are downright funny, as are his self-deprecating descriptions of his writing efforts. Again, without these side stories offering a respite from the main narrative, Sophie’s story would be unbearable.Sophie’s Choice is going in my Top 10 favorite novels of all times. I don’t know yet what it is bumping off the list, but it is definitely going on.more
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