Sophie's Choice (Vintage War) Exp Paperback – 3 Apr 2014
|New from||Used from|
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
"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 weighty, passionate novel . . . courageous [and] masterly" (New York 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" (Guardian, 1000 novels everyone must read)
"Read it if you can bear." (Independent)
‘Someday I will understand Auschwitz. This was a brave statement but innocently absurd. No one will ever understand Auschwitz’
To mark the centenary of the First World War, Vintage is launching a unique collection of war fiction. April 2014 will see the publication of twelve works by the greatest writers of the last century, each tackling this most powerful and universal of subjects.
Top customer reviews
The opening reveals little of what is ahead. You meet a young man known as Stingo, reading manuscripts for a publishing company in New York just after the Second World War. He finds this work less than fulfilling and sets out to be a writer himself. This part of the book is funny and charming. Then Stingo meets Sophie, a survivor of Auschwitz. After that, it felt wrong not to go on, but I read as fast as possible so I could escape these awful pages.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I have read Sophie’s Choice. In the end, I think this book, full of the horrors of human cruelty, really confirms the interconnectedness of things. In the case of Sophie herself, it is hard to work out if she is a collaborator, an innocent victim, a resistance fighter or someone whose only motivation is the desire for survival of herself and those close to her. Really, she is all of those things. Sophie is asked to choose between acting only for herself, and in the wider interests of the resistance. By a twist of fate, actions in her own interest come to coincide with those of the resistance. It turns out there are no alternatives, no sides to take, no choice to make.
Many politicians today still love to create borders. They create some out-group to take the blame for problems, a group they can exclude or expel. Sophie’s Choice reminds us that this kind of hatefulness takes on a horrible momentum.
“Do you think when they finish with the Jews they’re going to dust off their hands and stop murdering and make their peace with the world? You underestimate their evil if you have such a delusion.”
Setting out to persecute one group of people, leads to an arbitrary hatred that can swallow up anyone, haters as well as those hated. Why can’t we learn that lesson? Sophie’s Choice is a salutary reminder.
Sophie may be the title character, but somehow she remains a secondary one. I dislike this, as it feels dishonest, and also seems to marginalise the seriousness of her past. There is a really misogynistic tone to this book which irritated me hugely. This is unlike me as I'm not someone who gets greatly worked up about depiction of women in books. Most of what we know about Sophie relates to her looks. In fact, you strongly get the impression that if Sophie hadn't been beautiful, it's unlikely anyone would have cared less about her past or her 'choice'. The other women who live in the boarding house that Sophie, Stingo and Nathan are all tenants of, are described as 'dogs' or 'pigs'. No one so much as asks if they have a tragic past - obviously such histories are only worth finding out about if narrated by a pretty girl. Despite being intelligent - multi-lingual and musically gifted for starters - Sophie is generally depicted as weak and sweet, a permanent damsel in distress. Much is made of her minor inaccuracies in English, which of course the narrator finds greatly endearing (patronising so and so!), No one seems to respect Sophie for her strength in surviving the horrors she has, or for having made a new life in a foreign country where she knew no one, but managed to learn the language and hold down a job.
Nathan is the more interesting character, and to centre the book more explicitly on him would have been better. Stingo is likeable enough, although I saw him as something of a lazy authorial insert. I wasn't really that bothered about any of the characters, even Sophie, and I literally could not have cared less about Stingo's failed romances. At one point the narrative actually touches on writers using the holocaust as a way to sell books. I hate to say it, but it feels to me like that's what's happened here. Styron wanted to tell a story about Stingo and Nathan. Sophie could have been any old pretty, delicate woman caught in the middle. Why drag such a sensitive subject into it?
Overall, it is incredibly dull and overwritten and I skim read whole chapters (anything where Stingo took his clothes off for a start). There were many irritations, as detailed above, which frustrated me. Occasionally there are gleams of a good and interesting story, but they're crushed out by the sheer weight of irrelevant prose. The actual 'choice' scene is given about three pages towards the very end. I didn't even find it moving as you don't really get to read about Sophie's thought processes (it's all channelled via a third party) and you don't really know the characters of Sophie's children, so it lacks the incredible emotional punch that such a scene could and should have done.
I'm glad I've finished this book and won't be hurrying out to get another. Be warned, if you come to this novel expecting a moving war story, you'll be disappointed.
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!
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
Look for similar items by category