5.0 out of 5 stars Earth shattering
I've only read one other book that was as jaw-dropping and mind blowing as this one, and that was THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD with its themes of child abuse, southernisms, and deparvity. SOPHIE'S CHOICE is equally as shocking, and even better written. One thing noteworthy about William Styron is his skill with the English language. He weaves together sentences and paragraphs...
Published on Feb 11 2005 by J.Jones
3.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Result
Sophie's Choice tells three stories: Two--Sophie's slow steadily more apalling chronicle of her stay in a Nazi concentration camp, and her love affair with the brilliant Nathan, who is not who he seems to be--are worth telling. The third story, which unfortunately takes up most of the book, is worthless. It is the story of the narrator Stingo, who mistakenly believes he...
Published on Jan 20 2001 by Meredith Deaton
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5.0 out of 5 stars Earth shattering,
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Hardcover)I've only read one other book that was as jaw-dropping and mind blowing as this one, and that was THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD with its themes of child abuse, southernisms, and deparvity. SOPHIE'S CHOICE is equally as shocking, and even better written. One thing noteworthy about William Styron is his skill with the English language. He weaves together sentences and paragraphs that alone could convey the reader on a joyful voyage. But when you combine his beautiful prose with this sad tale, you get a near magnum opus. Having children myself, I felt the deepest sense of tragedy. It stirred those tender feelings deep inside me, feelings that I thought had been perpetually dormant. Lastly, the novel was effective at teaching a westerner like me about the long-standing antagonism between the north and south, between rebel and yankee. Highly recommended book! If you read only one William Styron book, read this one for goodness sake.
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterfully written story of a tragic life,
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Paperback)I made the decision to read Sophie's Choice after revisiting the Modern Library's 100 best books of the 20th century. I've found that sometimes "classics" can be technically perfect and admirable masterpieces yet not always engaging. This certainly does not pertain to William Styron's novel.
Few books have had me so riveted or emotionally drained after reading them. The saga of Sophie's story is a monumental piece of writing by Styron. Slowly but surely, he builds the story. He expertly weaves real life characters from Auschwitz into the narrative, chillingly recreating that awful scenario.
The main character, Stingo, begins to peel back layers of the truth with flashbacks to pre-war and then occupied Poland. Stark recollections from an emotionally drained Sophie bring descriptions of the terror of life in the concentration camps. From her bourgeous life to these camps and the (as one review aptly put it)unspeakable evil of the decision she was forced to make. It is a stunning moment and one that makes the awful conclusion understood.
One of the best novels I have read in years.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Voyage of Discovery,
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Paperback)Sophie's Choice was possibly the most devastating book I ever read. After reading it, one can't stop remembering the tragic plot of a Nazi death camp survivor, her life in Poland and the camps and her post-war relationship with an unstable man in New York. However, the book is about much more as well. In the narrator Stingo's lyrical words, it is about a "voyage of discovery in a place as strange as Brooklyn."
The book begins with Stingo being fired/quitting a Manhattan publishing job and taking a summer off to write the great American novel in a rooming house in Brooklyn. Stingo is an innocent in life and the ways of love. In the rooming house, he meets the sensual holocaust survivor, Sophie, his upstairs neighbor and her across-the-hall neighbor and lover, the brilliant and yet haunted Nathan. It is odd that Nathan is the haunted one, because Sophie is a survivor of Auschwitz, the Polish Nazi death camp while Nathan is a pharmaceutical researcher with a beautiful lover.
Stingo immediately falls in love with Sophie, but is also impressed by Nathan who takes Stingo under his wing as his protege of sorts. Stingo spends the summer writing and trying to lose his innocence in the ways of love. The plot lines dealing with the latter are graphic and may turn some people away. But people too young to be exposed to the language probably shouldn't read this book anyway because of the explicitness of the holocaust plot.
Sophie gives clues about what happened to her in Poland during the war both inside and outside the death camp, but nothing prepares you for the actual final story she tells about her experiences. Reading that story will almost make you forget the beauty and lyricism of the rest of the book, but in looking back, you will realize that the book is an amazing combination of the beauty of life and the horror of it all twisted together in one perfect whole.
I heartily recommend this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars An all-time favorite,
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Paperback)This book is in my top twenty of all time, and I am a very, very picky reader. Styron manages to create a world that, while unbearably sad, draws you in and doesn't let you go. His prose is beautiful and his characters unforgettable. This book is a classic.
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be mandatory reading ... for everyone,
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Paperback)I cannot, of course, do justice to the unspeakable horrors of the holocaust here - and that's why William Styron's 'Sophie's Choice' will stay with me forever. He drew me, an ignorant outsider who wasn't even born during the period he recreates, into a world I would have remained ignorant of, had it not been for his exceptionally powerful imangination and literary genius.
Quite simply, 'Sophie's Choice' should be read by everyone. I believe educating our generation about evil is the single best way of preventing a recurrence. Through the sheer powers of his literary mind, Styron manages to educate us all about pure evil - using his heartbreakingingly memorable mouthpiece Sophie as his vehicle.
Like many readers of this novel, the magical Meryl Streep was my motivation for turning to the fiction. Her performance in the film was the finest I will ever see. As with all good adaptations however, the film really is only a metaphor for a multi layered and complex novel, which deserves to be read by everyone. I cannot, however, imagine an actress more perfect than Meryl Streep to play Sophie. She simply embodied the character.
Yes, the novel is shocking (in parts), it is also explicit, it is incredibly moving, it can be very witty, and very dark - and it is also profund and powerful. Don't let prudery regarding the sexual content put you off this book - I would urge anyone and everyone to read it, but especially younger people. We all should be made to understand the holocaust, and through the powers of his amazing literary genius, Styron illuminates one of the twentieth century's most apalling attrocities.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My choice,
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Paperback)Although Styron is obviously influenced by such dubious writers as Thomas Wolfe and Faulkner, he nonetheless avoids the delusional granduer of the former and the pervasive annoyingness of the latter. Yet he does have a noticeably Southern style that is breezy and calming; he writes with seemingly no effort.
Being the southern gentleman that he is, I was surprised and impressed by the skill with which Styron wrote of male lust; it preoccupied the narrator to a frenzied yet comic extent and any writer who can write of male lust well will get a tip of the hat from me.
I've been reading a lot of contemporary fiction lately and Styron has a refreshing moral seriousness (and not at the expence of intelligence or art) that many writers now do not attempt. The antithesis of this type of writing would be someone like John Barth, who in his own plodding adademic way seems to think that he himself is very clever and funny. Styron seems to have the weight of the world on his poor shoulders, and in this respect, and in the clarity of his descriptions, he reminds me of Tolstoy.
However I am wary of writers who often take on humungous subjects which they have no intimate, personal experience with. And this is the main thing that bothered me about Sophie's Choice. I of course understand that writers must tackle things they have no experience of (unless they are alarmingly solipsistic and self-absorbed, like Updike) but when a writer living in the comforts of America goes on and on about Auschwitz for some reason it really bothers me. Some things should not be spoken. Also the catalog of cruelty often came off the same way that sensationalistic journalism comes off; it almost makes light of the cruelty by attempting to understand it.
Must also recommend any book by Elmore Leonard or Thomas Wolfe
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorites,
By A Customer
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Paperback)My mom recommended this book to me (having only seen the movie herself), and I thought it was wonderful. Styron tells a great story and keeps the reader interested throughout. This is also one of the most moving Holocaust books I've read (I've read tons). I would recommend this for anyone looking for an interesting and involving read.
5.0 out of 5 stars John Gardner compared it to Shakespeare,
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Paperback)One of my favorite novels, one, as the years go by, to which I inevitably return, lifting the volume (a hardcover first edition) idly from my shelf and leafing through its pages, is Sophie's Choice, by William Styron. I don't think it would be too egregious an exaggeration to say that the book changed my life - certainly it altered the way I look at writing and literature.
Sophie's Choice was my first awakening to the concept of style. The long, windswept passage, for which I may have developed an unhealthy predeliction; the vigorous attention to the right word - there is even a passage in the novel describing Stingo's, that is, the narrator's, almost masturbatory pleasure in words, pacing madly about his extravagantly pink apartment and chanting words aloud, struggling over whether to use "undoubtedly" or "indubitably"; the use of an innocent, fish-out-of-water, first-person narrator, viewing an exotic milieu completely afresh ("a place as strange as Brooklyn," says Stingo), who, by entering into another character's confidence, permits the author an omniscience he might not otherwise believably have been able to enjoy.
It is a long book, but I finished it quickly, reading it, largely on the strength of my father's not-ignorant recommendation as one of the two best books he'd read in the last ten years, whenever I could: at school, at home, walking, in the car, on the toilet, anywhere. There were parts I found a little tedious, a fact indicative, probably, of the mentality that results my generation's constant inundation with (admittedly very important) WWII information and literature and movies and etc. - not, of course, that these bits aren't equally well-done, interesting and moving - but I lived for the parts involving the relationship between Stingo, Nathan and Sophie. Nathan Shapiro is one of my favorite characters in literature, I think, and it helped to see him through Stingo's acutely perceptive, and endearingly ignorant - as ignorant as I must have felt, at that age - eyes.
The way Styron handles Nathan's lapses into madness - or, as the reader learns later, relapses into cocaine and drug-induced mania combined with a severe case, probably, of bipolar disorder, at a time when psychoanalytical jargon was very much in style (and very much disparaged by Styron through his characters, particularly Sophie) - is masterful: he can make Nathan impossibly generous and glamorous and and beautiful and charming and kind for long parts of the book, then include an unexpected outburst of cruelty, usually monstrous verbal abuse of Sophie, not to say of Stingo, whom he taunts for his Southern background and what Nathan assumes is a racist upbringing.
There is a quality of inevitability to the book that makes me think it might eventually have been written even if Styron had not beaten everyone to it.
Also recommended: Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm blown away . . .,
By A Customer
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Paperback)What a book! What a movie! How could anyone NOT like anything Styron wrote, especially this masterpiece? By far this is a landmark in American literature, a saga of enormous weight and merit, like Steinbeck's "East of Eden," McCrae's "Bark of the Dogwood," or Conroy's "Prince of Tides." Sophie's Choice packs a wallop you won't soon forget. Even if you know the story you'll still be blown away by the excellent dialogue, brilliant characters, great settings, and moving events that unfold--it all makes for great literature, great reading, and above all, an American masterpiece.
Also recommended: Prince of Tides, Bark of the Dogwood, and Empire Falls
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Great Novel,
By A Customer
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Hardcover)It's not surprising that Sophie's Choice is considered by many to be one of the great novels of the twentieth century. Styron imbues his characters and story with a life of their own. Like many great books (such as Nabokov's masterpiece, Lolita), Sophie's Choice combines elements of Comedy, Drama, Tragedy, and Horror into a compelling whole which draws the reader in. The three main characters are beautifully fleshed out, as are many of the minor characters. Much has been said about the major characters by other reviewers, I'll mention two minor ones. I found the whole Leslie Lapidus episode to be hilarious. She is a perfectly believable character, and Stingo's experiences with her added some levity to what is often a very somber story. The other minor character I found interesting (for different reasons) was Rudolf Hoss, the Commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau. His character was disturbing precisely because he was such an ordinary man. In a different time and place, he would have been a petty government bureaucrat, perhaps working for the IRS. He studies septic system diagrams for the camp, and gets migraines worrying about production delays in building the new crematorium at Birkenau. In one scene, he sits with Sophie (his secretary) in his attic office at Auschwitz, gazing out the window at his Arabian stallion in its paddock, and marveling at its beauty. From the other side of the house, Sophie hears the constant rumble of the boxcars shunting off the main line with their human cargo. The juxtaposition of the two is quite creepy, and illustrates the complete moral disconnect of the man. What he does for a living would be much easier to explain if he were some kind of sadistic psychopath, but he doesn't even seem particularly anti-semitic. It is his ordinariness which is so disturbing, and it is Styron's power as a writer which brings such characters to life.
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Sophie's Choice by William Styron (Paperback - Mar 3 1992)
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