2009: 119. Sophie’s Choice   

“In those days cheap apartments were almost impossible to find in Manhattan, so I had to move to Brooklyn.”

Sophie’s Choice, William Styron

      Everyone knows what Sophie’s choice was, now - the story has become part of pop culture - and so I wondered if the book would have the same effect on me as it would have if I hadn’t known.  And while perhaps I would have been more devastated if I didn’t know what was going to happen, I nonetheless was pretty impressed by the novel.  I can imagine that when it came out - when perhaps less had been written about the Holocaust, and when the stark unthinkable ending was unwritten in our collective knowledge, it would have been a really shocker, and you can see why the book was a best-seller, and the source of a major motion picture.

       I have to say, though that the terrible Holocaust stuff, while sad and touching and making one wonder about man’s inhumanity to man, seemed to be the lesser part of the book, compared with the current story of Stingo, and Sophie and Nathan.  Of Stingo’s coming of age in Brooklyn, after the war, and of the horrible pas de deux between Sophie and Nathan.  It was so much more authentic than Sophie’s terrible past in Poland.  Maybe because I’ve read so many more Holocaust stories by survivors and by people who seem to know more or tell more than Styron did - or maybe it was well done, but just paled before the Brooklyn stuff, which seemed so real and evocative. I don’t know that the book really works - it seems to me that in a book like this, Sophie’s past ought to be more vivid than Stingo’s present.  Or maybe it just seems presumptuous for the unfathomable murder of millions to take second fiddle to a horny Southerner, and a destructive love story between a Polish survivor and an angry insane Jew.  

      But this is unfair too, because I think the book is powerful and that Styron is quite a writer, and that parts of the book are so good.  I just felt something was off in some way, and I can’t quite put my finger on it...

Date/Place Completed:  October 2009; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Modern Library Top 100, Book Resolutions

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017