The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna NorthI 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.

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12 Comments

  1. You’re so right about being able to tell when writers are from Brooklyn (or…at least from a circle of writers in Brooklyn?). Sometimes it works for me, but in other cases it can get distracting. I think it sounds like this one needs a specific reader, for sure.

  2. I agree on the “Anna North can write” front, but something about this one didn’t do it for me. I wrote in my review: “I say read it, or not, and you’ll be fine either way” and I think that pretty much sums it up. It’s not a BAD book, it’s just not very GOOD either.

  3. I like the idea of learning about a character from the perspective of other people, but this isn’t the first review of this book I’ve read that suggests that it might be a ‘meh’.

  4. I have been seeing this a lot around in many blogs but I haven’t been exactly intrigued by it. I will have to check it out sometime but I probably won’t be rushing to read it. I do love the format of the book though – multiple characters with a common theme. That is a usually dangerous stunt to pull but if done well, it can make for a very satisfying read.

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