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Sophie's Choice: A Novel Kindle Edition
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This award-winning novel of love, survival, and agonizing regret in post–WWII Brooklyn “belongs on that small shelf reserved for American masterpieces” (The Washington Post Book World).
Winner of the National Book Award and a modern classic, Sophie’s Choice centers on three characters: Stingo, a sexually frustrated aspiring novelist; Nathan, his charismatic but violent Jewish neighbor; and Sophie, an Auschwitz survivor who is Nathan’s lover. Their entanglement in one another’s lives will build to a stirring revelation of agonizing secrets that will change them forever.
Poetic in its execution, and epic in its emotional sweep, Sophie’s Choice explores the good and evil of humanity through Stingo’s burgeoning worldliness, Nathan’s volatile personality, and Sophie’s tragic past. Mixing elements from Styron’s own experience with themes of the Holocaust and the history of slavery in the American South, the novel is a profound and haunting human drama, representing Styron at the pinnacle of his literary brilliance.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of William Styron, including original letters, rare photos, and never-before-seen documents from the Styron family and the Duke University Archives.
“Splendidly written, thrilling . . . A passionate novel.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A monumental work of fiction.” —The Christian Science Monitor
About the Author
- ASIN : B003JBFCEQ
- Publisher : Open Road Media (April 30, 2010)
- Publication date : April 30, 2010
- Language : English
- File size : 4390 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 575 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #92,821 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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During the war, Sophie Zawistowska is a well-educated young woman from an upper-middle class Polish family. She’s not Jewish. In fact, her father is a professor with Nazi sympathies famous in Poland for his anti-Semitic treatises; her mother is a mild-mannered musician. When her country is occupied by Nazi Germany, Sophie becomes involved, but only peripherally, with the Polish resistance. She rebels against her father’s patronizing and paternalistic attitude towards her and becomes critical of his anti-Semitic beliefs. Despite his Nazi loyalties, however, Sophie’s father is shot by the occupying German regime for being a Polish intellectual. Soon she loses her husband as well. All she has left is two children: a boy and a girl. Eventually the SS arrests her and sends her, along with her children, to Auschwitz once they discover that she is hiding meat—food rations illegal for Poles and reserved for the German occupiers—under her coat.
Sophie’s choice pertains, first of all, to the selection process—determining prolonged life or instant death--performed by Nazi doctors and SS officers that prisoners commonly underwent once they exited the cattle trains at Auschwitz. Which is to say, the title is ironic because Sophie is deprived of any real power of choice or desirable options. But a sadistic SS officer puts a cruel spin on the usual concentration camp selection process, in which a prisoner has no say. He spares Sophie’s life, despite being a mother of young children, only to make her make confront a fate worse than death: he forces her to choose which one of her kids will live and which one will die. Under the threat that both would be sent to the gas chambers if she doesn’t make up her mind on the spot, Sophie makes a choice that no parent should ever have to make: she chooses to save her son and dooms her daughter.
This choice forms the main theme of the movie, but, despite the book’s title, it’s not the crux of the novel. The novel focuses instead on the recurrent traumas that Sophie experiences, related not only to her difficult life in the concentration camp and the painful choice she had to make but also to her problematic relationship with her father: something that haunts her all her life. Time and time again, Sophie chooses the wrong kind of man.
In Auschwitz, through a combination of skill and luck, she manages to get work in the Kommandant’s mansion. She even has several furtive, one-on-one, meetings with the infamous Rudolf Höss. Depicting Sophie’s ambiguous relationship with Höss, and the manner in which the pretty blonde manages to gain his trust and persuade him to see her son, constitutes one of the most subtle and intriguing aspects of this psychological thriller. In real life, Höss was rumored to have had an affair with a Polish inmate, whom he later sent to die rather than risk scandal. In the novel, however, Sophie’s relationship with Höss could be described, at most, as an emotional affair. It’s really nothing more than a brief exchange of confidences that carried enormous risks under the circumstances. The Auschwitz Commander never fulfills his promise to Sophie to facilitate a meeting with her son. She never even finds out if her son lives or died. But the trauma of being drawn to the wrong men repeats itself.
Years later, in Brooklyn, Sophie falls in love with her neighbor, Nathan Landau, a Jewish American man who makes up tall tales about his extraordinary life. She’s drawn to his energy, to his sexual hunger, to his romantic gifts and overtures, to his intensity and even to his lies. When the narrator, Stingo, a novelist and their neighbor, becomes both of their friend, the three of them embark on an exciting but ambiguous friendship fraught with jealousy and triangulation. Nathan’s torrid passion for Sophie gradually turns to abuse, as he insults and even beats her in recurring fits of jealous rage. As Nathan’s brother later reveals, the young man suffers from schizophrenia. Although it’s not certain that he’s a genius, as he claims, he’s clearly delusional, confusing his paranoid fantasies with reality and mistaking lust for love. Their pathological bond is doomed from the start, much like Sophie’s family life was during the Nazi occupation.
Sophie’s Choice is a marvelously narrated historical novel that succeeds, above all, as psychological fiction. Which is only fitting. For how can any novel about the Holocaust—a historical trauma of a depth beyond measure—capture the devastation of that period without delving into the personal trauma of its individual victims?
Claudia Moscovici, Literature Salon
Many reviewers on this site have written something to the effect of "I put off reading this because I knew it would be depressing, but it was worth it." But suppose you had no such assumption; you would find a book that is often laugh-aloud funny, in its opening chapters at least, and shot through to the end with a pervasive eroticism. For despite the title, the Polish refugee Sophie is not the principal character. This honor is given to the narrator, a 22-year-old writer from the South, nicknamed Stingo but clearly the author himself, come up to try his luck in the big city. After a hilariously inappropriate stint as a blurb-writer for a Manhattan publisher, he comes into a little money and moves into a boarding house in Brooklyn, where he meets Sophie and her lover Nathan Landau. Although writing in the middle of his career, Styron deliberately adopts the tone of the coming-of-age novel, and absolutely nails the genre. Even without the story of Sophie and Nathan, this would still figure as a significant American novel, a sort of post-grad version of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE , perfectly capturing that moment of uneasy balance between a vanished past and an uncertain future that was America in 1947. When he is not writing deathless prose or fantasizing about getting laid, Stingo is absorbing a rapid education about the real world, an education that is more multi-faceted than any synopsis might have you believe. On one level, this is a book about the writing process: the attempt to assimilate and make sense of information and emotions coming at you from all sides. I can think of few other books that convey such a convincing sense of what it means to be a writer.
Of course I am aware that to describe SOPHIE'S CHOICE in terms of post-adolescent comedy is like asking "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?" For what lies behind Sophie's story is of a different scale altogether than anything that Stingo might experience at first hand. As he gets to know these people and glimpse their traumas, Stingo also comes face to face with the existence of pure evil. We see him struggle to encompass the unthinkable, to explain the inexplicable, to empathize with somebody who has faced moral dilemmas most of us can barely imagine. Styron approaches this by frequent shifts of time-period and voice, now having Stingo write as the naive observer caught up in events, now as the objective historian years after the fact. This multiple perspective creates a moral prism in which all kinds of issues are refracted: race and creed, the legacy of slavery, North and South, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, prudery and sexual liberation, and the challenge to religious belief. If assigned into a category as I mentioned earlier, SOPHIE'S CHOICE would stand as one of the most powerful treatments of its subject in international literature. It also remains one of the richest and most thought-provoking novels about American life and morality written in the postwar period.
Top reviews from other countries
The opening reveals little of what is ahead. You meet a young man known as Stingo, reading manuscripts for a publishing company in New York just after the Second World War. He finds this work less than fulfilling and sets out to be a writer himself. This part of the book is funny and charming. Then Stingo meets Sophie, a survivor of Auschwitz. After that, it felt wrong not to go on, but I read as fast as possible so I could escape these awful pages.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I have read Sophie’s Choice. In the end, I think this book, full of the horrors of human cruelty, really confirms the interconnectedness of things. In the case of Sophie herself, it is hard to work out if she is a collaborator, an innocent victim, a resistance fighter or someone whose only motivation is the desire for survival of herself and those close to her. Really, she is all of those things. Sophie is asked to choose between acting only for herself, and in the wider interests of the resistance. By a twist of fate, actions in her own interest come to coincide with those of the resistance. It turns out there are no alternatives, no sides to take, no choice to make.
Many politicians today still love to create borders. They create some out-group to take the blame for problems, a group they can exclude or expel. Sophie’s Choice reminds us that this kind of hatefulness takes on a horrible momentum.
“Do you think when they finish with the Jews they’re going to dust off their hands and stop murdering and make their peace with the world? You underestimate their evil if you have such a delusion.”
Setting out to persecute one group of people, leads to an arbitrary hatred that can swallow up anyone, haters as well as those hated. Why can’t we learn that lesson? Sophie’s Choice is a salutary reminder.
What I liked most about 'Sophie's Choice' is that it seems unique and personal. For a book that was originally published in 1979, this fictional work holds a bucket-load of truths, written in such a manner that after a while I began to realise that I have never read anything similar and apart from being so shocking in parts, I'm unlikely to read anything like it again.
William Styron managed to bring 1947 and New York to the page in such a way that I began realising through reading 'Sophie's Choice' that this era of history is usually very romanticized if it appears in books and films. The realism used throughout this story is extremely effective and most of the time, the style of writing does work. It's a book that raises a lot of questions and attempts well to reveal a heavy premise throughout.
There is no denying that it's a long and hard read but essentially depressing beyond belief in parts exploring the coming together of the three main characters; Styngo, Sophie and Nathan. The style of writing is impressive from the start and yet it's not just a simple book but a mammoth story on an almost Biblical scale.
I enjoyed the many aspects of this novel but there were long-lasting moments where I found myself battling and wrestling with it in order to finally finish it. It is definitely not an easy read, but as far as books go, it's pretty much in a world of it's own making and should be treated with some caution.
It lacks the emotion that should accompany the content. And as for Sophie's choice. It accounts for merely a single page, with no depth into why she made the decision she did and how it actually impacted her. The only time he managed to convey real feeling was in the bedroom scenes.
Really a terrible read.
All words/sentences/paragraphys are very very close together.
After only one page, my eyes felt very uncomfortable and felt dizzy.
Stopped reading and will never pick it up again!
Such a waste of money!