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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 May 4, 2010
ISBN: 9781936317172
List price: $14.99
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Pray you never have to make Sophie's Choice.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
“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!!!!!read more
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Pray you never have to make Sophie's Choice.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
“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!!!!!
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
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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.
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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.
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