I mentioned yesterday that I finished the book. I wrote a bit on our book club forum about it, and I talked to a couple of friends at work about it, but it was still nagging at me. Here's what I wrote (and if you're planning on reading the book, you should skip this, because there are spoilers ahead):
"They seem to be haunting me a bit today, so I think that means I need to write a little more about their strange relationship. As Mary and I talked about today, it's understandable why Sophie is willing to take abuse from Nathan: she feels she deserves it. She constantly tells Stingo, 'I done such bad things,' and although Stingo tries to convince her, and she admits herself, that normal behavior doesn't apply under such circumstances as the war and the camps, she still feels that obsessive guilt because of her 'choice' and because of her survival.
Nathan...you have to feel a little sorry for him, because as his brother Larry stated, 'The truth is that my brother's quite mad.' (I love that phrase! I think I'm going to start using that, so watch out!) But I can't have much sympathy, because he exacerbates his
schizophrenia with amphetamines and cocaine. I kind of wonder why Larry and his family didn't choose to institutionalize Nathan permanently, but I suppose that when someone exhibits rational behavior part of the time, you want to believe they can manage their condition and live independently.
Since I finished the book, I've been pondering these two. Nathan was in many ways her savior. He recognized how ill she was, and with the help of his brother, returned her to health. But he was also her doom, and with her constant guilt, she easily succumbed to his crazy thoughts of a double suicide. I wonder...if she had not met Nathan, would she have died because of her lingering illnesses? Or would she have struggled on until she found a different type of savior--a decent and kind one--in Stingo? I also find it ironic and tragic that she managed to survive the camps, but was unable to bear the guilt. In the end, the Nazis killed her just as surely as if she'd been sent to the gas chambers. I wonder what the real statistics are for suicide rates among camp survivors? I'd be willing to bet that they're above the norm, especially in the years immediately after the war."
It made me wonder if there have been any studies about suicide rates among camp survivors, and a quick search led me to this paper. http://www.ima.org.il/imaj/ar07mar-21.pdf
I found it interesting reading, if you'd like to take a look. I was surprised that there were so few studies about this. And while I expected a higher rate right after the war, I never even thought about a higher rate among aging survivors.
It's even more horrible that this continues to haunt those that made it through....