I sense The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is going to be one of those books that we will be seeing a lot of on all the Summer Reads lists. But as we have all learned, just because a book makes the must-read lists, doesn’t mean you should read it. And here I am to help you decide if you should, in fact, read The Life and Death of Sophie Stark.
Let’s start with the author, Anna North. She’s got the bone fides. She’s a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and for me that usually seals the deal. She’s published in all the right places, in both digital and print. And she lives in Brooklyn. I mention this only because there seems to be a certain type of writer who lives in Brooklyn and I think i could tell she was a Brooklyn-ite just from her prose.
So, I’ve established that North can write, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Sophie Stark is for you. Let’s look at the book itself. The novel is broken into chapters told by different characters in Sophie’s life, characters who have been deeply hurt by her. At first these chapters seem almost like short stories that tell you more about the character – their background, dreams and motivations – than Sophie. I was only after about three of these chapters that I got a sense of Sophie, and that is completely intentional on North’s part.
Who would like this book? I’ve seen Sophie Stark compared to Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (review). I think that comparison comes from the fact that both deal with movie making, but to me the comparison end there. In terms of time, place, setting, there is nothing to be compared. Instead, i would recommend The Life and Death of Sophie Stark to those who like short fiction or linked short stories and moody fiction.