Title: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
Author: Anna North
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Orion Books
Publication Date: 24th November 2015
Rating: 5/5 stars
Who is the real Sophie Stark?
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is the story of an enigmatic film director, told by the six people who loved her most.
Brilliant, infuriating, all-seeing and unknowable, Sophie Stark makes films said to be ‘more like life than life itself’. But her genius comes at a terrible cost: to her husband, to the brother she left behind, and to an actress who knows too much.
Possibly the most intriguing thing about this book is that we never meet the main character. Instead, we only see her through the eyes of others – her lovers, friends, family, and colleagues. The different way in which each individual thought of Sophie Stark was very telling – it makes you really consider how many different faces we put on for the world.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the cinematography and film-making throughout the novel, but it was incredible. Each chapter is a new perspective, and between each new voice North has placed a critique of the film encompassing that particular part of Sophie’s life. I really enjoyed imagining the films, particularly the eerie quality of Into the Woods.
Sophie Stark herself wasn’t all that likeable. Her interactions with other people were tense, and she used everyone around her as inspiration, without regard for their feelings. From her brother Robbie, we come to understand that Sophie (or Emily, as she was once known) has always struggled to connect with others and with the world.
“I thought making movies would make me more like other people,” said Sophie. “But sometimes I think it just makes me even more like me.”
Sexuality does play a role in the novel. Sophie is bisexual, and we hear from two of her lovers – Allison and Jacob. Some of the sex scenes feel incredibly violent, without actually being so. North’s character is very brutal, but this doesn’t manifest in violence.
The book ultimately culminates in Sophie’s death, as one can probably guess from the title. However, there is a brilliant twist in the messages Sophie leaves behind. It makes me want to reread the book and pick up on the nuances I am sure I must have missed.
“She just saw people so clearly, you know? You can tell from the work. She saw people for what they really are, and I think if you’re that perceptive, you just can’t live in the world for very long.”
Anna North has done an amazing job at creating a character with so many layers. I am astounded at how much I adored this book – it is almost up there with The A-Z of You and Me. Another contemporary adult fiction, which I wouldn’t have picked up were it not for the intriguing cover.