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Struggled to get 1/3 of the way through this book. It was boring, self indulgent and could not make me care or empathise for the characters. It ending being more of a chore I was forcing myself to do instead of enjoyable reading.
Maybe I should have given it more time but I think by that point I should have been more interested, not for me.
This is an exceptional example of the genre of mopey, sentimental people remembering events from their childhoods in remarkable detail and then feeling very sincere feelings and sharing them with nearby strangers. If you are into that sort of thing, this will be a really great book for you; you will have a great time.
Seriously, the writing is fluid and evocative, and if I could stand to read people feeling sentimental about their childhood traumas and describing their mothers' hands, I would say "this is the best example I have read recently of that thing I can stand to read about." If this book is For You, you will enjoy it a great deal.
If you fear that it is not For You, I would encourage you to beyond the opening anecdote in the preview, which is captivating but promises a somewhat different book. (Disclosure: Quit reading about 40% of the way through.)
Not for me! I only lasted a few chapters. Seems to be the story of a troubled girl told through the eyes of various acquaintances. I guess if I'd read it all I'd have had a description of Sophie by the end of the book but it was all so disjointed and dark with erratic thoughts I just didn't want to get into her mind. DON'T like the amazon review thing where I am forced to choose from various words to describe the book, doesn't give an accurate description of what I've read!
I found the character unsympathetic. Maybe because she was a journalist originally, I found her writing disjointed. It was narrated by different characters. I found the brother to be the clearest. It is an interesting idea for a character study---looking at her from different perspectives. I just wish I liked her or cared about her. There was little in the writing to create empathy. Sorry.
I won't say that this is the worst novel I have ever read, but it is certainly the worst in recent memory. There is considerable talent on display, The author manages to vary the narrative voices as her chapters are each the first person accounts of the speakers' experiences in their relationships with the title character, Sophie Stark. The difficulty is that never does the author provide the reader with any inkling of why we should be interested in or concerned about these tiresome, self-centered, finally boring people, or their completely predictable story (stories). Much of the novel reads like the script for one of those television shows about the "disease (or mental disorder) of the week), or the kind of show that interviews everyone involved in, or who has survived, a crime, and then asks the audience a stupid question they may answer by texting.
There is enough chatter in these monologues about the uncertainty of "identity," about the ways people put on public faces that are meant to appeal to other people, whether they care about those people or not, and so on and blah blah and so on. There is also the deployment of contemporary issues--bullying at school, date rape, idolization and privileging of athletes, mean girls--you name it. It's as though the author had collected the "outrages" of several months worth of tabloid publications and made sure--checklist here--that each turned up, shallowly, with no real effort to probe or understand. The impact of the mental illness in a family? The effects of abusive alcoholic fathers and their absences? How many others could one name. This is not praise for a book that deals with serious issues in modern life--it is annoyance with a book that exploits them for cheap fictional thrills and pseudo-revelations about "character." Are you worried about the way "artists" take other people's lives and use them as material? Sure--that issue is here in the story of the independent film maker, Sophie Stark. Is anything at all about her life as narrated here even remotely plausible? No.
Among other problems, there is absolutely no sense of place in this fiction, though we "visit" Iowa, Los Angeles, and New York, as well as a lakeside vacation house or two, none of which gets beyond the most cliched and surface oriented representation.
As may be clear, I cannot recommend this book. I can only hope that the author finds a better way to use her writing ability in the future.
We're never quite sure what it is about Sophie Stark that makes her unable to emotionally connect with others, but we do know she is a stereotypical nonconformist teenager in every single way. Even when she reaches thirty, it is still easy to see her as a middle school student trying too hard to be different.
In fact, Sophie Stark is not the only stereotypical character in this novel. There is the graying 50+ year old movie producer who's never quite made it, the musician who draws on his painful life experiences to create music, the popular college jock who is really a sensitive person underneath his tough surface.
The list of stereotypical characters thrust into stereotypical situations goes on and on, but this wouldn't be so bad if the characters were likeable. Unfortunately, Anna North does not make her characters sympathetic. I would go so far as to call them sociopathic. Everyone is looking out for their interests with little regard for others. Surprise: no character is able to make a relationship last. At least this is a good dose of realism.
Add to this that nothing very interesting happens. Even the descriptions of Stark's movies, which are supposed to be brilliant and groundbreaking, sound like dull indie fare rife with tired tropes and predictable imagery. Characters make inexplicable yet somehow predictably dull choices. No spoilers here, but the last chapter was an especially bad eye-roller.
The prose itself is readable, and I hope to read something better from this author in the future. As for Sophie Stark, it's simply not interesting enough to merit a second read.
I keep picking this book up, reading a few pages, putting it down and then going through it all again a few days later. I am giving up on this one without finishing it, as I just can't seem to work up any interest in this story or its characters. As a fan of both literary and suspense fiction, I fully expected to love this novel, but I just can't seem to hang with it. I am truly puzzled about this one, and I think it's more about me than the book. Others have found this to be a rich, compelling read, but for me this one is a non-starter.