Sophie’s Choice

Ok, I’m doing this “review” because Bryan from Still Unfinished encouraged me to take my thoughts to the blog. I had mentioned to him that I had finished Sophie’s Choice and I was conflicted because I wanted so much to distance myself from it when it was over but I also felt so compelled to talk about it. I guess that’s why I have a blog in the first place. So, here we go…

Sophies-Choice

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron – Published 1979 – National Book Award 1980.
This was a tough one. Really. I’m feeling a bit wounded from it. That’s not to say it’s not a compelling story from a gifted writer, but it’s painful, and obscene. And I don’t feel one bit hyperbolistic, (is that a word?), about calling it obscene because even someone who played one of the characters in the movie described part of the book as obscene. Now in general, I’m a somewhat conservative person, so you shouldn’t be surprised by my opinion, but when someone in Hollywood says something is obscene, then you can probably bank on it.

It wasn’t all bad, especially not in terms of the story. That is the part, after all, that kept me hanging on. (That, and my determination to read something that is considered to be great literature even if it holds me hostage in my non-comfort zone, because I want so much to see the beauty of the whole piece of work at the end.) I know, it’s sad. I wish I could just read for pleasure….but the story, as depressing as it is, is worth telling and knowing and sharing.

Sophie’s Choice takes place post WWll, in Brooklyn, NY. Stingo, an aspiring novelist, takes up at a boarding house where he meets Sophie, a polish immigrant, fresh out of Auschwitz, and her Jewish lover, Nathan. You would think that “Jewish” would not need to be specified here but trust me, nationality and race and origin all mean a lot in this tale. The three of them become the best of friends living it up in the summer of 1940-something until the past and the current state of someone’s mental health unravels them all. It’s intense ya’ll. I had to stop in the middle of it, and put it down for a few months because I just couldn’t…

Anyway, I learned a couple of things from Sophie’s Choice and I’ll tell you about them, as long as you don’t make me feel stupid because you already knew them.

1.) I did not know that back in the 40’s era, that Polish people, in general, were anti-semitic. I guess I should have. One can’t assume that all the hatred in the world for Jewish people originated with Hitler. But he gets the “fame” for it since he had no problem assassinating 6 million of them. But there were others that hated them too, apparently, and the Poles were some of them. (I know, there are always exceptions, but I’m speaking in general.) In Sophie’s Choice, there are Jewish sympathizers in Poland, as well as Nazi sympathizers.

2.) I DID know that Hitler desired to have a pure Ayran race, but I did NOT know that he actually implemented a program by which he was BREEDING this race!! Where he would take little blonde haired, blue eyed children and join them with Nazi people, and…I just can’t even finish that sentence. There was a name for it, the Lebensborn program. You can look it up. {{shudder}}

As uncomfortable as the book is, I do think it tells an important story. And I did learn some truth from this fictional account. It’s literary, it’s historic, it’s emotional, sad and yes, it’s abusive and obscene. And truthfully, after watching an interview with the author online, I can see why it was like it was, especially in terms of some of the sexual content. SOME. But some was just downright not necessary and frankly, made me feel sorry for men, for what goes through their minds. (Sorry guys). And I know, I’ve been told by a male friend, you guys don’t think it’s so bad. Believe me, I’ve got two 18 year old boys in this house, I’m not naive to what their brains are capable of. I speak frankly on this subject with them, whether they like it or not.

Sophie’s Choice has been on my radar for a long time. I remember my 11th grade US History teacher, Mr. Weart, talking to us about the movie in class one day. (circa 1985). I can’t remember the details of what he said but I apparently remember enough for it to stick with me that long and cause me to want to read it. When I first got my Kindle about five years ago, I downloaded the book for next to nothing.  I am glad I finally read it, but I’m also glad to be done with it.

5-sophies-choice-meryl-streep-2

I’ve also read Darkness Visible by William Styron. This is a memoir that recounts the time when he was in a deep, deep mental depression. I was encouraged reading that one because at the time, someone very close to me was also depressed, and I was hopeful that she would recover because he tells the story of how he did.

So, it’s typical of me to read things that made their impact years ago. Have any of you readers ever read or watched Sophie’s Choice? What did you think? I’ve watched scenes on Youtube and Meryl Streep is, of course, phenomenal. I think she got an Oscar for her role. Duh.

 

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3 thoughts on “Sophie’s Choice

  1. I’m glad you did write your thoughts on the book. I don’t think I knew about the breeding program either myself. I think I watched Sophie’s Choice but I didn’t read the book. My wife loves Sophie’s Choice and after watching the movie, she said she wanted to read the book but I told her it was depressing (based on just reading excerpts and deciding it wasn’t for me). She said I was right that it was depressing and she should have just watched the movie. Sometimes maybe the movies are better than the books? Maybe.

  2. Yes I have seen the movie Sophie’s Choice and have read the book. It’s a hard topic for sure. It’s been awhile since I experienced them both, but I recall it made a powerful impact on me. It captured the horror of the war & the lasting effects. One of the saddest ever …

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