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We meet and spend time with Sophie Stark through the eyes of her brother, lovers and colleagues. All ponder how well they knew her: often vacillating between thinking they’ve been able to catch a glimpse into her soul; and finding themselves completely bewildered by her behaviour.
All we readers can really know about Sophie is via what she’s said and what she’s done. And they’re often miles apart.
This was an interesting, but not riveting, read for me. I realise North intends for we readers (and Sophie’s friends) to remain conflicted about the book’s namesake but I did find it a little frustrating that I really didn’t get a sense of her character (or care more about her). I suspect North is implying (and probably not even very subtly) that Sophie…. as she called herself (almost on a whim), really had no sense of who she was. Which was—most likely—her problem.
Read the full (and only slightly longer) review on my blog: http://www.debbish.com/books-literature/the-life-and-death-of-sophie-stark/
This book... Wow! It was so unexpectedly great! It's relatively simple, yet it's complex. The novel's structure is very unique in that we learn about Sophie through the first person narration of different characters: Allison, who becomes Sophie's lover; Robbie is the younger brother; Daniel is Sophie's; Jacob is a guy in a band, who'll become Sophie's husband and a movie producer, all show different traits of Sophie, who unique and unusual.
I love books where the characters are imperfect and not necessarily good people. Anna North's writing is simple, there's a lot of dialogue, but also inner monologues. All the characters are fully developed, even though the central character is Sophie.
There is so much to ponder and take out of this novel and different ways of looking at things. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is like nothing I've read. It stayed with me for a while.
The only reason this book is not a 5 Star affair is predictability. Towards the end I knew where things were going. But the writing is good. Certainly no complaints there. The protagonist character ( a film maker) is unveiled through a series of other characters' confessionals. Simple, yet clever. The entire thing comes down to the cost, burdens and demands of being a creative individual. The cost to others around her, and to herself. I liked this book. An interesting subject told in an interesting way. Sergiu Pobereznic (author)
I remember buying this book a few years ago when it first came out and there was a lot of buzz around it. Somehow, I forgot to read it, and all the buzz never seemed to materialise into it becoming huge. Once I randomly started reading it, I finished it fast. The plot is very thin, but the writing and the supporting characters pull you along.
The format is a little bit like A Visit from the Goon Squad, though a bit less adventurous with style and structure. Each chapter is almost like a standalone short story, each told from the point of view of and focussed on a different character. The connecting factor is the titular Sophie Stark, a burgeoning film director with a very strange approach to emotional boundaries, relationships, and her interactions with other people. Each of the chapters is about that character’s with Sophie, which in most cases involves them becoming a little obsessed with her and her knowingly or unknowingly taking advantage of them in order to create her art.
Sophie is not particularly likeable or very easy to identify with, but for the most part, she’s a fairly sympathetic character, which makes the occasions where she really crosses a line extra jarring. The narrator characters all have some interesting personalities and backstories, and learning about their lives is probably the most interesting part of the novel.
Overall, I thought this was well done, but once I finished, I was left with a slight sense of “is that it?” which wouldn’t make me rush to re-read or to recommend to others.
"The Life and Death of Sophie Stark" by Anna North is more Jennifer Egan than Anna Klein and her "The Girls" could ever be. Moody, eerie, melancholic and beautiful. It is a standout portrait of a young artist and the art (or curse) of loving through movies. If you let it ask you questions - there would be so many!
Is storytelling possible without stealing from others? Is this ethical? Is personal sacrifice necessary to create good art? And the question that bothers me... Which character is ultimately the most betrayed?
All of the narrators tell the story of intangible Sophie Stark. And once you finish the book you realize what you heard was spoken with one voice - author's limitation? And then I thought, maybe it's that other script written by Sophie. You have to read the book to understand - but what an ingenious twist it would be.
I stopped caring about Lena Dunham praise, but Emma Donoghue said: "A thunderously good story".
Really enjoyed this novel. I came across the book when I was looking for something else and remembered that the Guardian had given it a good review. It has multiple narrators, something I sometimes find annoying - but didn't in this book. Each narrator talks about their experience/relationship with Sophie Stark a young experimental film maker. This would be cheesy if each told how she died, but there is no mention of it until near the end. I liked the characters and found the voices mostly convincing. I read it pretty much in one go because I wanted to know what happened next. I would definitely read something by Anna North again.
Sophie Stark's greatest creation was herself. Yet her invention was flawed, because the inevitable consequence for a character like Sophie Was that she couldn't live in this world. The character of Sophie was well written and compelling, in a wanting to bang your head against a wall way. It was clear that Sophie had some sort of personality disorder, but like the elephant in the room no one mentions it. A well-written read, but just a little too depressing to say I 'love' it (5 stars) so a respectable 4 instead.
For me Sophie encapsulated the troubled isolated mind and her efforts to overcome her social inadequacies, driven by her love of film making. I felt she was exhausted by her struggles. A book that leaves you thinking long after being read.