Thursday, May 07, 2009

Sophie's Choice by William Styron

Sophie's Choice
By William Styron

I've never read any William Styron novels, nor did I hear very much about this book before picking it up. I was therefore pretty surprised to find that the narrator of this novel, Stingo, speaks fairly openly about sex, which I thought lent this book a pretty modern tone. Styron layers in different topics piece-meal by slowly revealing more about the two other main characters in the book: the Polish beauty who survived the Holocaust, Sophie and her sometimes charming, sometimes violently angry boyfriend, Nathan. Most of the novel focuses on the gray area of evil of the Holocaust, but it also touches upon the history/mentality of the Southern region of the US, where Stingo grew up and some commonalities between the two with respect to the South's role in slavery and racism.

Since I haven't had much background in either of these topics, it was interesting to read and think about these themes. I will also say that I enjoyed the writing style.

The one thing I was disappointed by was the end-reveal, which wasn't quite as powerful as I thought it should have been, particularly well it describes why the book is named as such. Largely, this let-down has to do with the fact that Stingo is the main character and it's through his eyes that you learn about Sophie, which helps provide perspective on what she goes through, but lessens the emotional impact.

Anyways, thought this was a solid read, but probably wouldn't be on the top of my head to recommend to others.

The Jasons : The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite by Ann Finkbeiner

The Jasons: The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite
By Ann Finkbeiner

This started off pretty intriguingly hearing about a secret scientific group and their involvement in government projects like the Manhattan. It then follows the group and its development chronologically and seems to get sidetracked into various mundane details, where the stories are not really that interesting nor contributory to a larger picture insight. Shrug, I never finished this one.