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Sophia House

(Children of the Last Days #5)

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  484 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Sophia House is set in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation. Pawel Tarnowski, a bookseller, gives refuge to David SchAfer, a Jewish youth who has escaped from the ghetto, and hides him in the attic of the book shop. Throughout the winter of 1942-43, haunted by the looming threat of discovery, they discuss good and evil, sin and redemption, literature and philosophy, and their ...more
Hardcover, 488 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Ignatius Press (first published 2005)
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4.37  · 
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 ·  484 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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John O'Brien
Oct 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm rating my father's novels here as a fan. But I'm going to decline writing a review for now, due to my kinship with the author. Suffice to say, I look forward to his books as much as anyone else, and find them deeply moving. I am not unaware of their flaws, but their strengths surpass them, and so abundantly, I find them almost moot. I'm normally moved to the point of tears about 3-4 times per novel (If I find myself choked up only once, I tell him it's not his best work). He has a rare gift ...more
Fr. Ryan Humphries
Mar 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone.
In Fr. Elijah, Michael O'Brien briefly notes that his protagonist escaped from the Ghetto due to the assistance of a book merchant with whom he had many deep conversations. Sophia House (Sophia means "wisdom") is the recounting of the winter with the book merchant. There's little plot and less traditional novel to this amazing book. It's slow, considered and deep. Readers have to expect that the pages will need to be read slowly and then pondered. It's a great story and the poetry and indirect p ...more
Sylvain Reynard
Apr 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was an incredibly moving story about a Polish man who takes in a Jewish teenager during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. The life of the Polish host is tinged with sadness, but ultimately, like all of O'Brien's books, this is a story of redemption. Highly recommended.
Lucy Casey
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Anything by Michael O'Brien is always hard to put down and Sophia House is no different. I couldn't put it down once I was down to the last 100 pages and, well, some household chores were neglected. Baby in one arm, book in the other... you get the picture.
Sarah Elizabeth
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
Pawel Tarnowski may be an unlikely hero, but he is one of mine.

I have been slowly working my way through O'Brien's body of work this year. Reading this one hit me deeper than most- and they all have had an impact- because of its raw and powerful themes. I read this 2 months ago and have read other books since, but still find myself going back to it and pondering the questions it has raised in my own life.

Sophia House, set in Poland in the time period leading up to WWII and the Nazi occupation,
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 charact
Mar 07, 2014 rated it liked it
What to say about this? I began my O'Brien adventures with Fr. Elijah, the first in a series as I now understand this. Much of who Fr. Elijah became was formed in the tortured Pawel Tarnowski's Warsaw bookshop, inherited from his uncle. The discussions between David Schäfer and Tarnowski are deep, probing, and seeking the face of the Almighty. They are heavy to the reader, as well, making it sometimes a bit of a slog to read through. But it's an enlightening slog.

Sophia House has some requisite
Dec 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: mediocre
Sophia House is the prequel to O'Brien's "Father Elijah," set in WWII Poland when the title character of the latter book is a boy desperately hidding from the Germans. Sophia House is a good book, though Father Elijah is better told as far as the story goes. This book reads like a treatise on the Philosophy of Language in places (the young Jewish boy protected by the main character alternates between sounding child-like, and sounding like a Wittgensteinian philosopher). The story itself is not t ...more
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
In a way, I feel badly for Michael O'Brien. He is incredibly attracted to Orthodox piety, and to Russia, but is also so very frustrated that they are not Catholic. Ironically, given the above, while he laments that Dostoevsky is not Catholic, he writes a book that is very similar to The Brothers Karamazov in that the storyline is not the point. The point of the novel is the vignettes along the way - discussions and meditations on faith, beauty, war, icons, love, repentance, and the sacraments.
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This novel tells the story of the relationship between a Polish bookseller and the young Jewish man who he hides from the Nazis during World War II. A fascinating story that explores the spiritual dimensions of human relationships and likable characters make this a fantastic read.
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was so moved by this story that I feel an immediate urge to go back to the beginning and read it again. This one will stay with me for a long time to come and has given me quite a bit to think about in regards to my own spiritual journey. It more than exceeded my expectations.
Jan 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
I think I'm going to like this, even though it tells a dark story about the Nazi occupation of Warsaw, and the horrors the Jews endured--the jacket says it also speaks of how small choices shift the balance of the world.
Bob Bellamy
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful writing; it really helps fill in the story of Father Elijah, one of my favorite books of all-time. It blends historical consciousness with spiritual awareness to present a gorgeous novel.
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It took me a bit to get into this book, it has a lot of philosophy (which I like but which requires a decent amount of mental chewing) but I ended up really liking it. It is set mostly in Poland during WW2 but deals more with the philosophical idea of fatherhood than the war itself. Protagonists are Pawel Tarnowski and David Schäfer. Apparently this book is a prequel to the Father Elijah series, although it is my first Michael O'Brien book.
Paula Yerke
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Michael O'Brien is a beautiful writer. His depth of spirituality is unmatched. This book was a most definite "5 star" when taken as a whole. However, some of the conversations were so thoughtful, philosophical and deep that it could be a tough go (however, well worth it!) I look forward to reading more from this author.
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
O'Brien paints a wonderful backdrop to Father Elijah without either book overshadowing the other. There are numerous threads in the tapestry he weaves. I struggled between wanting to know how they all came together and wanting to savor every word. I finished the book with a desire to re-read it.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: michael-o-brien, wwii
The most fantastic and moving work I've read by O'Brien to date.
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Deeply moving and inspirational story. One of those books that shapes my life view.
Sheri Yutzy
Oct 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A story of love and symbolism, set in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation. Pawel, a Polish bookseller, hides David, a Jewish escapee from the ghetto, in his attic. He's not sure why he's risked his life for the Jew, but his relationship with David slowly brings to light his own religious identity and desperation for understanding of love.
I love their long conversations on symbols and concepts and how relating to others makes us more complete. The story is tense with ideas more than action. When a
Oct 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
The main character is a guy living in Warsaw during Nazi occupation. He takes in an Jewish escapee, which triggers a bunch of flash backs depicting his rough back story. The main character is an introverted recluse of a tortured soul who is trying to find peace through his relationship with Christ. I loved the story. I was too impatient to appreciate the many philosophical conversations on literature, aesthetics, religion, etc. Perhaps, if I had known the ending, I would have been able to enjoy ...more
Josh Skaggs
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Michael O'Brien's stories are a particular joy. As a novel Sophia House has its flaws: the plot is slow, and characters are often a blatant mouthpiece for the conversation O'Brien is interested in having. Even so, that conversation is one I was thankful to be a part of. O'Brien seems conscious of the limitations in his storytelling, and he plays unabashedly to his strengths, allowing the narrative to grow out of the dialogue he's envisioned.
Frank Kelly
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014, fiction
The prequel to O'Brien's brilliant "Father Elijiah"... but no where as good. O'Brien is an extraordinarily gifted writer but he needs a good editor. I felt there were at least 100 pages in this book - perhaps more - that could have been cut out without losing any key aspects of the story. I was pretty disappointed.
Josh reading
Dec 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A very haunting tale of a Jewish boy who has escaped the Warsaw ghetto and goes into hiding with a Polish bookshop owner. The bond they form as they discuss everything from art, to literature, to philosophy is quite powerful. Wonderful read, highly recommended.
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great book, highly recommend it to anyone interested in the WWII themes....this book shows you what a true friendship is, and how people should treat eachother, no matter the race, colour or origin. Loved it :)
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
All that I love about this writer's work is here--deep exploration of human relationships, the value of suffering and sacrifice in God's economy, and cruelty, such ravaging cruelty, always countered by triumph and resilience.
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Set during World War II, a bookstore owner shelters a young Jewish boy. The boy later becomes an heroic Catholic priest.
I didn't read this...I don't know why this came up on my reading list....
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this soul searching read. My disappointment is that I don't know what happened to Pawel in the end.
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book! Insightful look into same sex attraction from a Christian perspective, and O'Brien's writing has improved since Father Elijah. :)
Oct 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunning. I'm hooked on Michael O'Brien now.
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Michael D. O'Brien is a Roman Catholic author, artist, and frequent essayist and lecturer on faith and culture, living in Combermere, Ontario, Canada.

Other books in the series

Children of the Last Days (7 books)
  • Strangers and Sojourners
  • Eclipse of the Sun
  • Plague Journal (Children of the Last Days)
  • Father Elijah: An Apocalypse
  • A Cry of Stone
  • Elijah in Jerusalem
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“Koristiti se drugim ljudskim bićem kao objektom,čak i u privatnosti vlastitih misli,znači poniziti biće te osobe.
To znači dehumanizirati i samoga sebe i drugoga.”
“Jednostavno je ratovati,najteže je održati mir.” 0 likes
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