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on October 9, 2014
Sophie's Choice is, of course, a truy engrossing story, wonderfully told. I could hardly put it down. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is that I believe Styron, who was a fabulous writer, sometimes spends 'way too much time describing sex acts and thoughts. I am no prude; I just think it was out of place. Descriptions are too graphic. Yes, the sex is important in the interplay of the characters; it just doesn't need to be quite so graphic. But at any rate, this is definitely a book worth reading. And it's one of those books that is "done justice" by the movie.
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on May 11, 2018
I love this book. A truly great and tragic story. I've read the story many times and still have trouble understanding how Sophie made her was heartbreaking. I also suggest seeing the film, with Meryl Streep as Sophie....a superb performance.
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on April 2, 2014
I loved the movie and have seen it many times. The movie is true to the book so there are no surprises. Oddly i prefer the movie version. To me, the book bogs down in long side line discourses that dont add to the story. Also, i am not a fan of long sentences and paragraphs which run throughout the book. I also did not follow the link between Nazi Germany and American slavery that Styron tries to make. However, the link between Sophie's past and present was beautiful. All this being said, I look forward to ordering another book by Styron.
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on March 13, 2018
A facinating book dealing with the effects of the Holacaust. Sophia lived through that and met Nathan who it turns out has serious mental health problems. As the book ends one can only wonder why people make the choices that they do. An excellent read.
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on April 26, 2018
I listened to the author speak of this book on YouTube. I have seen the movie several times. What the author spoke of made me interested in the book. I am happy with the purchase and the size of the softcover book!
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If you are able to read this masterpiece for the first time without pre-categorizing it into a particular genre, let alone knowing the background of the title character or the nature of her "choice," count yourself lucky. One of the delights of the book -- and I do mean delights -- is the way that Styron reveals his secrets so gradually, peeling away surfaces like the skins of an onion. The first hint of the horrors that lurk in the background comes as early as page 54 of the Vintage edition, but the meaning of the title is not revealed until the penultimate chapter, almost 500 pages later. In between, the tension builds as detail after detail emerges, but the story also warms and deepens as the reader gets to know the people better. Despite its background in death, SOPHIE'S CHOICE is also triumphantly a novel about life.

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.
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on June 13, 2015
So much potential, but Not nearly as wonderful reading as my expectation of such a well regarded book should be. Mr. Styron's young self, Stingo (an irritating and dumb character name!) Ruins the story with his endless commentary on his virginity and his desires to have sex. The bad language didn't bother me, just that it detracted so much from Sophie's story to dwell so much on Stingo's lack of a sex life. To me, erasing most of the sex out of the story would have let the reader focus on the important part - Sophie's experiences in Auschwitz. The opportunity to say more about slavery in the South compared with the Holocaust was not given enough thought - less of Stingo's horny self would have left room to explore this more.
I also found the excessive use of big vocabulary words distracting ... I have a fairly good knowledge of English words, but kept noticing many unfamiliar to me- a good story either shows these words in context or is so absorbing itself that the reader can gloss over them, barely noticing that the word was unfamiliar.
Obviously, many readers love this novel, so you may also. The first 30 pages make for tough early reading trying to figure where the story is going, but it does settle out soon afterwards.
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VINE VOICEon October 26, 2014
I am sort of divided about this reading experience. While the story and flashbacks to Sophie’s traumatic experiences of the Holocaust hold some emotional sway and power, I thought that both the characters and the many digressions and asides from Stingo lessened the impact of the book. Stingo’s rants and asides about his lust for Sophie and other women were mildly amusing at first, but became more tiresome and distracting as the book progressed.

The characters were a bit lackluster, in my opinion. Sophie and Nathan didn’t really ring true to me, and, for this reason, I couldn’t really sympathize with or connect to them. Part of this might have been because we are being told about them from Stingo’s point of view, but, still I just didn’t really think they came across as realistic. Although Stingo reveals piece by piece segments of his story and experiences with Nathan and Sophie, and ultimately the revelation of Sophie’s “choice”, somehow it all just loses momentum and there is a constant disconnect between what Stingo wants to tell and how he tells it.

There are some positives. I can see how parallels into dark historical moments—the slavery of the South, and the Holocaust—are explored in Sophie’s Choice and how this has an impact on each central character. Styron can capture and paint a picture eloquently with words—his prose and style are impressive.

But, at times, he seems to overreach and give way too much back story, only to tread over that story once again.

While Sophie’s Choice has a literary quality to it and some powerful moments, I just felt like it lacked the real effect I was expecting.
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on February 18, 2016
From what I've heard, the movie was fantastic. I'm not much of a movie person, I would much prefer a book, so when I saw this on sale at just $1.99 I downloaded a copy for my Kindle. Another reviewer noted that the Kindle version was terrible, but that's apparently been corrected and the formatting was fine. The story, however, was not what I had hoped it would be. It could have been much better, but it was far too long with an incredible amount of useless garbage that didn't add anything to the story except a bunch of extra pages. I had the impression this author was deeply in love with his thesaurus and felt it necessary to dazzle us with the excessive use of brilliant words - words that you'd probably never see or use anywhere else. I am an avid reader, and I like coming across a new word now and then - especially with a Kindle because the built-in dictionary makes it quick and easy to look things up. But unless you have an expansive vocabulary and/or like reading the dictionary, then you may not enjoy this book. For the purposes of this review, I did a quick scan through the book and put together a list of some of the words: scimitar, concupiscent, lacunae, prestidigitation, adante, impecunious, coevals, polyglot, cuprous, analysands, senescence, imbroglio, furbelows, oleagnious, benison, solipsistic, obstreperous, somnambulist, cuneiform, parturition, amanuensis, imbroglio, cerements, crepuscular, epicene, freshets, cicatrix, ganglia, concupiscence, insouciance, imprecation, adumbrates, chiaroscuro, tripartite, circumlocutory, pederast, antediluvian, lachrymal, unguentary, bathos, cenotaph, demesne, simulacrum, matutinal, desuetude, threnody. And the list goes on. Seriously... who talks like that!!?? Like I said, I'm an avid reader and I like coming across new and unusual words - but I also want to enjoy the story. Some of the words I came across were so unusual they weren't even found in the Kindle dictionary. That, and the endless pages of useless babble, just ruined what would have otherwise been a very good story. If there's a Cliff Notes version of the story, I'd strongly suggest reading that instead.
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on March 4, 2017
OMG, can Styron write! I never saw the movie and never will because no movie could do any justice to this book and story. The characters come alive, and the plot eases you down the road. It's moving to read an author who can write like this.
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