Therese's Reviews > Sophia House

Sophia House by Michael D. O'Brien
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Jan 14, 12

bookshelves: historical-fiction, read-and-reviewed, philosophy-spiritual
Read from January 01 to 13, 2012

I have a mixed opinion on Michael O'Brien's books. I loved Plague Journal, could not appreciate Strangers and Sojourners (though I did finish it) and Eclipse of the Sun was especially poignant.

Sophia House joins Eclipse of the Sun in terms of poignancy but O'Brien's use of language is pure craftsmanship. He easily immerses you in every situation from the protagonist's mind and thoughts to war-torn Warsaw and to the tiny bookshop where a majority of the novel is set. The book has amazing character development, in particular, that of the protagonist Pawel Tarnowski, and the other characters have so much personality that you do not forget who they are.

Various themes are explored in this novel but the two that I think makes this book stand out is that of hope and the dignity of the human person. Hope for those who think they have nothing to hope and for those who think that they are unworthy of life that there is always something to live for. And the dignity of the human person is defended particularly in visual arts as well as in human relationships. Philosophers would enjoy the various discussions that Pawel and David have about words and communication; and those interested in reading more about a Jewish perspective would like O'Brien's respectful treatment of their teachings and beliefs. And I personally enjoy what he has to say about religious icons.

Like most of his works, this novel does have a religious undertone but one does not need to be a Catholic (nor a Jew for that matter) to understand the message he's trying to pass on. There are also homosexual elements within the novel which may be a cause of concern for some readers but there is nothing graphic and is dealt with in a rather intelligent manner.

In summary, it is a challenging read due to the subject matter but beautifully-written and definitely thought-provoking.
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