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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My choice
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...
Published on Jan. 11 2007 by G.O.

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars he's got issues
Stingo is a genteel Southerner who has come to post WWII New York City to carve a niche in the literary world. When his job at McGraw-Hill finally becomes too soul-deadening, he moves to Yetta Zimmerman's boarding house in Flatbush & begins to write a novel.
He is soon drawn into the lives of two of his fellow boarders, Sophie Z, a non-Jewish survivor of...
Published on Nov. 2 2000 by Orrin C. Judd


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My choice, Jan. 11 2007
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
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5.0 out of 5 stars John Gardner compared it to Shakespeare, May 20 2004
By 
Pancho Lefty "Butcher of meats, baker of brea... (Lincoln, NE, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Great Novel, Feb. 27 2003
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Masterfully written story of a tragic life, Oct. 25 2002
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Masterfully written story of a tragic life, Oct. 25 2002
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Voyage of Discovery, Sept. 27 2002
By 
Adam Shah (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Should be mandatory reading ... for everyone, Sept. 7 2002
By 
J. Wright "Jennifer" (Yorkshire, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary story, Sept. 6 2002
By 
Catherine S. Vodrey (East Liverpool, Ohio United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Paperback)
William Styron's "Sophie's Choice" has to stand as one of the 20th century's great American novels. Based very loosely on his own experiences in the late 1940s in New York, Styron makes himself into a writer called Stingo who moves into a boarding house in Brooklyn, where he meets a Polish emigré named Sophie and her dangerously unpredictable lover, Nathan. With great delicacy and restraint, Styron traces the evolution of the friendship and love that entangles these three and which has stunning consequences.
For those who have only seen the 1985 movie starring Meryl Streep (and for which she deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar), do yourself a favor and read the book. The movie was indeed wonderful, but the book is so much richer and more detailed and Styron's mastery of this compelling narrative is marvelous to behold. For those who have NOT seen the film, you will assume that "Sophie's Choice" has to do with Nathan and Stingo. Heartbreakingly, it both does and does not.
Styron has an incredible gift for injecting humor into dark situations. He makes Stingo an inordinately horny, frustrated, pained, wise-cracking man in his early 20s--Stingo leaps off the pages as fully formed and utterly human. Nathan too, in a much different way, is three-dimensional and fiery with life. Sophie is rendered in more delicate tones than the two men, which makes the final chapters of the book all the more powerful. We see what she has withstood and what she has given up and it is inescapably heartbreaking.
The book's ending is utterly right and the inexorable product of all that has gone before it. Styron has taken an enormously complex panoply of subjects--young manhood, post-WWII New York, mental illness, obsession, guilt, and more--and structured them into one of the most un-put-downable novels you will ever read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful piece of literature, Aug. 5 2002
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Paperback)
Outstanding piece of literature.
Somehow It makes me believe that a great portion of this accomplishment is not fiction at all, but a real life story with characters that get so much into the deepest inner self of the reader inciting him to not want to stop reading.
There are three aspects of this production extraordinarily remarkable:
Firstly, the use of great prose and vocabulary. Styron plays with words to conceive the greatest work of description I have read.
Secondly, all the details of the horrendous, not forgivable, indescribable, examples of crimes executed during the Holocaust. Specifically in Auschwitz, Birkenau concentration camps, with its crematory installations, and of the way some polish people acted, and so many of them also died, leads me to believe that 100% of the facts did occur as utterly wrong as Styron relates them. This seems no fiction but reality
And last but not least, Sophie, the beautiful, fair, polish woman that relates her story during those years. She relates her life intermittently positioning lies between true events all throughout this piece of literature.
And almost at the end relates how she is imminently condemned to take the most hideous choice of her life. The one that leads her to the most shaking end .
To closure my summary, I shouldn't fail to convey that the idiosyncrasies of the personalities are anything but conventional, and the narration, done by the young and naive writer Stingo, whose life seems to be a self-portrayal of Willian Styron himself.
No wonder it has earned a National Price Award.
Please anyone send me suggestions about other Titles as good as this
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece for the ages, May 12 2002
This review is from: Sophie's Choice (Paperback)
I would be hard pressed to come up with any other novel of any time or subject matter that I so admire ,that so fully engaged me, devastated me and still left me exuberant about the breath of Styron's talent and the power of raw human emotion. It is that rare gem that has a sweeping narrative, many crucial subject matters( the Holocaust, its aftermath, the capacity for human suffering and sacrifice and the many faces of madness and desperation) and clearly drawn main characters as well as an unforgettable" supporting cast". It brings to bear so many different worlds in just a short span of years and a poignant encounter on the beach of Coney Island between the world weary Old World Sophie and the young, self-absorbed, quintessentially American Leslie who considers her every whim and orgasm the nucleus of the universe. The language is very lush, graphic and slightly melodramatic but so beautiful one gets caught up and doesn't wish it a word shorter. Styron doesn't skim on the edges of literature or human nature; he dips in full bore and paints a world that is part Hieronymus Bosch, part Freud and part the fraility of a child's first daubs. In the end we have two defeated lovers drowned in sorrow, booze, wit, wickedness and ash, sort of like pillars of non-conformity and emoting,who yearn for their graves with a theatrical sorrow as if it were a childhood signal to go home.
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Sophie's Choice
Sophie's Choice by William Styron (Paperback - March 3 1992)
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