Nathan is brilliant, quite mad, and deeply in love with Sophie, the tortured Polish survivor of Auschwitz. Stingo, the young narrator and aspiring novelist from the South, travels to Brooklyn where he immediately falls under the couple's spell. The development of the story is the unraveling and sorting out among the lies and the truth of these two enigmatic people. Nathan loves Sophie but cannot control his need to punish her for the Gentile sins against the Jewish race. Sophie, consumed with guilt, accepts both Nathan's intense love and hatred because she needs and deserves it. Stingo falls in love with them both and struggles to save them from themselves and each other.
The first time I read this book, I kept a dictionary nearby and referred to it frequently. The power of the prose matches the power of the story where we meet two unforgettable characters in Nathan and Sophie.
An interesting anecdote about this great novel is that Gabriel Garcia Marquez recommended it to Fidel Castro who enjoyed it so much that he invited Styron to visit Cuba, an invitation Styron declined.
Although it is impossible to say, pin me down, and I might declare this the finest novel I have ever read.