I am indebted to Sam Eades for a review copy of The Life and Death of Sophie Stark in return for an honest review. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, an imprint of Orion books. It is available for purchase in e-book, hardback and paperback from Amazon UK, Amazon US.
Sophie Stark makes films, but she makes them at enormous personal and emotional cost to all involved, including herself.
I’m really struggling to formulate a review of this incredible book as I’m not sure what I’ve just read. I’m feeling quite unsettled and disturbed!
Elements of The Life and Death of Sophie Stark are psychological, sexual, familial, so that there is layer upon layer of depth and frequent obfuscation from Sophie, despite her blunt approach, leaving me reeling. Anna North’s skill is such that I felt tense the whole time I was reading.
Told from the first person perspective of those who encounter and love Sophie, we never really know who Sophie is or what she really thinks and feels. It is as if the reader is viewing Sophie through a prism of others’ perspectives in the same way Sophie views life through her camera lens; one step removed from reality.
Even though I couldn’t decide if Sophie was a needy, lost soul or a manipulative, emotional bankrupt at times, she held me in as much thrall as she did Allison, Robbie et al. There is a rawness of emotion to her and a self-destructive desperation that somehow touches the soul. We all construct our own identities to some extent and have our own stories to tell so that, even when I wanted to hate Sophie, it was more because Anna North is holding a mirror up for readers to view ourselves than because Sophie is a morally corrupt individual.
Each time a different character told their Sophie story I felt I understood her less. I found this level of plotting skilful and compelling and I loved the cohesion of the reviews by Ben Martin so that it seemed fitting to have his final essay included. In a way, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark reminded me of Frankenstein with its layers of meaning and narrative and its monstrous yet pathetic (in the truest sense of the word) central character.
I ended the read with a profound sense of sadness and, simultaneously, a sense of relief that Sophie Stark hadn’t been in my life.
I think The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is a book that will divide opinion, but what it will do, is force readers to have that opinion. As for me – I thought it was amazing.