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Sophie's Choice (Modern Library 100 Best Novels) Hardcover – March 10, 1998


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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library 100 Best Novels
  • Hardcover: 599 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; 1ST edition (March 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679602895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679602897
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (253 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A masterpiece, [which leaves] more conventional treatments of the Holocaust, such as Schindler's List, looking obtuse and sentimental" The Times "William Styron's Sophie's Choice is a landmark of mid-20th-century American fiction - an impressively fat novel that most literate Americans claim to have read even if they haven't" Sunday Telegraph "A weighty, passionate novel ... courageous [and] masterly" New York Times "Styron is a writer's writer, capable of setting a pastoral idyll in Brooklyn, and the traumas narrated occur alongside a classic American coming-of-age story" Guardian, 1000 novels everyone must read "Read it if you can bear." Independent --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

"[One morning] in the early spring, I woke up with the remembrance of a girl I'd once known, Sophie. It was a very vivid half-dream, half-revelation, and all of a sudden I realized that hers was a story I had to tell." That very day, William Styron began writing the first chapter of Sophie's Choice.
    First published in 1979, this complex and ambitious novel opens with Stingo, a young southerner, journeying north in 1947 to become a writer. It leads us into his intellectual and emotional entanglement with his neighbors in a Brooklyn rooming house: Nathan, a tortured, brilliant Jew, and his lover, Sophie, a beautiful Polish woman whose wrist bears the grim tattoo of a concentration camp...and whose past is strewn with death that she alone survived.
   "Sophie's Choice is a passionate, courageous book...a philosophical novel on the most important subject of the twentieth century," said novelist and critic John Gardner in The New York Times Book Review. "One of the reasons Styron succeeds so well in Sophie's Choice is that, like Shakespeare (I think the comparison is not too grand), Styron knows how to cut away from the darkness of his material, so that when he turns to it again it strikes with increasing force....Sophie's Choice is a thriller of the highest order, all the more thrilling for the fact that the dark, gloomy secrets we are unearthing one by one--sorting through lies and terrible misunderstandings like a hand groping for a golden nugget in a rattlesnake's nest--may be authentic secrets of history and our own human nature."

The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. The series was founded in 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foun-dation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hard-bound editions of important works of liter-ature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoring as its
emblem the running torchbearer created by Lucian Bernhard in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inau-
gurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices.

More About the Author

William Styron (1925-2006) , a native of the Virginia Tidewater, was a graduate of Duke University and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. His books include Lie Down in Darkness, The Long March, Set This House on Fire, The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice, This Quiet Dust, Darkness Visible, and A Tidewater Morning. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Howells Medal, the American Book Award, the Legion d'Honneur, and the Witness to Justice Award from the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation. With his wife, the poet and activist Rose Styron, he lived for most of his adult life in Roxbury, Connecticut, and in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, where he is buried.

Customer Reviews

This book is a must read, and be prepared to be unable to put it down!
SVC32073
William Styron intertwines the story of a Holocaust survivor and her struggle to cope with living in a world of delusion and denial.
NewYork16
Very touching & the characters are so interesting... Styron is also a very smart writer.
Kjlkarebab

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

154 of 162 people found the following review helpful By Rose City Reader on August 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
In Sophie's Choice, William Styron does a masterful job of telling a horrific tale in bearable way. Sophie is a Polish Christian who survived 18 months in Auschwitz before the camp was liberated by the Allies. Of course her story is heartbreaking. But Styron unfolds the tale in a way that allows the reader to take it all in without being crushed by the sadness of it.

First, instead of marching out the story of Sophie's capture and imprisonment in chronological order, Styron layers it on, each layer building on the next. When the 22-year-old narrator, Stingo, a Southerner who moved to Brooklyn to write novels, first meets Sophie in the summer of 1947, she gives him only the briefest of versions of her experience in the war. It is only as they grow closer as friends that Sophie, through a series of drunken encounters, provides more details to Stingo, each time admitting that she had lied to him before in earlier versions of her tale.

By presenting the horrifying particulars bit by bit, Styron seems mindful of the warning, and even quotes Stalin as saying, that a "single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." The reader sees the tragedy of Sophie's experience because, by offering just a little at a time, Styron allows the reader to digest her story, along with a great deal of information about the Holocaust in general. If Styron had presented her story in full from the beginning, the awfulness would be numbing.

Also, Styron balances Sophie's tragic past with her tragic present in Brooklyn. In love with Nathan, a brilliant drug addict subject to violent fits of jealousy, Sophie has no chance of building a "normal" life in America. But, given her experiences in the concentration camp, it is impossible to imagine how she could.
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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Charles R. Driggars on December 7, 2001
Format: Library Binding
Sophie's Choice almost lost me in the first thirty pages or so, but thank goodness I hung in there. A tragic yet surprisingly non-depressing story (at times humorous, at times sad, but always compelling and riviting) of three people, Stingo (the narrator, a Southern youth yearning to be a writer living in the utterly strange world of New York), Nathan (Sophie's lover, brilliant, fascinating, and troubled) and of course Sophie, the beautiful Polish Auschwitz survivor who utterly captivates Stingo's imagination, who become, as Stingo quotes Sophie, "the closest of friends." And the friendship this lonely Southern young man develops with these two exotic (to him) individuals is at the heart of this compelling novel. Styron's story actually weaves together two stories: that of Stingo's journey of self-discovery "in a place as strange as Brooklyn" and that of Sophie, a "bruised and battered child[ren] of the earth," whose gently playful personality stuggles to survive her guilt about her past and her passionate but difficult and sometimes shocking relationship with Nathan. Styron accomplishes the difficult task of making the reader appreciate, understand, and even admire the character of Nathan by telling his story through Stingo's eyes, so despite Nathan's flaws, and indeed Sophie's as well, the love Stingo feels for them both is believable and moving. The gradually revealed tale of the concentration camp is grim and realistic, and Sophie's telling of it illuminates the source of the guilt which is destroying her : her choice, or choices--for there are many choices, although the one referenced in the title stands starkly, horrifying alone.Read more ›
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By D. Davis on March 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Often compared by literary critics to Toni Morrison's 1987 Beloved, for the choices women and mothers are forced into under the most desperate of circumstances and conditions, William Styron's 1979 novel Sophie's Choice is a non-step textual tugging at the heart. In spite of the long passages replete with narrator Stingo's onanistic details (he hasn't gotten any, so the irony is, of course, that he lives in a place called the "pink palace"...hmmm...what's that a euphemism for?), this novel of a Holocaust survivor is not easily put out of one's memory. There are few books I internalize and metaphorize and carry around with me; this is one of those books. The humorous description of the McGraw/Hill publishing offices in Manhattan in the late 40s is a superbly hilarious way to open this novel. We are then introduced, at a rooming house in Brooklyn, to Sophie Z. and Nathan Landau, two of the novel's central characters. We learn that Sophie is a Catholic Pole who survived Auschwitz, but is still haunted by a "choice" she was forced to make while there. I agree with my fellow critic who states that the scene of Sophie's choice (set in the novel on April 1st, nonetheless, echoing, I would assume, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man)is so dramatically underplayed that I had to re-read it three times to make certain I didn't miss some critical nuance. Styron's choosing to portray the scene from which the novel's title comes as quietly and near the end as possible is a stroke of literary brilliance and keeps the reader page turning without end to find the answer to the question: What was the "choice"? Of course, in the course of the novel, Sophie Z.Read more ›
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