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Sophie's Choice

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  52,251 ratings  ·  1,467 reviews
Three stories are told: a young Southerner wants to become a writer; a turbulent love-hate affair between a brilliant Jew and a beautiful Polish woman; and of an awful wound in that woman's past--one that impels both Sophie and Nathan toward destruction.
Paperback, Vintage International Edition, 562 pages
Published March 3rd 1992 by Vintage Books (first published 1976)
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sckenda
These characters are flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. Styron’s words are written into my genetic code. His characters don’t just haunt me--they are me.

Call me Sophie. Sophie was a Polish Catholic wraith who washed ashore in Brooklyn as a postwar refugee. A tattooed number on her forearm testifies to her internment at Auschwitz; thick scars on her wrists proclaim her attempt at self-destruction. Guilt pursued Sophie like a demon:
Often I cry alone when I listen to music, which reminds me
...more
Dolors
Jun 24, 2014 Dolors rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those not afraid of evil
Recommended to Dolors by: sckenda
“Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.” Emily Dickinson

Styron brings the Brooklyn of the forties and its flourishing intellectualism back to life through the eyes of three characters, whose irreconcilable pasts find a common ground in the sweeping vision of optimistic America, distancing the narrative from stereotyped clichés and with the inimitable diction of a true Southern voice.
A lush, descriptive prose soaked in an a...more
Aaron Mccloud
May 26, 2007 Aaron Mccloud rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone smart
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...more
Mike
Sophie's Choice: William Styron's Novel of Choices, Hobson's and Otherwise

This novel was chosen by members of On the Southern Literary Trail as a group read for September, 2014.

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Sophie's Choice, First Ed., First Prtg., William Styron, Random House, New York, New York, 1979

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The gate to Auschwitz, where those in charge choose who lives and who dies

Life is but a series of choices, is it not? Some easy, quickly made, given no further thought. Others are more difficult. We worry about the outcome,...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 18, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books; National Book Award
It was good that I missed the Oscar-nominated movie adaptation of this book when it was shown in 1985. My curiosity to find out what exactly was the meaning of the "choice" in the title, kept me leafing through the pages until it was revealed towards the end. There are actually two. Sophie, the beautiful Polish (non-Nazi) Holocaust survivor has to choose who to end up with between her two lovers, the Jewish Nathan Landau who is a crazy junkie but who brought her to America and the struggling Ame...more
Monty Merrick
Apr 01, 2008 Monty Merrick rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Readers who like being emotionally manipulated by horny narrators
It seems a lot of people have a problem with the prose being pretentious and overwritten. However, I had a big problem with the unfolding of the plot. This was a strange book for me because I really wanted to like it and even thought I liked it after I was finished. It took me about a week to think back and realize, Wait! That was a crappy book.

Problem number 1: I personally found Sophie to be an unbeleivable character. I just thought she was not-fascinating and contradictory, like, not in the...more
Cheryl
Confessional monologues to serve as counter narratives.
Flashbacks from an American boarding house to Auschwitz.
An intriguing love triangle.
Secrets and lies unfolding with each new chapter.
Sex, written with meticulousness.

This is how Styron gets you to stick with this intricately woven and stylistically stupendous novel.
For synchronous with the stunning effect she made on my eyes as she stood there arrested in the doorway--blinking at the gloom, her flaxen hair drenched in the evening gold-
...more
Chanda
I was surprised by this book; it wasn't what I expected. It was less engaging than I anticipated it being and parts of it were rather difficult for me to get through. The 'growing pains' of Stingo were not where my interest was centered. I think he's kind of a pansy to be honest. I'm also surprised at the sexual content. I'm aware that he's a sexually frustrated young man, but god- get on with it! I'm not offended by sexual content, I just don't need to be drowning in it. I have never heard the...more
blake
I stuck with it out of curiosity, not so much to find out what her choice was, but because this is supposedly an important American novel and I kept waiting for the "Aha!" moment when it would finally get good. Unfortunately it was just way too long. I now know what it's like to suffer from too much foreshadowing. It was so tiresome reading hint after ominous hint about what was going to happen.

The narration was clumsy and over-explanatory. Do you really have to recap an event that you just nar...more
Moses Kilolo
First, I liked everything about this book:
Stingo,
Nathan,
& Sophie.

And the way everything that went down in Auschwitz is narrated here is very heartbreaking, just as is the relationship between Nathan and Sophie. But the question that resounds, as Styron asks, is: At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God.

Well, we may blame God as much as we wish, or even do as Sophie did and say 'FUCK God and all his Hande Werk.' Or resolve to the thought that stuff like Auschwitz makes us lose faith in humani...more
Matt
The term “Sophie’s Choice,” which derives from a critical plot point in William Styron’s eponymous novel, has become a prominent American idiom. You’ve probably heard it in your daily life. It was the subject of a relatively well-received movie starring Meryl Streep. Certainly, you’ve come across it if you’re a fan of The Simpsons. (A Sophie’s Choice joke is the kicker to Season 10, Episode 5’s “When You Dish Upon a Star”).

Despite its prevalence in the cultural landscape, I’m not going to assum...more
Amber
Sep 10, 2008 Amber rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Amber by: BookBags
By the time I learned the "true" story and the big reveal I just didn't care anymore. It is horrible that this is based on millions of true stories but this particular story could have been more succinct.
Nathan Oates
Aug 31, 2008 Nathan Oates rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone on earth
Recommended to Nathan by: Amy Wilkinson
I read this book at Amy's prompting and found it one of the most complex reading experiences of my life. At times, I hated this book: the elaborate, excessive prose style, the occasional and hideous homophobia (not excusable by it's placement in the consciousness of the character, in my opinion), the adolescent attitude toward women and sex (again, not excusable) and yet, despite all these moments of frustration, this is an immense and beautiful and even great novel. The writing about the holoca...more
Elise
I finally finished it, yes all 600 pages, and my reaction to "Sophie's Choice" is mixed. I spent years urged by friends to read this book, but I was afraid of what I would find in its pages, especially being a mom. It turns out my fears were completely unfounded.

This book is not at all what I thought it would be--a moving story of one woman's time at Auschwitz and the awful things she endures there as a mother. That description covers only about 10% of what happens in this novel. "Sophie's Choi...more
Wordsmith
Read in the early eighties, this was a book that affected me in a profound, deeply personal way. Styron, along with so many authors of his generation, were the guides of the map that charted the course of a winding, long path. I found myself to be one of the willing seekers to their grail, inhaling all as I followed along.

There I was, traipsing, skipping, meandering, flying, all the while, reading words into song, and these were from the Masters, these Mozart's and Beethoven's and Liszt's of ST...more
Shruti
The query: "At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?"

And the answer: "Where was man?”


I do not dare write about suffering; dare not think that I have locked eyes with it, EVER. Whatever it is that I feel, when the skin of my complacency breaks open (to reveal what? just what?) is not, cannot be, suffering. Is it only when faced with the utterly incomprehensible, the indigestible that I can see the enormous smallness of my hurts. Is this true for all of us?

Someday, I will understand Auschwitz.

So says...more
Nadine Doolittle
Obviously, one star is a bit dramatic. I didn't like this book but it was beautifully written--Styron is no slouch with words--and the characters and situation were vividly drawn. The "choice" Sophie had to make was a hellish one and unlike some reviewers here, I was deeply affected and I thought it explained a lot about her character. By contrast the lives and issues of Stingo and Nathan seem thin and pathetic. Which they were. Which was the problem.

A writer once said (I think it was Vonnegut)...more
Laurel
There is a lot going on in this book. There is the story of Sophie, a beautiful Polish woman deeply scarred by her past and the incredibly heart-wrenching choice she was forced to make while a prisoner at Auschwitz during the holocaust. There's the story of her present day, turbulent love affair with an often violent, drug-addicted man and all the many complexities involved in an abusive relationship. There's also a hint of the irony of segregation and racism in post WWII America. And there's an...more
Thomas
Sophie's Choice revolves around three characters and three story lines. The protagonist, Stingo, is an aspiring writer from the South who stumbles upon Sophie and Nathan when moving into his apartment in New York. Sophie serves as the beautiful and damaged love interest, a Polish woman and a survivor of Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp. Nathan, a handsome and successful biologist, brings both darkness and light into their lives. Stingo's journey as an individual and a writer, Sophie's troubl...more
Giedre
I feel it difficult to describe this book without diminishing it's complexity and meaning. It's one of those reads that absorb you, won't let you go until you devour the last words and will haunt you long after you finish it.

The main characters of the book, Stingo, Sophie and Nathan, are full of layers and represent to me the human nature itself. I couldn't but recognize myself in even the darkest of their feelings, thoughts and behavior. All that is represented by them - naivete, suffering, fe...more
Petra Xtra Crunchy
One of those books everyone else loved and I loathed. I thought the book was pointless and overwrought, rather like Meryl Streep's acting in the film of the same name.
Himanshu
A Study in the Faithlessness of Hope

OK, first of all, let's get something over with. A young amatuer (not so Southern) writer comes to Brooklyn, meets a Polish émigré, falls straight away in love with her. But this Holocaust victim, tattooed on her hand, in her heart and soul, Auschwitz's purgatory, is hopelessly in an undetachable love, lust, anguish, masochistic, and redeeming relationship with a Northern Jew. And this prejudiced yet genius of a charmer, suffers from fatal capricious fits. Ha...more
Sarah
I know, I know. At the rate I'm going, I'll soon have abandoned more books than I've finished.

I'm just not so keen on contemporary literature, I suppose. Fiction, for the most part, has become indistinguishable from magazine writing: pretentious yet self-deprecating, staccato ("relatable") language, a smattering of intellectual/poetic adornment, some social commentary, and the contents of your medicine cabinet--to show that this is an intimate communication between us. Sophie's Choice is all th...more
Barbara
Styron really needed (and certainly did not have) a good editor for this massive, rambling, and self-indulgent book. Apparently in 1979 when this book was first publshed (and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 weeks) critical standards were not very high. The only positive thing I received by plodding through this mess is the phrase "unearned unhappines" which is used to describe unhappiness not derived from something tragic and devestating (such as the concentration camps) bu...more
Mike
It is difficult to describe, in these few lines, the emotions felt when reading such a work. The scope and the grandeur are beyond limit. However, at times, the book does seem a little bloated, especially in its pseudo-erotic scenes.

However, when touching upon the Holocaust, it is difficult to argue or consider any passages as overreaching or unnecessary. In this, "Sophie's Choice" remains a document to be cherished and admired.

It is the character of Nathan Landau that remains a little contentio...more
Pantopicon
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Anne Marie
I was in the local library last spring break (procrastinating from grading, etc), browsing a shelf of high school reading list books. I wanted to check something out as a reward for the work I was hopefully going to eventually do. I really love Deer Hunter-era Meryl Streep, and even though I've never seen Sophie's Choice, I vaguely remembered the movie coming out when I was a little girl, and Meryl being especially beautiful. I had also just finished The Book Thief and was feeling achy for anoth...more
Laura Leaney
I love this novel. It was one of the few that transported me to a time and a place so completely that I lost my own self. The narrator, Stingo, says "I was aware of the large hollowness I carried within me. It was true that I had traveled great distances for one so young, but my spirit had remained land-locked, unacquainted with love and all but a stranger to death." He calls his journey to Brooklyn a "voyage of discovery" but I am verifiable proof that the discovery is not just his but ours. Wh...more
Cherie
When I finally finished reading this book, I gave it two stars. I am amending that to three.

I liked it more than I thought that it was just okay. My initial two stars was mostly because I was just worn out from reading it, having to continually stop and look up all of the words that I did not know. That is not a bad thing for me, most of the time, but let me tell you, there were lots of words in this book to look up. LOTS! I could figure out the meaning, from the contents what most of them mean...more
Richard
This title is on the very shortest list of the best novels I've ever read. It starts inconspicuously as the remembrance of a young writer, Stingo, a graduate of Duke who has recently been discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps at the end of World War II and is living in New York. Stingo's twin goals are to find a way to score with women, and to write a book. He takes a room in a boarding house in Brooklyn, where he befriends fellow tenants Nathan Landau and his girlfriend Sophie Zawistowski. Nath...more
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On the Southern L...: Sophie's Choice Final Impressions 19 31 Oct 19, 2014 05:23AM  
Does the book get interesting the more you read it. 5 14 Oct 13, 2014 03:53PM  
On the Southern L...: Sophie's Choice Initial Impressions 34 41 Oct 01, 2014 07:02AM  
what was Sophie's choice? 26 956 Jul 16, 2014 06:46PM  
William Stryon: Sound familiar? 1 13 Aug 26, 2011 03:01AM  
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William Styron (1925–2006), born in Newport News, Virginia, was one of the greatest American writers of his generation. Styron published his first book, Lie Down in Darkness, at age twenty-six and went on to write such influential works as the controversial and Pulitzer Prize–winning The Confessions of Nat Turner and the international bestseller Sophie’s Choice.
More about William Styron...
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness The Confessions of Nat Turner Lie Down in Darkness A Tidewater Morning Set This House On Fire

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Someday I will understand Auschwitz. This was a brave statement but innocently absurd. No one will ever understand Auschwitz. What I might have set down with more accuracy would have been: Someday I will write about Sophie's life and death, and thereby help demonstrate how absolute evil is never extinguished from the world. Auschwitz itself remains inexplicable. The most profound statement yet made about Auschwitz was not a statement at all, but a response.

The query: "At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?"

And the answer: "Where was man?”
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“This was not judgment day - only morning. Morning: excellent and fair.” 14 likes
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