I just...I tried, y'all. I tried so hard, but I couldn't do it. I made it about a third of the way through before everyone else in the book club started rethinking our decision, which gave me permission to voice my desperate plea that we pick something else--anything else--please. We picked another book.
I have deeply mixed feelings about this. The writing style was beautiful, I have to give him that--lyrical and flowing, although it flowed into needless digression more often than not. It was so-o-o-o slow; when I gave up 200 pages in, I still had no idea what Sophie's choice was going to be or had been. That's a lot of ink to cover without having any idea what the plot is about.
Also, I felt like Styron was needlessly focused on sex. I get it, he's young and male and he's going to think about sex. Men have sex, men like sex, men think about sex, I get it. But the narrator goes on for pages at a time about his increasingly outlandish sexual fantasies, and it just didn't further the plot. I don't exactly faint and clutch my pearls at a sex scene, but it really needs to do something for the plot. Most of Styron's lustful musing do nothing for the plot, such as it is. I finally wikipedia'd the book's page (I'm so embarrassed) to see if it was worth slogging through the remaining 400 pages, and I almost threw something when I saw where the book was going. If I had lost the next however-many hours of my life to that, there would not have been enough alcohol in the world to make it okay.
To be clear: I don't say Styron is a bad writer, because the writing really was beautiful. And it was interesting enough that I kept slogging on much longer than I normally would have, because the spell he wove successfully pulled me in at least enough to go that far.
Also, I have no issue with holocaust books. In fact, for those seeking a less drawn out work on man's inhumanity to man, I have some suggestions. In fiction, I still believe nothing beats Schindler's List
. Elie Wiesel
is still one of the seminal accounts, as, of course, is Corrie Ten Boom
's The Hiding Place
. And the definitive work will probably always be Martin Gilbert
's aptly named The Holocaust