Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Sophie's Choice (Open Road)
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on August 1, 2010
This reveiw is not of the book itself, as Sophie's Choice is one of my favorite books of all time, and earns a 5-star review. This review is about the Kindle edition of the book, which falls a bit short in the editing department. I was a bit disappointed in the number of typographical errors found in this edition. In the first third of the book, 3 times the word 'I' was replaced with a 1. Periods are missing, and words are combined that should not be, making it a little more difficult to read. As those who have read the book before, as have I, when Sophie is telling her story, her english is less than perfect, so when typo's are added to this mix, it makes it that much more difficult to enjoy.
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on April 29, 2000
I can honestly say that I have never read a better book. That is not to say it was the most fun to read, nor the easiest. It is an unforgettable book, the kind that probably will darken your mood, but will teach you as no other book can.
The story begins in 1947. Stingo, a cocky but nevertheless self-deprecating young Southerner, gets himself fired (with flair!) from his job in a prestigious, rather stodgy publishing firm. He gathers up his savings and moves into a boarding house, with plans to write The Great American Novel during the rest of the summer, or at least until his money runs out. Almost against his will, Stingo is drawn into a relationship with two of his neighbors-- the gorgeous Sophie, a survivor of Auschwitz, and her Jewish lover Nathan, an oddly compelling but often terrifying man.
Meanwhile Stingo tries desperately to have sex with a girl, any girl. The retelling of his hysterical failures are intertwined with Sophie's tortured memories of the death camps of Poland. And then the truth about her experiences, as well as the truth about Nathan, is revealed. Ow.
Styron is an amazing writer. He makes me gnash my teeth at my own pitiful efforts to write. This is his best work.
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on December 28, 2010
I'm sure this is a great book, but the Kindle edition is almost unreadable! It appears to have been created by scanning a hardcopy, and then published without even so much as spell checking it! There are so many instances of things like lower case 'l' appearing as number '1' that it is hard to get through the book!
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on September 28, 1997
One of the best looks at how the Nazi Holocaust destroyed the lives of 11 million people, almost half of whom were not Jewish. The choice(s) that Sophie makes will shock the uninitiated in Holocaust literature, though you would be well advised to keep in mind that such choices were made on a daily basis by those who survived the madness of World War II. A haunting, disturbing work that will stay with the reader for a lifetime.
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on March 7, 2006
Many have felt that this novel is too wordy. My view is that the author's writing style is wordy, but every sentence is beautifully written. I felt that I could imagine. The story is really a character study and another look at the effects of the holocaust. The survivors may have escaped death, but the horrors stay with them. I do know some survivors. All of them need sleeping pills because they can't sleep without them. Sophie had no control over what happened to her yet she suffers from unimaginable guilt. This novel digs into the human psyche effectively.
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on September 4, 2001
In "Sophie's Choice," what begins as a sort of fish-out-of-water story, in which a Southern Protestant embeds himself in a tightly-knit New York Jewish community, develops into an emotionally draining tale of a young woman's horrible experiences in a World War II concentration camp.
The story is told through the voice of a young man named Stingo, presumably an alter ego of Styron himself, who moves to New York from his native Virginia in 1947 with aspirations of becoming a writer. His professional career begins with an ephemeral job at McGraw-Hill reviewing painfully bad manuscripts. After he (intentionally and humorously) gets himself fired, he can no longer afford to live in Manhattan, so he moves to the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and gets a room at a boarding house inhabited mostly by Jews. There, while beginning work on a novel, he meets a pair of unlikely lovers: Nathan Landau, who works for a drug company, and his girlfriend Sophie Zawistowska, a recent immigrant and concentration camp survivor.
Stingo befriends these two, but he is uneasy about Nathan, who, on the one hand, is highly intelligent, has a wide variety of knowledge and interests, and enthusiastically encourages Stingo's writing career, but on the other hand has a volatile, often violent, personality and relationship with Sophie. Stingo is secretly attracted to Sophie and, in conversations with her, soon learns that she is not Jewish but a Polish Catholic. In fact, one of Nathan's quirks is that he likes to control Sophie by laying a guilt trip on her with the fact that she escaped the fate of so many Jews. She, in turn, has many secrets about her past life that she doesn't want to reveal to Nathan.
Throughout the course of the novel, Sophie tells Stingo her life story in gradual installments. Her father, although a vocal anti-Semite, was killed by the Nazis along with her husband because they were university professors. In Warsaw, she was arrested after she fell in with a Polish resistance group and was sent to Auschwitz. Upon arrival there, she was forced to make a "choice" so evil and inhuman, it would be every person's most unimaginable nightmare. It is this choice, one which, ironically, the Jewish prisoners did not have the chance to make, which makes this novel not just another Holocaust story.
Sophie and Nathan are one of the most dramatically tragic couples in literature. They seem to share a deathwish that keeps them together, no matter how abusive and destructive their relationship. There is a point in the novel when Stingo and Sophie must leave New York quickly to escape Nathan's potentially murderous actions, but she realizes that she cannot be without him. After living through the Holocaust, she has nothing left to fear; the only way she can redeem the most terrible choice she had to make in her life is to be with this man who promises her nothing but death.
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on August 7, 2000
Styron's book is a modern masterpiece, a profound meditation on the central evil of the century just passed. Through its three central characters -- the doomed lovers, Nathan and Sophie, and naive yet good-hearted narrator, Stingo -- Styron shows how the horror of the concentration camps carried the power to blight lives even after the war to defeat Hitler's fascism had ended.
A good portion of this densely constructed novel shows Styron's deep exploration of the hatred and disregard for human life that motivated the construction of the concentration camps and the Nazis' pursuit of a "Final Solution," one that would rid the earth of not only Jews but all those who would oppose their hateful philosophy. The awful conflict that is at the heart of the novel's title arises from the fascists' debasement of life, which Styron is able to bring painfully to life.
For me, though, the novel achieves greatness in its intricate weaving of stories, memories and meditations by its narrator. If you open the book expecting to hear only about Sophie, you'll be surprised. Stingo, newly arrived to post-war Brooklyn from the South, shares painful memories of his invalid mother, hilariously relates stories of failed romance, and poignantly demonstrates his bond with his father. As the pages pass and the stories mount, you realize that Styron is building an elaborate story that ultimately details the passage of a young man into adulthood.
This is a great novel. It is challenging and at times difficult in the emotional material it presents and in the complexity of Styron's elaborately ornate prose. The reader coming on it for the first time should not be discouraged by any of that. There's no timetable on how long it should take to complete reading a novel. No matter how long it takes, having finished it, you will come away with your life enriched.
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on May 14, 2002
One of the most dozen or so perfect reading experiences you will have.
Finished it in 5 days.
Talk about unputdownable.
Five stars for the exquisite language.
Five stars for the explosively funny sex -- or lack of it. As brilliant as anything Roth has done.
Five stars for the rendering of Auschwitz and the Nazi mind.
Five stars for pacing and characterization.
Five stars for the hilarious account of life at McGraw-Hill.
(How on earth some readers find the opening "weird" is beyond me.)
And five stars for making Sophie Catholic -- a brilliant choice that throws the Nazi's bestial mania into sharp relief: their evil knew no bounds.
You wish they'd make this book compulsory reading in schools.
(One school library in America tried to ban it.)
But they won't. (Thanks to our sex-denying, death-denying culture.)
Pass this book onto your children. God bless you William Styron.
This is a perfect book.
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VINE VOICEon November 27, 2013
Ostensibly part coming of age story (sort of a more adult "summer of '47"), Sophie's Choice is really so many different stories it's probably best to think of it more like one of those little snowglobes with a little world trapped inside.

In the case of this particular book I think my snowglobe analogy is especially apt because of author William Styron's tendency to use several large words where usually one or two more simple ones would do. A particularly good example of what I just said came be found on page 199 of the soft cover version of this work: "Nathan's voice grows incomparably oleaginous, gross with fatiuty and edged with just the perfect trace of Yiddish as he limns Shapiro's quaveringly hopefuly apostrophe to Max Tannenbaum." Huh? What the heck, William? By the time I'd read first read this book I'd already graduated from law school and been practicing for some time but Styron's command of English language arcana is so great even I had to go rushing for my Webster's.

Worse than being incomprehensible word choices like "oleaginous" and "fatiuty" and "apostrophe" can't help but make one wonder why on Earth the author would be so lacking in confidence about his story to secure it so protectively behind such impenetrable verbiage. If they can't understand me, you can almost hear him saying, then they really can't not like me, can they, as he whips out his thesaurus for yet another ACT extreme word.

It's too bad too because when author Styron isn't busy catching readers like bugs on the windowshields of word choices he's actually imparting a memorable indelible story. When his verbal obfuscation clears, and the snow settles in his little globe, Styron reveals fully formed characters: a nakedly bipolar Nathan, a Sophie crushed by her survivor's guilt and even a young Stingo fully afloat in his own pompous self pretentiousness. In other words, these are real people openly living under the shadow of their limitations. And in Sophie's case especially THE PAST hangs over the narrative like the ultimate bad endings end over every Greek tragedy.

Maybe it's in this later that this book displays its greatest power, that in telling the stories of Nathan and Sophie and Stingo, it's maybe telling everyone's story.
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on August 25, 2001
I knew before I began reading what the final �choice� Sophie had to make was. I had seen some revealing clips of the film adaptation on the Charlie Rose show during an interview with Meryl Streep. So arriving at the climactic point of Sophie�s Auschwitz story, I wasn�t surprised, having already anticipated the reason for the title. But what I couldn�t anticipate was the breadth of the novel�s story, the details of Styron�s descriptions, the allure of the three main characters, and the fullness with which I was thrown into the post-war setting and my inability to escape that world after I had finished the book. To say that this is a Holocaust novel would be entirely accurate, but the description would fail to capture the scope of the book. It takes place in New York, and is narrated by a sexually frustrated, aspiring writer from the south named Stingo. He meets Nathan, an American Jew obsessed with the Holocaust who sometimes acts out abusively, and Sophie, a beautiful Polish Auschwitz survivor who slowly reveals her past, and her painful relationship with Nathan, to our narrator who is secretly in love with her. But what keeps me thinking about the novel is not just the story, but how well Styron tells it. He brings in so many vivid images and descriptions that I could not help but feel that the characters were concrete and once existed, and what they went through was real, and the depth of their personalities attracted me in such a way that the pain I felt upon finishing the book had less to do with Sophie�s personal tragedy which occurred at Auschwitz, but with the trio's tragedy after the war in New York. Because Styron�s story isn�t really about the Holocaust, but rather its aftermath. It is so affecting because you see the psychological damage inflicted on Sophie by her experience to the extent that her life afterwards would be so miserable. Her one small source of happiness is Nathan, who is himself suffering, unable to escape both his guilt and his madness. And Stingo, as much as he wants to help the two people he cares about most, is unable to do anything at all.
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