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Sophie's Choice (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 5 Feb 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (5 Feb. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099470446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099470441
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A masterpiece, [which leaves] more conventional treatments of the Holocaust, such as Schindler's List, looking obtuse and sentimental" (The Times)

"William Styron's Sophie's Choice is a landmark of mid-20th-century American fiction - an impressively fat novel that most literate Americans claim to have read even if they haven't" (Sunday Telegraph)

"A compassionate, brilliantly written novel" (The Times)

"A weighty, passionate novel . . . courageous [and] masterly" (NY Times)

"Styron is a writer's writer, capable of setting a pastoral idyll in Brooklyn, and the traumas narrated occur alongside a classic American coming-of-age story" (Xan Brooks Guardian, 1000 novels everyone must read)

Book Description

The movie was Oscar-nominated and the book was banned in libraries across the States. This heartbreaking, compassionate and controversial novel interweaves themes of survivor guilt, madness and betrayal.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Mar. 2001
Format: Paperback
I throughly enjoyed the film and decided to read the book and it is even better, it is an extremely powerful story centering on three characters, Stingo the narrator, Sophie a Polish emigrant and Nathan, her Jewish lover. The story is set in Brooklyn, New York in 1947 and concerns the relationship between the three who are neighbours in the same boarding house. Initially all is well and they become the best of friends but all is not what it appears. It transpires that Sophie is a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp although she is Polish. She is haunted by her past and by all the friends and family who did not survive the war. As the story continues it takes us back to pre-war Europe in flashback. It also explores her relationship with Nathan, a brilliant but unstable character with his own demons. Without giving too much away the story has a heartbreaking twist to it and a box of tissues might come in handy. For me, what gave it immediacy and such a haunting quality is that Sophie is apparently based on someone who the author actually knew and the reader is left asking how much of it is fiction?
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Annabel Lee on 25 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is an amazing book, I don't know why I didn't discover it earlier. Despite its size it makes for an enjoyable read and it doesn't take a very long time to find yourself reaching the end!

It is told through the eyes of a young man nicknamed Stingo, a Southerner, living in 1950's New York; his ambition is to be a writer. He moves into a boarding house (all the rooms are a bright pink colour!) and it is there he meets Sophie and Nathan and gets to observe their destructive relationship firsthand as they become friends. Stingo recounts not only his own life and everyday occurences (I found it quite interesting and surprisingly humorous to read his descriptions of Leslie Lapidus, a girl he meets at Coney Island, and the way he was impressed by the ease with which she uses swear words-he compares her to all the Southern girls he's met who play hard-to-get and have various inhibitions).
Of course I do not want to reveal any major plot points, I'm sure it's pretty obvious just from the title that a choice Sophie had to make in the past is eventually revealed.

Personally I think that the following are the main attributes this novel has and they constitute the main reasons for reading it:
-the story and the way it unfolds is excellent, it never gets boring; it recounts Sophie's past (sometimes she seemingly telling the story), it includes a few short diary entries and some letters from Stingo's father (these are just a tiny proportion of the book, the main style of the book is from Stingo's point of view) which all add to the story's interest and flowing narrative.
-Nathan and Sophie's relationship may not be something all of us can directly relate to but it is an accurate and somewhat scary portrayal of the dynamics in a relationship.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Max Planck on 26 April 2011
Format: Paperback
Many people love this book. Anthony Burgess included it in his "Ninety-Nine Novels" (Ninety-nine Novels: The Best in English Since 1939 - A Personal Choice) and it features in the Modern Library list of the 100 best novels (albeit at No.96). And you can see among the reviews on this page that many of your fellow Amazon shoppers hold it in high esteem.

But a few don't. And I'm one of them. I consider myself to be well-read in American literature, and have also read a number of other Holocaust-themed novels. For me, "Sophie's Choice" ranks as one of the poorest books in either category that I have ever read. A banal plot with dystfunctional, borderline-loathsome characters, all told in what must be one of the most grating, convoluted and....well....just plain bad writing styles that I have ever come across. Styron's prose is so awful that it took a Herculean effort for me to get through passages like this:

"I recalled once more (how many times had I summoned their sound?) the pellucid indecencies Leslie had uttered, and as I did so - the view-finder of my mind reshaping each crevice of her moist and succulent lips, the orthodontically fashioned perfection of the sparkling incisors, even a cunning fleck of foam at the edge of an orifice - it seemed the dizzyiest pipe dream that this very evening, sometime before the sun should fulfill its oriental circuit and rise again on Sheepshead bay that mouth would be - no I could not let myself think about that slippery-sweet mouth and its impending employments.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mike N on 18 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
Don't be put off reading this just because you already know what Sophie's choice was. Of course it is a "twist" in the traditional sense of a plot, but knowing in advance does little to detract from the story.

We follow Stingo, an aspiring writer from the south, who is living in the big city on a small budget. He meets Sophie and her beau, and falls in love with the (older) Polish girl. As the book unfolds we get to know more of Sophie's backstory, which goes some way to explaining why she puts up with the way she is treated in her existing relationship, and current choices are woven back in time with actions and choices taken in the concentration camp.

It is a huge achievement!

As some have pointed out (with 1 star reviews!) the writing can be a little overdone at times, but it's not something I really noticed, and the story and the characters were more than enough to draw me in and keep me there.

Now ... I wonder if I should watch the film. Never seen it!
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