Fiction. Literature. HTML:This award-winning novel of love, survival, and agonizing regret in postâ??WWII Brooklyn "belongs on that small shelf reserved for American masterpieces" (The Washington Post Book World). Winner of the National Book Award and a modern classic, Sophie's Choice 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, representing Styron at the pinnacle of his literary brilliance. This ebook features an illustrated biography of William Styron, including original letters, rare photos, and never-before-seen documents from the Styron family and the Duke University Archives.
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.
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.
First, instead of marching out the story of Sophieâ€™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 â€śsingle death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.â€ť The reader sees the tragedy of Sophieâ€™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 Sophieâ€™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 â€śnormalâ€ť 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 Stingoâ€™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, Sophieâ€™s story would be unbearable.
Sophieâ€™s Choice is going in my Top 10 favorite novels of all times. I donâ€™t know yet what it is bumping off the list, but it is definitely going on.
Sophie is a very sympathetic character and I felt her pain - Styron is a
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.
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.
The narration was clumsy and over-explanatory. Do you really have to recap an event that you just narrated 50 pages anterior? Did Styron think the audience too dumb to remember the episode well enough to comprehend an explicit allusion or (god forbid) an oblique reference? Do you really have to hammer home over and over again how frustrated he is to not be having sex, just to build up one of the last scenes? I'll grant that it might have been intentional to create a narrator so unsympathetic and annoying, but the result was irritation and a hesitance to continue reading. Another problem with the narration was Sophie's narrative about Auschwitz. There were several moments when you saw the quotes around the paragraphs, indicating she was talking, but it was grammatically perfect. It was, as I already said, clumsy, and I can only suppose it was poor planning. Styron clearly wanted to eat his cake and have it too.
There were some pretty passages mixed in. Most of the good stuff revolved around the Auschwitz narrative and the observations it afforded Styron to make about human nature and the nature of hellish war. There were some good analogies, particularly the rats-in-barrel (Jews) vs. rats-in-burning-building (all other victims). Of course, this reaffirms my opinion that this could have been a much better book by cutting out 2-300 pages. I'm just going to assume that most of the "staggering," and "masterful" touches (two adjectives employed in the praise section of the edition I read) to this work were over my head.
I just have.
In spite of the obvious appeal of this novel â€” not to mention the brilliant choice of Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Peter
To quote from my previous review: â€śthere are certainly moments and entire passages that let a reader understand why Styron has the reputation he has. But these are too few and far between.â€ť
Styron is a stylist â€” and a consummate one. Heâ€™s also a consummate story-teller. But where is his editor? There are moments when Sophie sounds authentically like the non-native English speaker she is. But then, there are others when Styron would seem to have forgotten whose mouth heâ€™s in.
But letâ€™s give the man his due. The scene from which this novel takes its title is even more gut-wrenching than Meryl Streepâ€™s portrayal of it on the silver screen. And the prose leading up to it had already put me in a distinctly apocalyptic mood â€” this, although I was reading it on a quiet grassy knoll on the second day of a resplendent summer.
William Styron can write; make no mistake about it. He just needs to rein in a bit when heâ€™s on a roll. He (or a good editor) couldâ€™ve done away with a hundred pages of this novel â€” and it wouldâ€™ve been perfect.
Why, then, only four stars when I might give five to a far less well-known, far less practiced writer? Because I hold writers like William Styron to a higher standard.
I was hooked at the beginning of the novel with the narratorâ€™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 isnâ€™t quite as annoying. This may have been the authorâ€™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 Iâ€™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 Styronâ€™s gift for character development was enough, but the story really didnâ€™t pick up until about page 250. At this point in the novel, I couldnâ€™t wait to read more of Sophieâ€™s back story.
Overall, Iâ€™m glad I put forth the effort to read Sophieâ€™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 readerâ€”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.
the story is interesting enough, yet i found myself despising the main character. i think that if the story would have been told through sophie's eyes instead of stingo's (an immature,
the characters are deep, their inner struggles so real. at the same time i had no connection or care for them (maybe because i was seeing them through Stingo's eyes?). so when the end did come i found myself not really caring about the tragedy or those so drastically affected by it.
perhaps the only redeeming quality in the six-hundred pages is found in the rich themes of love, death, self-hatred, depression, and suffering. i especially love the concept that was repeated concerning time. as you hear some story about suffering, you think back to what you were doing on that specific day. the main character could barely fathom the depth of this idea, that while sophie was starving to death he was guzzling down beers.
The message of the book is not particularly subtle, nor should it be given the subject matter. It almost requires you to realize within the first few pages what he is getting at in order to understand and appreciate the rest of the story. So donâ€™t go looking for a lot of hidden meaning. If you received an adequate history education in high school, and paid attention during sections on the Holocaust and the Civil War, you wonâ€™t have any trouble. However, if you are one of those folks who were taught the Civil War was not about slavery, but about stateâ€™s rights or northern aggression, or some other lost cause nonsense, then you may find yourself wondering what the heck Styron is getting at.
The only complaint I have, and I hesitate to mention it, is the way sex was portrayed in the book. First, there is a lot of it. I have no trouble with that. But the way Styron writes these scenes, I just could not help but think I was reading the script from a pornographic movie with pretensions of seriousness. Some of it was laugh out loud weird.
Also, after reading the book I decided to watch the movie. Bad, bad, badâ€¦but a topic for another day!